The Amber Spyglass, the last of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, is a stunning novel that has moved and challenged me.
I must say that I'm very impressed by the daring and intelligence of this series. For those parents scared to challenge their children's thoughts and imaginations in the form of Harry Potter, this series is perhaps their worst nightmare. However, for those parents who would like to challenge and stretch the minds of their children so that they grow into more conscious and insightful beings, then this series is a gift. For this series challenged me in ways that stretched me and made me grow, and I don't know if you all noticed out there, but I'm not a kid anymore. The gifts that this series can give to children are numerous and I know that my children will read this as soon as it is appropriate for their age. And if they won't read it then I will read it to them.
In an unfolding tale leading to what you anticipate to be a difficult choice for our beloved heroine, Lyra, Pullman paints the world as it is (with of course a few added other-world creatures): not black and white, good and evil as many would like to believe in order to make the world more manageable and simple. But in grays and indefinites. Those who were evil are in fact not, those who are good falter and make mistakes. And in the end love doesn't conquer all, it just partly does the job and then the actions of people have to take it the rest of the way.
In a novel full of adventure and learning, it is clear Pullman's message. That it isn't blindly following the church that will keep our wonderful universe in balance and at peace, it's being conscious, happy, loving, thoughtful, intelligent and caring beings. It is caring about the fate of the other people in your, and other, worlds and not about just your own desires and wants. And in this leaves the decision of our heroine and the heartbreaking lesson that is contained in this book.
In a way I still am not sure that I grasp all of the parts of the lesson, and it makes me feel slightly embarrassed. After all, I'm an adult and this is a children's novel (perhaps more specifically young adult), shouldn't I know all the lessons already and being at an age now that I can grasp all the intricacies that are in a series meant for children? Well, I have to say that Pullman is skillful and intelligent in this series, leaving many subtleties and complex ideas lingering in the series that will take any child, or adult, a while to grasp and to ponder. Perhaps the series is written imaginatively with an aim for children, but the story and ideas are for all ages and I'm happy to say that it has stretched my mind in a new way to look at the world and I'm better for it.
And of course, with the end of any series, I'm profoundly sad that it is over.
And I will be left with many long nights pondering what my daemon is. Do you know what yours is?
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