His Dark Materials
A trilogy written by Philip Pullman
"All this time I was away," Lyra said, "I never thought about my future. All I thought about was just the time I was in, just the present. There were plenty of times when I thought I didn't have a future at all. And now... Well, suddenly finding I've got a whole life to live, but no idea what to do with it"
The His Dark Materials trilogy
consists of three books; "Northern Lights
" (this book is known as "The Golden Compass
" in the US), "The Subtle Knife
" and "The Amber Spyglass
". The previous write-ups have - in a beautiful way - said a few things about the book, but I nevertheless feel the need to add a few things.
The primary thing the books left me wondering, were to what degree they are children's books
. And - raising significantly more curiosity - how I would have reacted if I had read this trilogy when I was 12.
The books start off slowly, by painting a vivid portrait
of Lyra, the books' main character
. Lyra is a 12 year-old girl with a heavy prophecy
hanging over her. Early in the first novel, the reader learns that the existence
- in the widest possible sense of the word - depends on Lyra, and Lyra alone.
Well, Lyra and her dæmon
- the morph
ing creature that is the embodiment of her spirit.
Compared to Harry Potter
As the books were released more or less at the same time (Harry Potter surfaced in 1997 and Dark Materials books were released 1997-2000), a comparison comes natural.
is a series about a guy with a special gift. He didn't know he was a wizard
at all, until he was made aware of it. On top of that, it turns out that he is the most special wizard of all, because he is the only one to have survived Voldemort
. His Dark Materials carries - in many ways - a similar concept
. An adventurous child with a special prophecy is entwined
into a story larger than herself.
Here is where the similarities end, however.
writes engaging and adventurous
ly enough, Pullman's language and subtle
ty is in a different league
altogether. Quite honestly, I cannot understand how Rowling has received such massive publicity, while Pullmans' work - which is significantly better in all aspects - has received little or none.
Throughout the trilogy
, there are several key plot developments and endings of subplots, where you start to get the feeling that the book might end at any moment. Puzzled, I found myself looking at another 200 (100.. 50..) pages to go, only to be baffled by the new twists and bends in the plot.
Unlike most other children's books I have seen, this trilogy seems to be quite comfortable
with death. Many of the key characters in the book snuff it throughout, and on several occasions I felt that I left dear friends behind - the sheer vivid
ness of the characters, their characteristics, their passion
s and their thought
s are reasons enough to read this trilogy.
But it does not stop there.
It has been a while since I was 12, and I am not sure how far along I was, but I do suspect that if I had read this novel at that age (or - even better - if I had been read to), quite a few questions would have been looming.
The novel is never directly against the church, but it is fierce in its criticism against its bad aspect - with many a kick to the groin of the inquisition, suppression of truth etc. Far larger themes are also deeply integrated into the story.
pull the characters in various directions, and no matter how far-fetched some of the actions are - Pullman manages to make it seem as if all the characters act correctly out of their own viewpoint
. Not one single of the characters acts "wrongly", and Pullman does not fall in the trap of labelling the bad forces "bad" just because they are bad. All the actions happen because of a reason - and although it takes three sizeable volumes to explain all the reasons, the final result is a literary work of art far beyond most of the other books I have read lately.
If you have children
of around 12 years old - or, hell, even if you don't. In fact, ESPECIALLY if you don't - do yourself a favour and pick up the first book in this trilogy. If you manage to read the first book, and if you then manage to avoid the two next ones, something completely inconceivable