There are many things that can be said about the final installment in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series- many things that have been said, actually. The trilogy, which has been questioned by many (most of whom have never opened one of the books, as far as I can tell) has sprung quite a controversy in the past few months, sparked by the release of a movie adaptation of The Golden Compass.
Anti-Christian themes definately reach their peak in The Amber Spyglass, making it the most controversial of the three novels, but the quotes presented on the novel demonstrate the fact that there are much more important things in the Amber Spylass.
These quotes praise Pullman's storytelling ability, language, and his use of fantasy to tell of the universal expierence of growing up. One declares His Dark Materials to be the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century.
All of this is true. Lyra and Will's adventure is well-thought out and breathtaking. It's full of incredible new characters, creatures and universes, all awesome and creative, as is everything that Pullman has created in this series. Aside from these new additions, old characters who had previously been one-sided labels of people become deliciously three-dimensional and real. Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel are desperately confusing and confused, abandoning their previous personells of evil heartless bitch and slightly less evil murderer. The stunning character development is the first thing that truly sets The Amber Spyglass apart from the other novels. The second thing, though, is so much more wonderful. The second thing is what carries it above and beyond, takes a somewhat flat story to soaring heights.
The second thing is love, something that had only been shown in brief flashes of the first two novels. Pullman's brilliance at capturing emotion is surprising and goes unnoticed most of the time in The Golden Compass and the Subtle Knife, but it does make it's appearences- the best example is in Lyra's relationship with Pantalaimon. Those are some of the best moments, writing wise, in the first book; Lyra's fierce dedication and devotion to Pan, Roger, Iorek, and, truly, everyone she gets close to. There are also more subtle bits, in Will's love for his parents, Serephina's love for Lee, even, at the ending of the first book, Asriel and Marisa. But these are merely glances at the author's true capability as it is shown in the final novel. All of a sudden, there's Mrs. Coulter's fierce, impossible motherly love, which I would have never guessed existed. But it does, in this book. Though she is certainly not a heroine, Mrs. Coulter loves her daughter, however unexpected and twisted that love is. The fierce, ultimate love between the angels Balthamos and Baruch is gorgeous and heartbreaking. Every character in The Amber Spyglass loves fiercely, no matter what their other flaws. Love is so prominent in this book- through friendship, through family, through souls, and finally, beautifully, through ROMANCE.
The romance of the two main characters in this book is the best kind, in my opinion. It's romance of the fierce, aching, desperate, sad, beautiful variety. It's the sort of romance that makes me sob. Because, yeah, I did. I sobbed. Usually, it takes death to make me sob. I'll get a bit teary-eyed, sure, but this was not "a bit teary-eyed". This was like, lay your head down on the book, leave permanent water stains. There are only two other works of fiction that have ever given me such a strong reaction without killing anyone: the "Both Sides of Time" series by Caroline B. Cooney(there were moments in all three...), and the movie Becoming Jane.
This is some seriously beautiful stuff. It's easily the best of the three books, just for the final chapters. The rest, of course, is incredible as well. My only complaint would be that I was somewhat irritated by any section that did not include Will or Lyra, which is a complaint I've had throughout the series. Actually, the bits with Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel are more interesting this time around, so I was mainly annoyed by the adventures of Mary Malone and her bike/animal friends. I must confess to skimming those sections.
I award this book the full five stars(we do need to come up with something better than stars, btw)