His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
I was pulled into this from the first paragraph, and found myself with so many questions about the world and the characters. I was delighted when the series wound up, and my various questions had been satisfactorily resolved. The writing style, plot pace, and characterizations were excellent — my biggest complaint is the ending. It’s entirely logical and internally consistent with the world and character Pullman created, and it was also really depressing to me. I was kind of blindsided by the ending because I’m not used to the sort of ambiguous/ realistic endings in YA, and certainly not in fantasy YA. I wanted a happy ever after — but at the same time, it was really well written, and it made sense, and the characters are of the sort that you know they’ll move on and be fine. Furthermore, I’m actually generally uncomfortable with happy-ever-after endings when the protagonists were paired off at an emotionally immature age, which makes my internal conflict at the resolution all the more confusing to me.
It’s kind of impossible to read these without being aware they’re a religious analogy — they’re most famously posited as Pullman’s “answer” to the Chronicles of Narnia. I enjoyed both series equally, to be honest. I read Narnia as a child and His Dark Materials as an adult. These days, when I read Narnia, it’s impossible not to pick up on the religious allegory and social commentary. When I was a kid, I thought of it as a really kick-ass fantasy series, and I just didn’t see any religious allegory at all. Not even the oh-so-obvious Christ motif. I can’t say what I would or would not have picked up on with His Dark Materials as a kid, but I rather suspect I would have been equally naive. As a fore-warned adult, I still didn’t pick up on certain themes — for instance, I wasn’t prepared for the whole Adam & Eve allegory, so I didn’t anticipate it until I was reading the final scene and it hit me like a ton of bricks between the eyes. I felt like an idiot for missing all those hints, and I don’t think I would have picked up on any religious themes if I hadn’t been primed to think of the series as an allegorical response to Narnia. I liked them, and I thought they were fun. The alleged religious debate is more like an interesting side-note in culture of the series than a real factor in the actual reading of it.