The trilogy of His Dark Materials concludes with The Amber Spyglass, following The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife. The book continues the trend set by the second volume of following various characters rather than just Lyra. Many different ideas about religion and government are challenged as Lord Asriel’s army continues to grow before an all out war breaks out between our protagonists and The Authority, and analogy for God.
The 3rd book doesn’t introduce many new characters, or any main protagonists. Will, who is being summoned to Lord Asriel by two angels, refuses to go until he can find the kidnapped Lyra. Lyra was taken and hidden by her mother, Ms. Coulter, who’s trying to protect her from the Magisterium. The Magisterium believes she will commit original sin. Dr. Mary Malone is also being hunted by the Magisterium, who is thought to be the tempter, and will contribute to the second Fall of Man. Dr. Malone stays one step ahead of the assassin by first traveling to Cittàgazze, then another world where she discovers these strange elephant like creatures call mulefa.
Eventually Will runs into Iorek Byrnison and bests the bear king in combat with the Subtle Knife. Together, they find Lyra before the encircling forces of Lord Asriel and Magisterium close in on them. While Will uses the knife to open a door to escape, he loses his concentration and blade shatters. The two escape to the land of the dead.
The book continues from there, tying up all of it’s loose threads and answer all of the questions presented. This series had one of the best last minute twists I’ve read. Through the three books, they set up the fact that God is the enemy and will eventually be fought. What happens instead isn’t what you’d expect and serves the story wonderfully, sidestepping many potential controversial problems. The consequences for the power they wield with the knife and other devices is also explained brilliantly.
What didn’t work for me were the mulefa. I couldn’t really wrap my head around what they looked like or how they operated. I don’t know if it was due to a poor description or lack of interest on my part.
While I typically try to avoid spoilers with stories I know many haven’t experienced, I really did want to discuss the ending. I don’t like reading books about 12-13 year old protagonists as I find kids are typically idiots. I know, I was one. I understand why they’re that age so I’m not complaining about that. Ignoring that fact, I still found the ending bitter sweet. Will and Lyra loved each other, yet could never be together. I found this completely tragic yet bittersweet when they agreed to ‘meet’ in the same spot once a year. It made me have the feels.
I’m fascinated by stories that start at one point and completely evolve into something else. The story began with Lyra in her world trying to find out why children were kidnapped. The ending for the series is one that almost can’t be spoiled, simply giving away what happens wouldn’t make sense without context. There’s too many different elements in play by the end that have completely changed the original dynamic. I always try to look back on stories like to see where we (the readers) started compared to where we end up. To me, this what makes a great story.
“Can is not the same as must.” – Iorek Byrnison