On the His Dark Materials series
Pull Up a Chair
(This piece first appeared in The Horn Book Magazine in 2000.)
Armed with a rare numbered typescript copy of The Amber Spyglass, I’m tempted to roll up my shirtsleeves, light a cigar, splash some Tokay into a glass and discuss fine points of reason, fancy and theology before all hell breaks loose–an amusement that, with the publication of the unsettling third volume of His Dark Materials, just may come to pass. Perhaps my yielding to the temptation of a theological colloquy wouldn’t be an unsuitable reaction to The Amber Spyglass. The nature of temptation is one of the book’s most compelling if less explicit themes.
But, readers, here’s a temptation for you. I find it impossible to consider this serious novel without revealing some of its secrets. So if you want to enjoy your first experience of this long-awaited fantasy thriller as a virgin reader, innocent of my plot synopses or interpretations, flag this review and come back to it later.
So: Finally we have the much-awaited conclusion to the trilogy. Adorned with its devastating cover art by Eric Rohmann, The Amber Spyglass delivers much of what was promised in the preceding cliffhangers, The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife. (If you need a refresher, you couldn’t do better than to listen to the unparalleled audio recordings of each, available from Random House/Listening Library.) Most of the characters from the earlier books, beloved or bedeviled or both, return to continue their fateful roles in this saga that capsizes–or apocalypsizes–the Book …