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His Dark Materials

(His Dark Materials #1-3)

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  151,449 ratings  ·  5,342 reviews
The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass are available together in one volume perfect for any fan or newcomer to this modern fantasy classic series.

These thrilling adventures tell the story of Lyra and Will—two ordinary children on a perilous journey through shimmering haunted otherworlds. They will meet witches and armored bears, fallen angels and soul
Mass Market Paperback, 1088 pages
Published September 23rd 2003 by Laurel Leaf Library (first published November 2000)
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Nick Alden Yes and no.

Christianity has an ongoing history of corruption that needs to be acknowledged and not defended. Pullman talks about a certain attitude r…more
Yes and no.

Christianity has an ongoing history of corruption that needs to be acknowledged and not defended. Pullman talks about a certain attitude religious people often develop, especially when religion becomes institutional. The Magisterium has taken the world subverting beliefs at the heart of Christianity and swollen them into a world hating, sex hating, women hating ideology. What Pullman is trying to show us is how this way of thinking is destructive and how it's connected to scripture. He's not necessarily being disingenuous or bigoted. The church that he describes is very real. It was more a problem in the past than today, but his depiction of how the church has behaved throughout history is very spot on.

Pullman wants us to conclude some very profound ideas.
1.) The only world is the material one. All supernatural or spiritual realms do not exist.
2.) Humans are at the center of their own moral struggles. Anything which might limit human nature, or any god or angel that might claim authority over our lives is evil.
3.) The church is wrong to suppress desire, specifically sexual desires.
4.) God is a construct invented in the minds of humans.
5.) Religion is a tool used to control people for power.

Whether or not you believe Pullman is a bigot depends on whether or not you agree with his diagnosis. I do to some extent. We know Pullman is bigoted towards the chronicles of Narnia. Many of the things he hates about them are based on a very poor reading of the texts. If you look at what Pullman has said about the books, particularly the Magician's Nephew and the Last Battle, you'll see very quickly he hasn't bothered to read these stories carefully. He does with C.S Lewis something often done to him, he twists his opponents arguments to make them easier to oppose. You'll find that most religious debates are more or less like this. Many people of faith defend some truly horrible stuff, and many anti theists untruthfully characterize their opponents to win an argument. The trick is to not fall into either trap.(less)

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Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
I can't believe I had never reread this series! Such a fascinating world, such a good story! ...more
Until recently, this series had somehow flown under my radar. It wasn’t until I saw the trailer for the upcoming The Golden Compass movie that I was introduced to Lyra’s world. The trailer made the movie look AMAZING, so naturally (as I always do), I thought…”I MUST read this book!”.

His Dark Materials creates a beautiful, vibrant world with characters as deep as if you had known them your whole life. The books themselves deal with heavy subjects. Nuclear Physics, Parallel Worlds, Quantum Partic
Seth T.
Dec 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one who is alive. the dead might find it as boring as being dead though, so...
Day late and a dollar short with this one.

My hope was to have read and reviewed His Dark Materials trilogy before the film adaptation of the first third, The Golden Compass, came out last Friday. And I would have too - if it weren't for that sheer enormity of suckiness that was the third book in the series (The Amber Spyglass). *sigh* But then, life doesn't actually work out perfectly for us as often as we'd like. Sometimes there are earthquakes that level cities in Turkey. Sometimes Spinach is
Sean Barrs
In just under a month La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) will be released, so I thought I’d do a summative review of my experience with this trilogy. Here’s what I thought of each book, I read them over a period of four years and my reviews are what I thought at the time; they’ve not been edited since:

Book 1: The Golden Compass- 5*

This novel is an absolute work of pure genius, and is in my top ten reads of all time. Before I go into the depths of character and plot, let me start by say
Jul 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody
Could you imagine a story that weaves history, quantum physics, theology, cosmology, trepanning, shamanism, love and the seriousness of adolescence into a coherent narrative? I could not. Yet Phillip Pullman has done just that, and a world more. This wonderful trilogy will lead you along a most unlikely path through some of the biggest questions of life - in philosophy, religion, history, science, and not least literature. That it does so as a masterful, child-accessible and wholly engaging stor ...more
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
The first sentence that came to my mind after finishing this book was: anyone who would give this novel less than five stars has to be either a philistine, a charlatan, or a cynic. To add to that: a cynic grown so dull with the slop of the world that they have been rendered unable to see the raw charm of these characters Lyra and Will, and the amazing sad kind of beauty that comes with making the irreversible passage from childhood to adulthood.

Pullman is able to weave together in the thread of
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-sff-faves
So, this is a bind up of all three books in this series and it's a reread for me. I first read these when I was very young (maybe 11/12) and I remember absolutely loving them. This still remains true to this day and they are excellent books the second time through too. Also, being 10 years older now than when I first read it helped me to notice a lot more of the subtle references to religion, souls, sex, body image and so on. None of these were things I was even considering when I was young, but ...more
Helene Jeppesen
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great fantasy, amazing story! I think of all three books, I loved the first one "Northern Lights" the most because it introduced me to this amazing world, and it felt the most wintry to me with its polar bears, snow and magic. That being said, the two other books, "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass", were really good as well, and especially the second book kept my interest peaked.
This is one of those series that is written for children on the surface, but that is highly relevant and rea
Dec 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Young Adult fiction lovers
(Spoilers below)

I read the first two books when they came out (my middle school years) but got tired of waiting for the third. However, when this whole controversy over The Golden Compass film adaptation was started by the Christian right, I decided it was time to read the series again. I simply didn't remember Philip Pullman's message about God and the Church disturbing me as a regularly church-going 12 year old. Sure, it made me think about what a corrupt church could do, but it all seemed hyp
I don't guess you could call this the "Gold Standard" of classic fantasy literature, that probably goes to Harry Potter, but His Dark Materials soars in that same stratosphere. It is so brilliantly conceived, so intricately constructed, and so well written that it leaves one in awe of Pulliam's achievement.

This trilogy is composed of three separately published volumes, Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in North America) (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). A sequel,
Yes, it's taken me 3+ years to read His Dark Materials. I wanted to take longer pauses between the novels to really enjoy them. I've had my eye on this series for a while. Now I have a lovely bound edition with all three texts. I started The Golden Compass in high school but never finished it. In college I revisited Lyra's story and fell back into the rhythm of Pullman's storytelling. Lyra's characterization is vivid--truly a memorable character--and I liked the world building. Though, the pacin ...more
David Katzman
This review only applies to book 1: The Golden Compass

Growing up with an addiction to Dungeons & Dragons and reading through my town library's entire Science Fiction and Fantasy section before I was sixteen has left me with a life-long proclivity for the fantastic. Some of my favorite novels manage to combine the highly literary (or experimental) with the fantastical. I'm willing to take a chance on books considered straight fantasy or science fiction, but I haven't been making the best choices
mark monday
Oct 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: alpha-team
i am actually assuming that i will be Left Behind, so my concern is more for others. i hate seeing families and friends split apart!

when it does occur, i would like to be someplace like a church where there will be lots of people Raptured... that way, right afterwards, i'll be able to pick up all the wallets and purses that are also Left Behind. you don't need money in heaven, right? and with all the honest folk gone, i also feel confident that post-Rapture will be ripe for money-making opportu
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
Nov 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys fantasy novels, especially those willing to question authority
Recommended to Lisa (not getting friends updates) by: Ken
I got this edition containing all 3 books in the trilogy because of the author's lantern notes at the end of each of the three books. As of the first book, didn't find the notes worth reading; the second, they were slightly more interesting but not essential. I did appreciate those that came after the third book.

I do not understand how I missed knowing about these books until late in 2007, but I’m really glad that I found them.

The Golden Compass: 5 stars:

I don’t consider fantasy to be “my” genre
His Dark Materials: Works on Many Levels, A Modern Fantasy Classic
This is a trilogy that is best enjoyed as a single epic tale with three parts, much like The Lord of the Rings. It may have a superficial resemblance to Chronicles of Narnia in that its protagonists are children in a fantasy world, but its explorations of morality, consciousness, and its subversive view of the Catholic Church and religious dogmatism make it an anti-Narnia tale that must have C.S. Lewis turning cartwheels in his gr
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Defenitely a winner! Normally this sort of fantasy books is not my cup of tea but I adored reading this book. The themes it handles are very grown-up (I don't understand how a child could understand all what is in the book). It never becomes trivial or laughable. Everyone thinks very logically. The plans are well taught over and everyone handles according to this plans. I don't know what to say more about the book. Just read it! ...more
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I never read this trilogy when I was a child, but at the same time I'm glad I read it as an adult because I wouldn't have appreciated the different themes. However, it must be amazing to get both readings: the one when you're a child and the one when you're an adult. I highly recommend it for readers of all ages, children, teenagers or adults. This is a new favorite. Full review to come. ...more
Ashley Marie
Northern Lights / The Golden Compass - 12Nov16
4 stars

Breathtaking and smart and utterly brilliant. Reading several of Pullman's interviews has made me decide to re/read the Chronicles of Narnia at some point in 2017; the misconception that His Dark Materials is a direct rebuttal of Narnia has interested me for years, and then to finally read this and hear from Pullman himself that it is NOT said rebuttal makes it that much more interesting. I love the idea of the church being the ruthless/villai
steph // bookplaits
In three words: epic, heartbreaking, imaginative.

"'But I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are. All we can say is that this is a good deed, because it helps someone, or that's a evil one, because it hurts them. People are too complicated to have simple labels.'"

Challenge: #MyEverymansLibrary

Note: This Everyman's Library edition contains all three books of t
May 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
Remember how, when the film version of "The Golden Compass" came out, evangelicals told their followers not to see it because the book is about a battle against God, and that God is defeated in the end?

They were right. And it's really sort of childish. In the bad way. And I'm about as far to the left of the right wing religious nut cases as you can get. I'm all for a critique of how religion has hobbled civilization. I firmly believe that the church (pick your religion, not just the Christian ch
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: formative
Fourteen is pretty grown in every fourteen-year-old's mind.

I had experienced a lot o things by the time I turned fourteen. Mostly good. Some bad. A few ugly enough to make me cling to childhood's cloak more insistently than ever. I could tell I wasn't to be a 'successful teenager'. I didn't speak the language of this strange new country. There were whole libraries worth of knowledge that seemed to be passing straight over my head.

This wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't been, in my own mind,
Aug 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Never has a book/series had such an impact on me as His Dark Materials, specifically The Amber Spyglass. It still stands as the only book that has ever made me cry. I was a wreck after finishing it, to the point where I literally could not sleep because I couldn’t believe it was over. Not only was the ending beautifully heartbreaking, but I had to accept the fact that these characters' journeys had come to an end, the series was over, and it was time for me to move on in my life. I just couldn't ...more
HP Saucerer
Having heard that His Dark Materials was seen as being a scathing attack on religion and its indoctrinated practices, I'd always wondered if this was truly the case, and having faith only made me all the more curious to delve in and see for myself. But to say this series is anti-God is a great disservice and entirely unjust. Sure, the Magisterium - the antagonist in the series - is an omnipotent, oppressive authority, symbolising organised religion, but the series is about so much more than that ...more
J. Bryce
One of those books you don't want to finish.


I could recommend this to literally ANYone, and if they have the gumption and persistence, they would get a helluvalot out of it. WHAT DO I HAVE TO SAY TO CONVINCE YOU?!? Just read it, think about it, enjoy it.
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Northen's Lights: 5⭐
The Subtle Knife: 5⭐
The Amber Spyglass: still want to read that. I love the word "Spyglass" a lot, it has nice vintage secret society vibes, like A Series of Unfortunate Events
Yeany Dahlan
Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: retna asmoro
If Harry Potter series were considered heretic by some groups of people, I don't know what will they say when they read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials as the books do reflect anti-Christianism with God portrayed as vindictive and authoritarian figure growing ..dare I say it? ...senile and need to be ousted (Oh my God)..

His Dark Materials is a trilogy beginning with the shocking The Golden Compass, and followed by The Subtle Knife and ends with The Amber Spyglass. And if we disregard the ant
Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
This is not a series I would have exposed my children to. If you choose to (and I'm sure many will) that is up to you. There is a deal of indoctrination here, or if you consider the Narnia series indoctrination then maybe you won't use that term in this case. It's all I suppose in the eye of the beholder. So up to the parent, or if we're talking adults then, the reader.

(view spoiler)
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
This was a truly amazing story. I'm actually giving it a 4.75 instead of a 5. It was getting a strong 5 until the ending. It wasn't a horrible ending but it could have been better. I cried if that tells you something. : / ...more
 ♥ Rebecca ♥
I just found this copy at the thrift store and bought it, and I automatically add all books I own to my goodreads shelves. I originally read the series on audio from my library and reviewed them separately.

I really really loved this series. It is so imaginative and unique and adventurous. And Lyra is such an incredible character! She is 12 years old and so brave and clever and resourceful. It is choke-full of fascinating and wonderful supporting characters! I love absolutely everyone! Aside fro
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Book Loving Kiwis: His Dark Materials series 4 7 Jun 26, 2020 09:34PM  
His Dark Materials: poorly written? 13 216 May 08, 2020 09:01AM  
My NZ Library: His Dark Materials 3 5 Mar 07, 2020 04:34PM  
television adaption 1 11 Nov 05, 2019 06:44PM  
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As a passionate believer in the democracy of reading, I don't think it's the task of the author of a book to tell the reader what it means.

The meaning of a story emerges in the meeting between the words on the page and the thoughts in the reader's mind. So when people ask me what I meant by this story, or what was the message I was trying to convey in that one, I have to explain that I'm not going

Other books in the series

His Dark Materials (3 books)
  • The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)
  • The Subtle Knife
  • The Amber Spyglass

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