First a reminder. I liked Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass well enough, and really enjoyed the next book, The Subtle Knife. I was excited to see how Pullman would finish things up in The Amber Spyglass, and now I know.
And the answer is…he doesn’t. Not really. Imagine The Lord of the Rings being written such that when Sam and Frodo finally get into Mordor, they find a “Crack of Doom Disposal Service” and hand The Ring over to it, and the rest of the book is about their friendship and no further word is ever heard of Sauron. Our last view of Minis Tirith is of the two armies coming together for a final clash, and never again do we visit that scene.
That’s how The Amber Spyglass works. I’m going to include some spoilers in this review, which I don’t normally do, but I can only hope that no one makes the mistake of getting involved with this series anyway. You’ve been warned, and ultimately there is nothing to spoil because the series has no real ending.
As the book begins we have Lyra and Will still traveling together. Remember that Lyra has been tagged as the next Eve, and there’s some huge prophesy about her that she’ll influence the next age of life on the myriad worlds. The church is determined to kill her so that she can never make some grand decision that she must make. Mary, from Will’s world, has been set up as the Serpent who will tempt Lyra/Eve from some new paradise. And oh yes, Asriel is making war on god/The Authority and means to kill him/it.
The first half of the book slowly builds to a huge climax, as you’d expect it to. This part felt slow but that was ok since we’re working towards the big payoff. And then in the midst of a climactic battle god dies, his first Lt. (who has really been running the show) is cast down. And suddenly the focus shifts to Lyra and Will and their discovering their hormones as they suddenly fall in love.
And that’s the rest of the book. Lyra & Will in discovering first love in some strangely vapid Disney-esque way. The church’s assassin makes a brief appearance but is taken out via a deux ex machina re-appearance of the angel Balthamos (spelling?). Neither Lyra nor Will are ever aware of these events. The two of them are with Mary, but all she really does is give them some food. She certainly doesn’t tempt them into doing anything. And in the end, well, nothing. The book ends with the two children going home, and that’s about that. The prophesy? Who knows? False, I guess. Unless it alluded to letting the ghosts out of the land of the dead, but really Will did that. And in the end, the angels repair the universe after Will gives them a quick “How-To” on window closing.
It was the most amazing let-down that I can remember ever reading; so much so that I found myself actually angry with the author. I mean, how do you manage to turn the death of god into a non-event? Or maybe that was his point, as an atheist…his way of illustrating that god doesn’t matter?
Maybe he wanted it to be a four book series and in condensing it he cut out a lot of the other happenings? I just don’t know. What I do know is that it was a terrible “ending” and I can’t stress enough that it makes the trilogy not worth reading. Which is a shame, because I was pretty excited at the end of The Subtle Knife.
A huge let down. Give this trilogy a pass.