Oddly for a trilogy, I’m not sure this is the strongest book in the series. The pacing is a lot more relaxed. It is more wondrous – there is a great sense of exploring beautiful new worlds – which will make it the favourite for some people (I prefer the first book).
Despite all she’s been through, Lyra can still be described accurately as “innocent, and she loves easily”. You can’t fail to love her, and perfectly understand why so many leaders of men and witches and beasts devote their lives to her after the briefest of meetings. She loves with all her heart, and it often causes her enormous pain.
This book, unfortunately, has a gaping flaw. Rather ironically (considering Pullman hates the “Narnia” series, and this same flaw was the biggest in the “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” movie), Pullman has indulged a didactic tone in condemning the church (and God), and all too frequently steals the mouths of his characters to say what he thinks outright (things as blatant as “the purpose of the Christian church is to hide the truth” – which is certainly some people’s experience, but not everyone's). Regardless of what a person believes in their own life, this kind of deliberate message detracts from the story. Pullman also appears quite unaware that in his fierce atheism he’s actually just invented another God – “Dust” which characters must love, lay down their lives for, and obey without question.
But the scene in which Will and Lyra meet God is, in my opinion, haunting.
Despite its preachy tone (which smart Christians use to start discussions with their children), the book is excellent.
If you liked this trilogy, you may like “Gulliver’s Travels”, “The Life of Pi” and maybe even “Paradise Lost” (which Pullman loves).
%%“Mamma,” said a child, “why’s it getting dark in the daytime?”
“Hush, dear, don’t fret,” the mother said. “Can’t make anything better by fretting. We’re dead, I expect.”
“By where are we going?” the child said. “I don’t want to be dead, Mamma!”
“We’re going to see Grandpa,” the mother said desperately.
But the child wouldn’t be consoled, and wept bitterly. Others in the group looked at the mother with sympathy, or annoyance, but there was nothing they could do to help, and they all walked on disconsolately through the fading landscape as the child’s thin cries went on, and on, and on.%%
Rating: M for overt anti-religious messages, and violence.