The Amber Spyglass

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The Amber Spyglass
Tas pb uk.jpg
First edition
Author Philip Pullman
Cover artist Philip Pullman & David Scutt
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series His Dark Materials
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Scholastic/David Fickling Books
Publication date
2000
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 518 pp
ISBN 0-590-54244-3
OCLC 55870599
Preceded by The Subtle Knife
Followed by Lyra's Oxford

The Amber Spyglass is the third novel in the His Dark Materials trilogy, written by English author Philip Pullman. Published in 2000, it won the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year award, the first children's novel to do so.[1] 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 Man Booker Prize.[2]

Plot[edit]

Mrs Coulter has drugged her daughter Lyra and keeps her in a remote cave hidden from the Magisterium, a theocratic authority who are determined to kill Lyra to prevent her from becoming the second Eve and causing a new fall of man. Lyra dreams she meets her dead friend Roger in the land of the dead, and promises to help him.

In Cittàgazze, a city in a parallel world, angels Balthamos and Baruch are instructed to take Lyra's friend Will to Lord Asriel, whose army are preparing to fight the Magisterium, but Will refuses until Lyra is rescued. When they are attacked by a soldier of the archangel Metatron, Will uses the subtle knife, which has a blade so sharp it can cut windows into other worlds, to escape. Baruch delivers a message to Asriel but dies shortly after from wounds sustained fighting angels loyal to Metatron.

The Magisterium sends an assassin, Father Gomez, to follow the physicist Mary Malone, hoping that Mary will lead him to Lyra. Mary goes through another window into a world where she meets sapient, elephantine creatures called mulefa who use large seedpods attached to their feet as wheels. She learns that the seedpod trees have been dying out for centuries. Mary uses the tree sap lacquer to construct a spyglass that allows her to see the particles known as dust, which is no longer nourishing the trees that the mulefa depend on.

Will meets Iorek Byrnison, king of the armoured bears, who are migrating south to avoid the Arctic melt caused by Lord Asriel's experiments. Will impresses Iorek, by destroying his helmet with the subtle knife and Iorek agrees to help rescue Lyra.

Will, Iorek, Balthamos, Asriel's army and Magisterium forces converge on Mrs. Coulter's cave, where Will wakes Lyra. As he cuts a window into another world, Coulter's sudden arrival reminds him of his sick mother, which breaks his concentration, and he shatters the knife. He and two Gallivespian spies, Tialys and Salmakia, escape with Lyra to another world. Iorek repairs the knife.

Lyra, Will, Tialys and Salmakia travel to the world of the dead to fulfil Lyra's promise to Roger. They are forced to leave their dæmons behind, causing them enormous pain. After they find Roger, they strike a deal with the harpies: in exchange for allowing them to open a window so the dead escape, the harpies will hear the stories of the dead, and may bar access to those who have not lived full lives. The dead step through and dissolve, reunited with the universe.

The wooden bench at the back of the Oxford Botanic Garden featured in The Amber Spyglass and shown in a photograph in the sequel, Lyra's Oxford.

Will and Lyra must return to Asriel's realm to retrieve their dæmons; Will's dæmon, previously invisible, is now visible. They are joined by the ghosts of Will's father and Lee Scoresby, who decide to remain intact to join Asriel's army and fight the spectres, wraith-like creatures that devour adult souls. The battle between Asriel's army and the forces of the Authority begins.

Mrs. Coulter, who has now allied herself with Asriel, enters the Authority's citadel, where she meets the Regent Metatron. She leads Metatron to Asriel, but betrays him, uniting with Asriel to attack Metatron. All three fall into an abyss and cease to exist. The Authority dies when Will and Lyra free him from the crystal prison in which Metatron had trapped him; he is so feeble that exposure to the atmosphere dissolves him.

With the help of the Gallivespians, armoured bears, and ghosts, Lyra and Will find their dæmons and escape the battle to the mulefa world, where the short-lived Gallivespians die. They encounter Mary, who tells them why she had stopped being a nun. Will and Lyra picnic in the wood and kiss. The flow of dust escaping is slowed and envelops Will and Lyra. Father Gomez, who was preparing to kill Lyra is stopped by Balthomos who then allows himself to disperse into the air. The witch Serafina Pekkala and angel Xaphania explain that openings between worlds allow dust to escape into oblivion, each creating a new spectre; no more can be permitted and all the existing windows must be closed, except the one leading from the world of the dead.

Lyra and Will must return to their own worlds, as they are unable to survive in worlds other than their own. Lyra leads Will to the Botanic Gardens in his Oxford. They promise to go to a bench in their respective Oxfords every midsummer's day to think of each other.

"Lyra+Will" carved in the bench in the Oxford Botanic Garden.

Will and Mary return to their worlds. Will breaks the subtle knife by trying to open a window while thinking about Lyra. Mary learns how to see her own dæmon, a black Alpine chough. Will's dæmon, named Kirjava by Serafina, has taken the permanent form of a large black cat. Lyra returns to Jordan College in her world. Having lost her ability to read the alethiometer intuitively, she decides to study alethiometry. She and her dæmon Pantalaimon, who has taken the permanent form of a pine marten, resolve to build the Republic of Heaven.

Changes to U.S. edition[edit]

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. 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 is anything but. It's the thing that makes us fully human."[3]

The North American edition censors passages describing Lyra's incipient sexuality.[3] The amended text[4] includes this passage from the chapter "Marzipan" in the UK edition:

As Mary said that, Lyra felt something strange happen to her body. She found a stirring at the roots of her hair: she found herself breathing faster. She had never been on a roller-coaster, or anything like one, but if she had, she would have recognised the sensations in her breast: they were exciting and frightening at the same time, and she had not the slightest idea why. The sensation continued, and deepened, and changed, as more parts of her body found themselves affected too. She felt as if she had been handed the key to a great house she hadn't known was there, a house that was somehow inside her, and as she turned the key, deep in the darkness of the building she felt other doors opening too, and lights coming on. She sat trembling, hugging her knees, hardly daring to breathe, as Mary went on...

Amended in the US edition to:

As Mary said that, Lyra felt something strange happen to her body. She felt as if she had been handed the key to a great house she hadn’t known was there, a house that was somehow inside her, and as she turned the key, she felt the other doors opening deep in the darkness, and lights coming on. She sat trembling as Mary went on...

Chapter headings[edit]

Each chapter carried at the beginning a quotation from one of Pullman's favorite authors, including Milton (Paradise Lost), William Blake, and Emily Dickinson.[5] After the first edition, Pullman had time to work on the customary drawings at the top of each chapter.

Critical reception[edit]

The Amber Spyglass won critical acclaim and many prestigious awards. It became the first children's book to win the Whitbread Book of the Year, and won the British Book Award, American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, 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. It became a New York Times Bestseller.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra (23 January 2002). "Epic children's book takes Whitbread". The Guardian. London: Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2007-04-05. 
  2. ^ Reynolds, Nigel (23 January 2002). "Children's book scoops £30,000 Whitbread prize". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  3. ^ a b Rosin, Hanna (1 December 2007). "How Hollywood Saved God p.2". The Atlantic Monthly. The Atlantic Monthly Group. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  4. ^ Corliss, Richard (8 December 2007). "What Would Jesus See?". Time. Time Inc. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  5. ^ http://www.philip-pullman.com/pages/content/index.asp?PageID=62
  • Lenz, Millicent (2005). His Dark Materials Illuminated: Critical Essays on Phillip Pullman's Trilogy. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3207-2. 
  • Frost, Laurie (2006). The Elements of His Dark Materials. The Fell Press.