Marin's Reviews > His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
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U 50x66
's review
Dec 29, 2007

really liked it
Read in March, 2008

** spoiler alert ** This review is much longer than most of my reviews, mostly because I've thought a lot about these books and also because they have been discussed (heatedly) in a number of different forums.

This is a young adult fantasy story about a 13-year-old girl named Lyra who lives in a world where everyone has an animal who stays with them all their life, called a daemon (a symbol of their soul). Her society is controlled by the Church, an evil institution that supresses learning and practices kidnapping, torture, and suppression of knowledge.

Over the course of the three books she gets involved in a rip-roaring adventure story that takes place in multiple parallel worlds. The story ends with [***SPOILER***] the power-mongering ruler of heaven being defeated; the Church being reorganized with more liberal leadership; the spirits of the dead being set free from prison to evaporate into the living universe; and Lyra falling in love but bravely choosing to live her life apart from the boy she loves so she and the rest of the universe can live fully, seeking knowlege, joy, and love wherever they may find it.

I know a lot of people avoid this trilogy because it has a reputation for being anti-Christian. I am strongly Christian, and I loved this story. Most of the problems that the author has with Christianity (such as the villification of Eve and the suppression of knowlege) are not concepts that I personally embrace or that my church supports. There were other ideas in the book that I didn't agree with (such as the imaginative constructions of the Creator and the afterlife), but that didn't make it a bad book. Rather, it made me consider how much I love my Christian faith and appreciate my church (which is nothing like the Church in this story).

The book preaches that children should be cheerful, generous, curious, and brave (like the hero and heroine of this book). They should not be selfish, power-mongering, and destructive (like the leaders of the Church in this book). These are good things for children to learn.

Basically, the author's concept of the Christian church was so obviously different from mine that his attacks on it were not offensive to me. At the same time, his moral values were almost completely identical to mine (with one exception, which I discuss next). We were on the same team, and this was a great story.

The nature and practice of sexuality is a theme in this book. I thought it was discussed appropriately (many children would probably completely miss it but all adults will notice it). However, in its careful way, this book ultimately supports sexual experimentation outside of married relationships. This is just plain wrong, and I don't believe children should be told that it is right.

All things considered, this is a wonderful story, and I think mature children should read it (and I'm glad they do). I also think that it's such a powerful story about such important ideas that parents should discuss it with their kids in order to help them understand and learn from it.
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message 1: by Marie (new)

Marie What do you think? Is this worth reading...


Marin I've read the first two so far, and I thought they were wonderful. Great adventure stories with a cool fantasy element. There is definitely an anti-Church sentiment that develops as the story goes on, but I didn't find it offensive at all. I'm waiting to read the third one until I get my audible.com credits for next month, and I'll let you know what I think of the whole series then.


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