Saturday, January 05, 2013

loopyker's #CBR4 Review #15-#18: His Dark Materials, Books 1-4 by Philip Pullman

I really wish I had gotten to this review when His Dark Materials was fresh in my mind, but some major things happened in my life right then so here it goes almost a year later!   I can't really separate the books well in my head now, so the review will be very general.  

I had reviewed The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty shortly before listening to The Golden Compass, which was also my introduction to Philip Pullman  .  I take back what I said about wanting to continue The Lighhouse TrilogyThe Golden Compass reminded me what a really good book was!  There is no comparison and I will not waste my time listening to the rest of The Lighthouse Trilogy.  Since then I've listened to several Philip Pullman audiobooks and have enjoyed every one. 

His Dark Materials is about a young girl named Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon or "Pan" for short.  Pan acts like a pet, but you will learn in the book that it is much more than that.

In the The Golden Compass (note: in some countries it is titled Northern Lights), Lyra and Pan overhear some dark plans that begin them on a journey to discover the truth behind the disappearance of children throughout the land. Of course, there are many dangers for herself and others along the way.   With a heartbreaking, cliffhanger ending, I immediately went on to the next book.

The Subtle Knife follows Lyra and Pan as they travel to another world with a new friend, Will.  Here it is the adults who are in danger from forces that can attack at puberty.  Lyra and Will are all too close in age to that for comfort.  They find a tool that helps them travel through worlds to continue the quest to find the truth about the missing children and the dark things happening in multiple worlds.  Again I wanted to continue immediately to the next book which is the conclusion of the trilogy.

Lyra and Will's adventure continues with The Amber Spyglass.  They are learning a lot about life and love with all they've had to go through.  There is a war with the Kingdom of Heaven and they still have to find the the final pieces to the puzzle.   The conclusion is satisfying, but heartbreaking.   I was very emotional at this point in my own life, so I cried a whole lot with this. 

Overall, His Dark Materials is so good because it treats its readers like intelligent and curious individuals.  It doesn't dumb things down like so many things do nowadays for readers - and not just for children.  Philip Pullman questions authority and organized religion and the corruptions of power.  He wants his characters and readers to have a critical mind and to find the truth behind appearances.  His characters also learn a lot about the different kinds of love and sacrifice for the greater good.  I didn't really agree with the jealous love shown by the witches - I don't think we are supposed to, but it is still called "love" in the series, which is what I question.  But the themes of the other types: self-love, friendship and romantic love are more important and treated well.  And all of this is portrayed through unique worlds and characters.

I was very sorry for the Trilogy to end.  I wanted to hear more about the characters.  I looked forward to Lyra's Oxford, but it is only a short story about an adventure Lyra has two years after the end of The Amber Spyglass and didn't offer much.

The first three books are now amongst my favourite fantasy books.   I will certainly be rereading them and adding them to my permanent library.  The audiobooks were very well done with a terrific cast of narrators.   One of the best I've heard.

The series is recommended for ages 12 and up.  Each book has received several awards in both the print and audio versions.

His Dark Materials
Author: Philip Pullman
Narrated by Philip Pullman and a full cast
Publisher:  Listening Library

Book 1:  The Golden Compass
Duration: 10 hours, 33 minutes
ISBN: 9780739345122
Release date: Jun 27, 2006

Book 2:The Subtle Knife
Duration:  8 hours, 55 minutes
ISBN:      9780739350355
Release date: Aug 15, 2006

Book 3:The Amber Spyglass
Duration: 14 hours, 53 minutes
ISBN: 9780739345054
Release date: Jun 27, 2006

Book 4: Lyra's Oxford
Duration: 48 minutes
ISBN: 9780739353288
Release date: Oct 31, 2006

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