The third and final book in the His Dark Material trilogy by Philip Pullman is the climactic The Amber Spyglass. It aims to round up everything from the previous two books – settle scores, unify worlds, fix problems and prevent evil. The question is – does it do enough to feel like the end to one of the most popular trilogies in fiction?
The Amber Spyglass brings us once again back to the lives of Lyra and Will. Will has the Subtle Knife that can cut through into worlds and Lyra is said to be the chosen one who will change the fate of the worlds. How will this all end up then?
The Amber Spyglass plot – 3/5
I’ll be honest, the first half of The Amber Spyglass felt like the most filler I’ve ever read. It essentially had some fairly useless plot that didn’t advance the story at all and then other characters reminding or letting other characters know what had already happened throughout the last two books essentially.
There were some cool moments where Pullman’s imagination and inventiveness come into play as he introduces new characters to the novel, but other than this it was an incredibly slow start that, as I said, didn’t really advance the plot in any way.
The second half of the book – or more the final third – sees the final showdown happen, which is what everything has been building up to. There are admittedly some smaller battles beforehand, but considering the two previous books have been leading up to this grand moment, it all happens in a very short space of time; feeling very underwhelming and anticlimactic. The scenes after the showdown actually felt longer and more poignant than the showdown itself.
So, all-in-all, a very underwhelming final chapter in the His Dark Material series.
The Amber Spyglass characters – 3/5
So here is where I have my biggest problem with The Amber Spyglass. One of the best parts about the previous two books is that they were led by Lyra and her sheer determination, strong will and cockiness. However, The Amber Spyglass completely switches it up. Will becomes our main protagonist and he’s never been quite as enjoyable as Lyra and even less so when he’s the main focus. He’s arrogant yet dull, unlike Lyra whose arrogance was endearing and backed up.
As well as this, some characters completely change altogether – it’s almost like someone else who’d never heard of the novels wrote the books, making it feel like you were trying to adapt to their new character traits but before you could adapt, the book ended. I mean there is a complete 180 on a particular villain.
Unlike The Northern Lights, I didn’t love anybody in this book and the villain was someone else entirely from the previous two who we have no time to hate before they’re inevitably removed from the plot again.
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman overall rating – 3/5
Unfortunately, The Amber Spyglass was bang average. A chance to round off one of the most imaginative series in literature is squandered by some odd character choices, a severe lack of plot ideas and a generally underwhelming affair all around. I’ll continue to read the other books set in this world but it’s such a shame this final book didn’t hit the climax that the previous two set it up to have.
If you are looking for books similar to The Amber Spyglass, you may like my reviews of:
- Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon