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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3)* by Philip Pullman- young adult book review
Also by or about Philip Pullman:

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1)

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2)

Lyra's Oxford

The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3)
by Philip Pullman
Ages 12+ 560 pages Knopf August 2007 Hardcover    

After building up a spectacular war that not includes good versus bad, but also heaven versus earth and religion versus reason (can you have any more lofty themes?) in The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman wraps up the “His Dark Materials” trilogy with the disappointing The Amber Spyglass. Though it may seem obvious, it bears mentioning that readers should read the books in order and not jump to this final book without reading the previous ones, or they will be quite confused.

The Amber Spyglass fails in a number of ways, but let’s first concentrate on where it succeeds. Pullman’s imagination, so vividly on display in the first two books, is still present in the third. Readers will continue to be amazed by his talent for creating amazingly visualized worlds and strange yet beautiful characters. There seems to be no limit to the awe-inspiring creations Pullman can come up with, which will undoubtedly make readers hungry for more books by him. Pullman also utilizes his skill for fast-paced and brutal confrontations, which, while a little intense for some readers (especially younger children), are well-written and fascinating.

Unfortunately, these positives are outweighed by the lofty expectations the reader will bring to this final book. How will the war between Lord Asriel and The Authority play out? What will Lyra and Will do in the world of the dead? What are Mrs. Coulter’s true intentions? How does Mary Malone play into the story? And, probably the biggest question, what is Dust, and why is it so controversial?

Readers will hungrily plow through pages until the very end, hoping to have all these questions and more answered. However, many of the questions never do get answered, and the ones that do are answered either incompletely or unsatisfactorily. The great battle that has been telegraphed from the beginning amounts to little, and the big questions woven through the book are mostly answered with Pullman’s lamely explained theory that religion is a sad mistake. While this theory could certainly stand up quite well with better explanation and backing, it falls pretty flat the way Pullman writes it.

After a strong first two books and a relatively powerful first half of this final book, it feels that Pullman was in a rush to finish and dropped many of his themes and mysteries just to get the trilogy done. Though the books are clearly well-written, provocative and amazingly envisioned, the disappointing ending casts a pall on all of them and saddens the reader to realize this is how it all ends up.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Angela McQuay/2008 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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