The eagerly anticipated and critically acclaimed third installment to His Dark Material's trilogy did not fail to disappoint at its release, offering the best of Pullman's prose and imagination. Having fully established our understanding of Pullman's varying worlds and the science of Dust & the Subtle Knife, Pullman goes about putting the final pieces of his story together; he draws the story to its climax and closes the windows between worlds he previously opened for us.
I tend to agree with Nicolette Jones' review in that it takes a little while for the story to catch up to the same pace that The Subtle Knife left on. As Lyra comes out of her stupour so too does the story and we progress quickly into the driving forces of the story. Pullman deftly weaves the stories from the differing universes together, climaxing in the battle between the Republic and Kingdom of Heaven and the death of both Metatron & the Authority. It is this that the trilogy has been building up to since Lord Asriel's presentation in the Retiring Room so long ago in the opening chapter of Northern Lights. The result is pleasing though as the furious scene lives up to the build up.
Pullman's trilogy also comes steeped in intertextual engagements with many different texts and genres; from the obvious influences of Blake's poetry and Milton's Paradise Lost to the conventions of the Greek tragedy. The epigraphs before each chapter point more to where Pullman is approaching the following chapter from, rather than directing the reader, and provide an excellent insight into where Pullman is placing his text in the expanse of literature; between Biblical excerpts and choice poetic lines, he revels in the Amber Spyglass being at the centre of this religious debate.
It's easy to get bogged down in the religious fervour that follows this trilogy whenever it rears its head, as most of the debate surrounds the religious politics surrounding the killing of God. However, to focus too much on this is to deny proper attention to Pullman's skilled storytelling and wholesome characters. His characters could never be accused of being characatured villains or tired depictions of intrepid heroes. His well-rounded explorations of Lyra and Will particularly stand out as a delicate portrayal of bildungsroman in children coming to puberty. It is a testament to Pullman's writing that he can also have them play out the roles of Adam & Eve simultaneously in the story of original sin without detracting from their characters.
Overall, this is a skilled and pleasing culmination to the trilogy which leaves the reader with a sense of sadness in completing the story. The ending is perfect in keeping with the tone of the piece, without being overly sentimental or happily ever after, more a sense of heartbreaking resolution.
An excerpt from Pullman talking with Charlie Rose illuminating his creative process...