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His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #1-3)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  108,082 Ratings  ·  4,720 Reviews
A two-play dramatisation of Philip Pullman's extraordinary award-winning fantasy trilogy, first seen at the National Theatre.


His Dark Materials takes us on a thrilling journey through worlds familiar and unknown. For Lyra and Will, its two central characters, it's a coming of age and a transforming spiritual experience. Their great quest demands a savage struggle against t

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Hardcover, 740 pages
Published 2000 by Science Fiction Book Club
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Popular Answered Questions
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…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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Community Reviews

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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!
Corie
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
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Seth T.
Dec 14, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Bookdragon Sean
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*

description
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 saying
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Mathew
Jul 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
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
...more
Kaitlin
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
Duane
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,
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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
...more
Andrea
Dec 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Brierly
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 choi
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Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
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
...more
Karen
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
mark monday
Oct 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Annelies
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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!
J. Bryce
One of those books you don't want to finish.

Wow.

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.
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
...more
Michael
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
Sara
Add me to what I'm sure is a very short list of people who didn't get the whole "anti-god" sentiment that this series is supposedly laden with.

I read this series for the first time several years ago while working in a book store and madly searching for something to tide me over until the next Harry Potter came out. I became a dedicated Pullman fan within a few pages of "The Golden Compass."

I like young adult fantasy that doesn't pander and Pullman wouldn't dream of doing that to his readers. He
...more
Collette
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
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. : /
Yeany Dahlan
Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 11, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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)
...more
Christy
I've just finished The Golden Compass. I can't believe I waited so long to read this book. It was simple yet lovely, with interesting characters, setting, plot. It was so engrossing that I managed to read the last third of it at the courthouse, between jury duty sessions.

I'm sure that a large part of my sheer pleasure at reading this comes from the setting itself, having long been fascinated by the far North, but I think there's quite enough there for those less enamored of snow, ice, and polar
...more
Louise
#KæreWonders
#ViLæserDarkMaterials
Brandon Forsyth
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this trilogy almost two years ago with my girlfriend, and despite taking some very long stretches off, we finally finished it today (her review in brief: the end drags a bit).
These books were very important to me as a child, second only to maybe Harry Potter in terms of shaping my worldview. To be honest, I didn't understand the books, or the impact they had on me, until we started re-reading them last year. It's a re-read that got much richer with time, delighting and surpris
...more
Bruce
May 05, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Joe
I like my wild, adventurous fantasy tales as much as the next fella, but I have some issues with this series. First, it clearly wants to be the anti-Narnia, and that's fine, but I wish it wasn't so blatant about it. Many of the characters exist solely as two-dimensional metaphors and many of the plot developments and magical or fantastical elements of the world seem to exist solely to make the point that no, we're not in Narnia anymore, the lion is not Jesus and actually the church is trying to ...more
Sandi
Mar 03, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: lemmed
Very rarely do I start a book and not finish it. I've read some really awful books in my time and have managed to finish most. However, I gave up on this book on page 277. I think 277 pages is more than enough to get an idea of whether or not a book is worth finishing. This one isn't worth finishing. I really don't care about the controversy surrounding the author, his philosophy and how it's presented in the book. All I care about is that it's ponderous, preachy and annoying. I've read too many ...more
Noa
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, 2017, favourites
I DID IT
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14,254 followers
In 1946, acclaimed author Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England, into a Protestant family. Although his beloved grandfather was an Anglican priest, Pullman became an atheist in his teenage years. He graduated from Exeter College in Oxford with a degree in English, and spent 23 years as a teacher while working on publishing 13 books and numerous short stories. Pullman has received many awards ...more
More about Philip Pullman

Other books in the series

His Dark Materials (3 books)
  • The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)
  • The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)
  • The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)

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“I'll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we'll cling together so tight that nothing and no one'll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you... We'll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams... And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they wont' just be able to take one, they'll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we'll be joined so tight...” 751 likes
“She wondered whether there would ever come an hour in her life when she didn't think of him -- didn't speak to him in her head, didn't relive every moment they'd been together, didn't long for his voice and his hands and his love. She had never dreamed of what it would feel like to love someone so much; of all the things that had astonished her in her adventures, that was what astonished her the most. She thought the tenderness it left in her heart was like a bruise that would never go away, but she would cherish it forever.” 190 likes
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