The Amber Spyglass
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''The Amber Spyglass'' is the third novel in the ''
His Dark Materials ''His Dark Materials'' is a trilogy of Fantasy literature, fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of ''Northern Lights (Pullman novel), Northern Lights'' (1995; published as ''The Golden Compass'' in North America), ''The Subtle Knife'' (1 ...
'' trilogy by
Philip Pullman Sir Philip Nicholas Outram Pullman (born 19 October 1946) is an English writer. His books include the fantasy Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction involving Magic (supernatural), magical elements, typically set in a fictional univ ...
. Published in 2000, it won the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year award, the first children's novel to do so. It was named Children's Book of the Year at the 2001 British Book Awards, and was the first children's book to be longlisted for the
Booker Prize The Booker Prize, formerly known as the Booker Prize for Fiction (1969–2001) and the Man Booker Prize (2002–2019), is a Literary award, literary prize awarded each year for the best novel written in English and published in the United King ...
.


Setting

The novel is set in a number of worlds dominated by the Magisterium, a
theocracy Theocracy is a form of government in which one or more deity, deities are recognized as supreme ruling authorities, giving divine guidance to human intermediaries who manage the government's daily affairs. Etymology The word theocracy origina ...
which actively suppresses
heresy Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization. The term is usually used in reference to violations of important religi ...
. In some of these worlds, humans' souls naturally exist outside of their bodies in the form of sentient " dæmons" in animal form. Important plot devices are the alethiometer, a truth-telling symbol reader; the subtle knife, capable of cutting windows between worlds; and the amber spyglass, a device for viewing the form of consciousness known as
Dust Dust is made of fine particles of solid matter. On Earth, it generally consists of particles in the atmosphere that come from various sources such as soil lifted by wind (an aeolian process), volcanic eruptions, and pollution. Dust in ho ...
.


Plot

Having learned of the witches' prophecy that Lyra Belacqua is the second
Eve Eve (; ; ar, حَوَّاء, Ḥawwāʾ; el, Εὕα, Heúa; la, Eva, Heva; Syriac: romanized: ) is a figure in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible. According to the origin story, "Creation myths are symbolic stories describing how t ...
, the Magisterium decides she must be killed to prevent a new fall. Lyra's ambitious and hardhearted mother, Mrs Coulter, hides her in a remote cave. In her drugged sleep, Lyra dreams of meeting her friend
Roger Roger is a given name A given name (also known as a forename or first name) is the part of a personal name quoted in that identifies a person, potentially with a middle name as well, and differentiates that person from the other members ...
in the land of the dead, and promises to help. In the world of Cittàgazze the angels Balthamos and Baruch try to persuade Lyra's friend
Will Will may refer to: Common meanings * Will and testament A will or testament is a legal document that expresses a person's (testator) wishes as to how their property (estate (law), estate) is to be distributed after their death and as to which ...
to take the subtle knife to Lord Asriel, whose army is preparing to fight the Magisterium, but Will insists on finding Lyra first. They are attacked by the archangel
Metatron Metatron ( ''Meṭāṭrōn'', ''Məṭaṭrōn'', ''Mēṭaṭrōn'', ''Mīṭaṭrōn'', ''Meṭaṭrōn'', ''Mīṭṭaṭrōn'') or Mattatron ( ''Maṭṭaṭrōn'') is an angel in Judaism mentioned three times in the Talmud in a few br ...
but escape to another world just in time with the help of the subtle knife. The angels explain that the very first angel to condense out of Dust had falsely claimed to be the creator, and had acquired great power as the
Authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behavior, patterns of Interpersonal ties, social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life. It use ...
. Now aged, he dwells in an isolated citadel and has delegated most of his powers to his
regent A regent (from Latin : ruling, governing) is a person appointed to govern a state ''pro tempore'' (Latin: 'for the time being') because the monarch is a minor, absent, incapacitated or unable to discharge the powers and duties of the monarchy, ...
Metatron. The physicist Mary Malone finds herself in a world of sapient creatures called mulefa. The trees they rely on have been dying, and she uses lacquer from their sap to construct a spyglass that allows her to see
Dust Dust is made of fine particles of solid matter. On Earth, it generally consists of particles in the atmosphere that come from various sources such as soil lifted by wind (an aeolian process), volcanic eruptions, and pollution. Dust in ho ...
. She discovers that it is streaming rapidly away, no longer able to provide the trees with nourishment. Will meets Iorek Byrnison. Together they find Lyra's cave, arriving at the same time as the forces of the Magisterium. Will wakes Lyra and uses the knife to escape into another world, but when he loses concentration the knife breaks. Iorek uses his metalworking skills to repair it. Lyra and Will travel to the world of the dead. Visitors are forced to leave their dæmons behind, causing Lyra and her dæmon Pantalaimon enormous pain. Will's dæmon, previously internal, now becomes visible. After finding Roger, they persuade the harpies that control the world to allow them to open a window so the dead can leave. The dead step through and joyfully dissolve, their atoms becoming one with the universe. Asriel's army and the forces of the Magisterium join battle. Mrs Coulter, who has allied herself with Asriel, enters the Authority's citadel, tempts Metatron, and then betrays him. Mrs Coulter, Asriel and Metatron fall into an abyss and are destroyed. Lyra and Will free the Authority from a crystal litter in which he is being carried, and find him demented and powerless – so feeble that mere exposure to the wind causes his form to dissolve. Lyra and Will escape with their dæmons to the mulefa world, where Mary tells them of her own past. Before becoming a physicist she had been a nun, but had lost her faith when she had fallen in love and realised that the nun's heaven was empty. Hearing her words, Lyra experiences new and strange sensations of her own. The next day, Lyra and Will set off to picnic in the wood. The couple kiss and confess their love for each other, and the Dust envelops them. The witch Serafina Pekkala explains that each opened window between worlds creates a new spectre, and it is through those windows that Dust has been escaping. All existing windows must be closed, apart from the one leading from the world of the dead. Lyra and Will are devastated to learn that they must return to their respective worlds, as they cannot survive for long in any other. They promise each other that they will go to a bench in their respective Oxford
Botanic Gardens A botanical garden or botanic gardenThe terms ''botanic'' and ''botanical'' and ''garden'' or ''gardens'' are used more-or-less interchangeably, although the word ''botanic'' is generally reserved for the earlier, more traditional gardens, an ...
every midsummer's day to remember. They return, and the witches set about closing the windows. Will deliberately destroys the subtle knife. In her own world, Lyra finds that she has lost the ability to intuitively read her alethiometer. She decides to take up the academic study of alethiometry and, together with Pantalaimon who has now taken the permanent form of a
pine marten The European pine marten (''Martes martes''), also known as the pine marten, is a mustelid native to and widespread in most of Europe, Asia Minor, the Caucasus and parts of Iran, Iraq and Syria. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. ...
, she resolves to build the Republic of Heaven.


Changes to US edition

Pullman's publishers have primarily marketed the ''His Dark Materials'' series to young adults, but Pullman also intended to speak to adults. ''The Amber Spyglass'' is partly a re-evaluation of the Biblical tale of
Adam and Eve Adam and Eve, according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, were the first man and woman. They are central to the belief that humanity is in essence a single family, with everyone descended from a single pair of original ancestors. ...
. Pullman said Lyra's sexual awakening "is exactly what happens in the Garden of Eden … Why the Christian Church has spent 2,000 years condemning this glorious moment, well, that's a mystery. I want to confront that, I suppose, by telling a story that this so-called
original sin Original sin is the Christianity, Christian doctrine that holds that humans, through the fact of birth, inherit a tainted nature in need of regeneration and a proclivity to sinful conduct. The biblical basis for the belief is generally found i ...
is anything but. It's the thing that makes us fully human." The North American edition alters passages describing Lyra's incipient sexuality. The text in the UK edition includes this passage in the chapter "Marzipan": This is amended in the US edition to: Other passages have also been modified in the US edition.


Chapter headings

Each chapter carried at the beginning a quotation from one of Pullman's favourite authors, including Milton (''
Paradise Lost ''Paradise Lost'' is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton (1608–1674). The first version, published in 1667, consists of ten books with over ten thousand lines of verse (poetry), verse. A second edition fo ...
''),
William Blake William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his life, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the Romantic poetry, poetry and visual art of t ...
and
Emily Dickinson Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. Little-known during her life, she has since been regarded as one of the most important figures in American poetry. Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massa ...
. Before ''His Dark Materials'' first came out the publisher had asked Pullman to produce his customary drawings for the head of each chapter, his drawings first appeared in the Lantern Slide editions of the books.


Critical reception

''The Amber Spyglass'' won critical acclaim and became the first children's book to win the Whitbread Book of the Year. It also won the British Book Awards, Children's book of the year,
American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults The American Library Association's Best Fiction for Young Adults, previously known as Best Books for Young Adults (1966–2010), is a recommendation list of books presented yearly by the YALSA division (Young Adult Library Services Association). It ...
, ''Parents' Choice'' Good Book Award, ''Horn Book'' Fanfare Honor Book, New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age and ABC Children's Booksellers' Choice, and became a ''New York Times'' Bestseller.
Michael Dirda Michael Dirda (born 1948) is a book critic for the ''Washington Post ''The Washington Post'' (also known as the ''Post'' and, informally, ''WaPo'') is an American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C. It is the most widely circulated ...
praised ''The Amber Spyglass'' as "an expertly paced and orchestrated novel." He notes Pullman's allusiveness: "In his acknowledgments Philip Pullman admits he has stolen material 'from every book I have ever read.' Besides finding hints of ''
Paradise Lost ''Paradise Lost'' is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton (1608–1674). The first version, published in 1667, consists of ten books with over ten thousand lines of verse (poetry), verse. A second edition fo ...
'' and Blake's poetry, the astute will pick up echoes of the following: Christ's harrowing of hell,
Jewish Kabbalah Kabbalah ( he, קַבָּלָה ''Qabbālā'', literally "reception, tradition") is an esoteric method, discipline and Jewish theology, school of thought in Jewish mysticism. A traditional Kabbalist is called a Mekubbal ( ''Məqūbbāl'' "rece ...
(the legend of the godlike angel
Metatron Metatron ( ''Meṭāṭrōn'', ''Məṭaṭrōn'', ''Mēṭaṭrōn'', ''Mīṭaṭrōn'', ''Meṭaṭrōn'', ''Mīṭṭaṭrōn'') or Mattatron ( ''Maṭṭaṭrōn'') is an angel in Judaism mentioned three times in the Talmud in a few br ...
), Gnostic doctrine (Dust, our sleeping souls needing to be awakened), the ' death of God' controversy, '' Perelandra'', the Oz books (the Wheelers), Wagner's '' Ring of the Nibelungs'' (Siegfried's mending of the sword),
Aeneas In Greco-Roman mythology, Aeneas (, ; from ) was a Trojan hero, the son of the Trojan prince Anchises and the Greek goddess Aphrodite (equivalent to the Roman Venus (mythology), Venus). His father was a first cousin of King Priam of Troy (both ...
,
Odysseus Odysseus ( ; grc-gre, Ὀδυσσεύς, Ὀδυσεύς, OdysseúsOdyseús, ), also known by the Latin variant Ulysses ( , ; lat, UlyssesUlixes), is a legendary Greeks, Greek king of Homeric Ithaca, Ithaca and the hero of Homer's Epic poet ...
and
Dante Dante Alighieri (; – 14 September 1321), probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri and often referred to as Dante (, ), was an Italian people, Italian Italian poetry, poet, writer and philosopher. His ''Divine Comedy'', origin ...
in the Underworld, the Grail legend and the wounded
Fisher King The Fisher King is a figure in Arthurian legend The Matter of Britain is the body of medieval literature and legend A legend is a Folklore genre, genre of folklore that consists of a narrative featuring human actions, believed or ...
,
Peter Pan Peter Pan is a fictional character created by List of Scottish novelists, Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. A free-spirited and mischievous young boy who can fly and Puer aeternus, never grows up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending ...
, Wordsworth's pantheistic ' Immortality Ode', the doctrine of the hidden God and speculation about the plurality of worlds, situational ethics (actions, not people, being good or bad), the cessation of miracles, ''
Star Wars ''Star Wars'' is an American epic film, epic space opera multimedia franchise created by George Lucas, which began with the Star Wars (film), eponymous 1977 film and quickly became a worldwide popular culture, pop-culture Cultural impact of S ...
''...and even Pullman's own early novel for adults, ''Galatea''." He concludes by writing that "''His Dark Materials'' is a novel of electrifying power and splendor, deserving celebration, as violent as a fairy tale and as shocking as art must be." In 2019, it was ranked sixth in ''
The Guardian ''The Guardian'' is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as ''The Manchester Guardian'', and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers ''The Observer'' and ''The Guardian Weekly'', ''The Guardian'' is part of the Gu ...
'''s list of the 100 best books since 2000.


References

* *


External links


Philip Pullman
Author's website
HisDarkMaterials.com
Publisher Random House's ''His Dark Materials'' website

UK publisher's website
Randomhouse: ''His Dark Materials''
U.S. publisher's website
BBC Radio 4's ''His Dark Materials'' site inc. Dictionary of ''His Dark Materials'' and web Q&A with Philip Pullman

The then Archbishop of Canterbury and Philip Pullman in conversation at the National Theatre
from ''
The Daily Telegraph ''The Daily Telegraph'', known online and elsewhere as ''The Telegraph'', is a national British daily broadsheet newspaper published in London by Telegraph Media Group and distributed across the United Kingdom and internationally. It was fou ...
'' {{DEFAULTSORT:Amber Spyglass, The 2000 British novels His Dark Materials books Novels by Philip Pullman 2000 fantasy novels British fantasy novels Children's fantasy novels Costa Book Award-winning works British Book Award-winning works Sequel novels 2000 children's books Fiction about deicide David Fickling Books books