Sunday, May 14, 2006

His Dark Materials

It's a little late for a review of the His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass), but I was so impressed, I thought I'd share what I appreciated most about the trilogy:

Lyra. Lyra is the single best female hero in children's literature. She's smart, daring, kind, innocent, and much, much more. Her characterization is so strong, that the love and admiration she inspires in other characters (Lee Scoresby, Iorek Bymison, even Mrs Coulter) is entirely motivated and believable. I adore Hermione, but she's essentially a sidekick. Lyra is the real thing. Does she have any competition, readers?

  • The literary value of the trilogy. Pullman ties the trilogy to Milton, the Bible, Blake, to the cannon of British Literature. While this may not make an immediate impression on younger readers, it's instant exposure for them. And, for the older reader the trilogy provides much to think about beyond the story itself.
  • Speaking of the story, I especially enjoyed the role of storytelling in the trilogy. Storytelling is most important to The Amber Spyglass, but Lyra and Will (and the others) have to discover what their roles are in a tale larger than they are and then find a way to tell the tale to others.
  • I may be showing my hand here, but I really appreciated the power corrupts (even, and maybe especially, in the church) theme central to the trilogy. When a story is used falsely for control, the consequences are great.
  • Pullman portrays Lyra and Will's love as a story of great innocence, purity, and truth.
  • While The Amber Spyglass is long and contains mucho information, when you finish the book you find it was all necessary and motivated.
  • I can't stop thinking about the trilogy and want to reread The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass as soon as possible. I know there is more to discover. That's the ultimate test for me.

So thanks to Philip Pullman for what is now my favorite work of children's literature.