Monday, March 31, 2008

The Amber Spyglass: His Dark Materials #3 (March 27-31)

Two down, 48 more to go. I had started reading this book about a year ago and put it down after getting close to about half-way through. It simply wasn't engaging and I found myself easily distracted. Picking it up again, it became clear that my initial problems with it were very much the same although this time around I seemed a lot more tolerant. The Amber Spyglass pales drastically in comparison to the first two novels of the trilogy bringing an unsatisfying conclusion to what was shaping up to be one of the best of the fantasy genre.

The Bad:

- uneven pacing: The story wasn't as thoroughly compelling as the previous novels where Pullman gets too caught up on description, description, description. The sub-plots that didn't focus on Lyra and Will's journey were dull and frivolous.

- Lyra's transformation from child to adult isn't believable and feels forced. Her "growing pains" are mishandled and she comes off as this annoying, insufferable girl who I just wanted to slap everytime she opened her mouth to speak or went through one of her emotional mood swings. Her precocious sweet-natured innocence present in the first two books was what I found appealing about her character. I understand that this book was intended to illustrate her maturity but it felt rushed and at times ridiculously lame. SPOILERS: Was it really necessary to have Lyra and Will have sex (they are only 13 for goodness sake!) to portray that she has now entered womanhood?

- Deus ex Machina: People complain about this in the Harry Potter series but at least Rowling didn't overuse it and actually gives plausible reasons for such occurences. Whenever Lyra or Will find themselves in peril they always manage to escape with the help or others or some chance occurance that doesn't make much sense. This really kills the suspense.

- Disappointing climax: The entire series was building up towards the battle between Lord Asriel's army and the angels of Heaven which I expected to be one of the most exciting confrontations. Alas, this was not meant to be. For such an epic war it was surprisingly short and unimpressive. Yawn.

The Good:

- Pullman's excellent writing style. The man knows how to tell a story. Unfortunately, with this third book the results are less than satisfactory. He still manages to create such a tangible universe full of interesting people and creatures.

- Not preachy in his religious views. He doesn't condemn the Catholic faith in so much as he exposes its flaws and asks the reader form his/her own beliefs.

Overall, I was glad to finish the series and would still recommend this fantasy trilogy to children and adults despite my lukewarm reactions here.


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