Book Review: The ‘His Dark Materials’ Trilogy by Philip Pullman

I’m definitely a little late to the party when it comes to reading the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman – I put this down to not really having a big interest in Young Adult fiction until recently. After having read the books I’ve ben interested to read a number of reviews of them and it seems that for most people it seems a love/hate thing; either they were an amazing read that was just wonderful or they were the worst kind of drivel ever to be published. I count myself in the middle ground in that I enjoyed the books, but while I raced through Northern Lights, I began to struggle when nearing the end of The Amber Spyglass.

The trilogy begins as Lyra, an orphan who has grown up surrounded by the scholars of Jordan College, Oxford, in a universe quite like our own but subtly different, decides to find out what really goes on in the scholars-only rooms of the college and narrowly prevents the murder of her Uncle. While concealed in a wardrobe, she learns of a mysterious ‘Dust’ that little is known about, but seems to be of great interest to some in Government.

Lyra is invited to go away and live with the mysterious Mrs Coulter and is given the alethiometer, a mysterious instrument that Lyra is inexplicably drawn to and able to interpret. Lyra is then drawn in to a world unlike she has ever known, and must travel to the far north, enlisting the help of an armoured polar bear, to find her friend and save his life. As the trilogy continues, Lyra’s world, our world and many others are connected woven together to create an intricate and absorbing fantasy tale.

As I said, I enjoyed the books and, perhaps had I read them with others in between, wouldn’t have found the final book such a struggle. This is more to do with me than the books as on the whole I found them beautifully written and while some of the characters did annoy at points, I felt that this was intended – if Lyra acted like a spoilt child it was only to emphasise the differences in her as she realises her true destiny.

Lyra’s universe was a little disconcerting as it was so similar to ours, I kept reading along, forgetting that this was not set in our world, then jolted as something happened that reminded me that this was a fantasy universe. It was initially off-putting, but was somehow easier to follow when more an more universes were thrown into the mix.

Even though I didn’t read this trilogy as a child, I didn’t find it too childish to read as an adult, but found there were nuances that I possibly wouldn’t have seen as a child or early teenager. I can’t lie; the anti-religion stance did appeal to me as well.

Big thanks to my lovely friend for loaning me the books, definitely well worth reading at any age.

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