I just finished reading this over Christmas-New Years -- ahead of the movie which I guess I'll have to see now. What's most interesting to me about it...moreI just finished reading this over Christmas-New Years -- ahead of the movie which I guess I'll have to see now. What's most interesting to me about it, having heard all the screed about it being "anti-religious" is the intensity of "spiritual" feeling that one gets from the central character, Lyla; the book does not come across as anti-religion or anti-faith whatsoever, but anti-dogma and anti-Imperialism. It's clearly the work of a freethinker, and one with a pretty large, and dark imagination. A children's fantasy set in an alternate, sort of steampunk Victorian world that is both physically and technologically quite different, it's mostly a long chase sequence as young Lyla runs away from -- or towards -- a destiny wrapped up in two powerful English nobles, towards a North that represents freedom and imagination -- much as Tolkien and Lewis, author Pullman's nemeses, saw the old Teutonic and Scandinavian worlds.
I'm sure I'm making this out to be something quite different from what kids will find it to be, but as a middle-aged person steeped in English fantasy, I can't help but be fascinated by the links to older fantasy-worlds. Pullman may well have written the series as a reaction to the Christian fantasists of the postwar years, but on the basis of this first book, that criticism is fairly oblique and shouldn't stop anyone from enjoying the book on its own considerable merits -- though it does another layer of complexity for those who do have an interest in those earlier Oxford professors and their magical worlds which got the whole fantasy boom started.(less)
How depressing. Donaldson keeps going downhill in his writing, with ENDLESS interior monologues that are as repetative as anything in Robert Jordan or...moreHow depressing. Donaldson keeps going downhill in his writing, with ENDLESS interior monologues that are as repetative as anything in Robert Jordan or Terry Goodkind. It's a shame, the first chronicles was really quite original in many ways and though overwritten, never lost site of the compelling storyline. The second series had more of the writing faults so manifest here, but the core concept was pretty interesting and kept me going. This on the other hand took me a year and a half to finish; SRD regularly and continuously exhibits faults that should have been ripped out of him when he was in grade school; there is a passage near the end of the book describing a trip through time that he devotes a dozen pages to, without really describing anything beyond Linden Avery's tortured feelings, and this is all too typical. The ending in Revelstone offers a tiny bit of redemption; the scene in the Close between Avery and her group, and the "Masters" (the deathless Haruchai from previous books) reminds me of a few earlier, similar monologues -- but on the whole this is the most overwritten, hamhanded piece of fantasy writing that I have ever read, and I can't imagine that I'll be reading the sequels. Sad.(less)
This is far and away Lewis' greatest work of fiction. The writing is mature and concise when needed, beautiful when desires; there is no hint of the s...moreThis is far and away Lewis' greatest work of fiction. The writing is mature and concise when needed, beautiful when desires; there is no hint of the slapdash pacing evident in the NARNIA series or the structural problems in the SPACE trilogy. It's a beautiful, moral story about faith, self-confidence and self-respect, and it points the way (at least, from my perspective) towards a more open and liberal way of thinking that I believe Lewis was heading towards in his last years. I haven't read it in a long time so can't really comment in more depth, but this novel I think proves that Lewis was a great writer or was becoming one. It's heartbreaking and tragic and luminous.(less)