His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass

His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass


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The only hardcover omnibus of the best-selling and award-winning fantasy trilogy.

Philip Pullman's trilogy is a masterpiece that transcends genre and appeals to readers of all ages. His heroine, Lyra, is an orphan living in a parallel universe in which science, theology, and magic are entwined. The epic story that takes us through the three novels is not only a spellbinding adventure featuring armored polar bears, magical devices, witches, and daemons, it is also an audacious and profound reimagining of Milton's Paradise Lost that has already inspired a number of serious books of literary criticism. Like J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis before him, Pullman has invented a richly detailed and marvelously imagined world, complex and thought-provoking enough to enthrall adults as well as younger readers. An utterly entrancing blend of metaphysical speculation and bravura storytelling, His Dark Materials is a monumental and enduring achievement.

Don't miss Philip Pullman's epic new trilogy set in the world of His Dark Materials!
La Belle Sauvage—now in paperback
The Secret Commonwealth—available now

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307957832
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/06/2011
Series: His Dark Materials Series
Pages: 1144
Sales rank: 1,490
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 2.10(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

PHILIP PULLMAN is one of the most acclaimed writers working today. He is best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy, which has been named one of the top 100 books of all time by Newsweek and one of the all-time greatest novels by Entertainment Weekly. Pullman was knighted for his services to literature in the 2019 New Years Honours.

The Book of Dust, Pullman’s eagerly anticipated return to the world of His Dark Materials, will also be a book in three parts. It began with La Belle Sauvage and continues with The Secret Commonwealth.

Philip Pullman is the author of many other beloved novels. For younger readers: I Was a Rat!, Count Karlstein, Two Crafty Criminals!, Spring-Heeled Jack, and The Scarecrow and His Servant. For older readers: the Sally Lockhart quartet (The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well, and The Tin Princess), The White Mercedes, and The Broken Bridge. He has written a magnificent collection, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, and his essays and lectures on writing and storytelling have been gathered in a volume called Dæmon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling.

Philip Pullman lives in Oxford, England.


Oxford, England

Date of Birth:

October 19, 1946

Place of Birth:

Norwich, England


Exeter College, Oxford University

Read an Excerpt


I began to write this novel with little sense of the plot, even less notion of the theme, and only the vaguest idea of the characters. I'm convinced that that's the way to do it. I tried to work out the plan of a novel once, when I was young, ahead of writing it. It was an excellent plan. It took me months and covered page after page, and in the end I was so fed up with the damn thing I threw it away and started a quite different novel with no preparation at all, which came out much better. I suppose these things are partly temperamental; I know that some excellent writers make a great thing of planning every book before they write it; but it doesn't work for me.

One thing such a technique prevents is what I think every long book must have if I'm not to go mad writing it, and that's the element of surprise. I had no idea what Iorek Byrnison, the armoured bear, would say when Lyra first came face to face with him. His vulnerability to strong drink was a huge surprise. I knew there was going to be a boy called Will, but his reason for running away and thus meeting Lyra was a complete mystery to me until it happened. As for Lee Scoresby, I was as ignorant of his existence as the gyptians themselves the sentence before he turned up. These surprises are pleasant and exciting; they feel like a kind of reward. If I knew they were coming I wouldn't enjoy them at all.

In the first sentence above, I mentioned something I called the theme. By that I mean what the book is about, in some fundamental sense. I've heard that some writers decide on a theme first, and then make up some characters and a plot to exemplify it. They seem to get on all right, but again, it wouldn't work for me. A book, especially a long book like His Dark Materials, has to have some sort of theme, or else you'll be working for a long time (this story took me seven years) in a moral vacuum. But that doesn't mean you have to decide what the theme is. If you're working as seriously as you know how to, for a matter of years, then a theme will emerge whether you want it to or not. It'll be something you think very important. It might be the most important thing you know. Once you know what it is, you can shape the story more precisely to help it show up, but it's a mistake to rely on the theme to lead the story for you. I think I did that in a couple of places in this book, and it's the worse for it. But there we are, we're never too old to learn. Next time I shall remember: the story should lead, and the theme will emerge in its own time and its own way. Besides, if you want to write something perfect, write a haiku. Anything longer is bound to have a few passages that don't work as well as they might.

So here is a story that was the best I could do at the time, written with all the power and all the love I had, about the things I think most important in the world. I think it was worth writing. I hope you think it's worth reading.

Philip Pullman

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His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 142 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This series was excellent. It has elements that closed minded people will shy away from. It also plays out darker than the movie of The Golden Compass. I have never had a book leave me feeling so deeply sad but glad when I finished it. I look forward to reading it again some day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Simply a masterpiece of literature. It may be a young adult series but these books are probably some of the best fiction that you will ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When will people realize that this is a fictitious work? It should not be such a huge deal. None of these characters are real, nor are they thrusting their beliefs on you. Much like the Bible, this book is whatever you make it out to be: an interpretation. When will the madness stop? This book is an amazing read and it pulls you in. Is that why you all are so afraid of what it means? Because you enjoyed reading it? Give it a shot and shut your traps.
Brenda_Garcia More than 1 year ago
My favorite book EVER. I love to lose myself in these parallel universes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am Catholic. A coworker of mine was the product of a single parent home. Her mother was refused communion in the Catholic Church because she was divorced. They didn't take into consideration that she divorced a verbally and physically abusive man. I agree with Pullman... if I was God, I would be upset with them! I don't think people read into it enough and GET what Pullman is trying to say. It is not so much killing God, it is putting an end to a very hypocritical and corrupt organization. That being said, I did enjoy the books, but I don't this is a kids book. It is a work of FICTION... We have as much of a chance of encountering an armor clad bear than beaming up on the Star Ship Enterprise! I think it deals with concepts few children under 12 or 13 could grasp. Even an adult with a meager vocabulary might need a dictionary to read this series. From the first chapter, demon is spelled daemon... How many kids would know that it isn't 'day-mon'? Most of the 'kids' I know who have read the books are upwards of 15, which I think is an appropriate age to read this series... That is when they are able to truly start forming their own religious beliefs. In a world of iPods and Playstations, we should be happy that people are actually wanting to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really entertaining series.
Pym More than 1 year ago
It was a beautiful and engrossing look at human nature, whether technically human or not, and the power of rightness. Not the rightness someone else has dictated but the kind of rightness that is known instinctively and felt throughout your entire being. That every being in every universe and dimension has the right to be free from oppression and has the right to fight with every fiber of their being to ensure that freedom. It also strips away the facade of organized religion and exposes the atrocities associted with it and the absolute horror of zealotry. Although the story takes place in a world parallel to this one, the words resonate deeply with what has occured throughout time wherever religion is present: murder, torture, theft and subjugation. The replacement of free will with the dictates of religious doctrine. The gleeful torture and murder of individuals who do not agree with that doctrine, simply because that doctrine said it was the right thing to do, overriding the individual's own sense of right and wrong. Although it was published as three seperate books, its true form is one inseperable volume. Each of its parts flow so smoothly into each other that it is more like turning the page on a new chapter rather than a new book. That combined with the massive cliffhangers that leave you dangling from your fingertips make it impossible to not simply turn to that next page. Even the ending of the tale leaves you partially dangling, and hungering for more of a single, emotionally charged plot line left untied. Instead, it stretches into eternity and sets the wheels turning on the possibilities, and leaves you desperately hoping. If rumors play out, that last plot line will finally get tied in a fourth installment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
His Dark Materials has an edgy, original twist to fantasy and religion. It has enticing characters and plot. It keeps you guessing and is great to discuss.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What astounding novels! The Golden Compass was a slow start but I kept reading and it got better and better. Pullman has a wild imagination! The Subtle Knife was slow...very very slow!!! Still, when Will gained possession of the knife, I was hooked. Maybe it is Pullman's style of writing The Amber Spyglass was...is...well, I can't say because I am half way done but it is absolutely amazing so far. Can't wait for teh ending! The US is so sensitive when it comes to religion, but when we were a new country we were forced into the Church of England, so don't blame them. But it is a book! A BOOK! It isn't like kids are going to say 'Huh, lyra is going to destroy God so I think I won't be religious anymore and pretend I have a daemon!' But just because it only swept 7 million in the US and about 30 million overseas doesnt mean anything. The chronicles of Narnia has some religious themes burried under the plot, and it did not sweep as much hatred as the Golden Compass, what is up with that!?
BPerry1397 More than 1 year ago
The ebook costs MORE than the pb and almost as much a the HC? How does that make sense?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the most incredible trilogies I have ever had the distinct pleasure of reading. This trilogy is a cornerstone of my childhood. The intricacy of the worlds which Pullman describes lends these books a level beyond mere fantasy for me, a level that leads into myth or legend (which I suppose I might accredit to the theological aspects of it all). These books were a spellbinding read when I was twelve, and a joy to read again now
The_BibliophileJM More than 1 year ago
As far as books go, His Dark Materials is a well written series that grabs you into the story with a violence. I only caution Christian readers because this book was written with an obvious malicious intent towards God and those woh are sensative to those sortsof things need not to read this series at all!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like another reviewer here, I loved the first book. I labored through the second book in hopes the third would be a good as the first. Unfortunately, the story loses its clarity in the third book. Maybe the messages were too subtle for me, I kept waiting for something to happen that would bring the loose ends together. The Adam and Eve allusion and the temptress seemed to me to have no purpose at all. Even 'what is Dust' wasn't really answered. I love Science Fiction/Fantasy, but this book left me unsatisfied.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Action, love, betrayal. I have loved this series ever since I read it as a child. it will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the worst book I've ever read!!!! If you know what's right or wrong you will know that this is wrong and won't read it. Why would anyone be so possessed as to write something in which God is a villain and Satan is a hero? This wasn't written by just any atheist, it was written by a Satanist. Even if you are a Satanist, this wouldn't be acceptable for you to read. This book makes me totally sick, and very disappointed to think that someone would waste paper on something so disgusting as this. Find something morally acceptable and good to read like The Lord of the Rings. How is this comparable to the Chronicles of Narnia? This book teaches you to do bad things. The whole point of Narnia was to be essentially Christian. If I were in The Lord of the Rings and I were Frodo, this would be the Ring and I would be travelling thousands of miles just to destroy it! Don't read this! It's almost as if Satan himself wrote it. YUCK!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a fun adventure.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pullman's His Dark Materials have been described as an "atheist's Narnia." It's certainly the only series I've read comparable in ambition and quality in the genre, and as such I think it shares the major attractions and weaknesses of C.S. Lewis' Christian fantasies for children. I read Tolkien, a friend and fellow Christian of Lewis, didn't like Narnia. He stated in his introduction to Lord of the Rings that he doesn't like allegory, and that's exactly what those two series have in common, and it's both their weakness and strength. In the first book, Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) Lyra's world was so engaging, with its armored polar bears, it's flying witches, and above all its animal "daemon" companions, the polemic flew right over my head. In the second book, The Subtle Knife, primarily in our own world where we meet the boy Will Parry, it was more evident, but at the same time I loved how Pullman weaved together science and religion, dark matter and consciousness and sin, making his book as much science fiction as fantasy. I felt more mixed about the third book, The Amber Spyglass, at first, where these themes become more blatant. The first time I stopped two-thirds through at "No Way Out." Just as at first I first stopped at Narnia's first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I felt the Christian allegory had overwhelmed story. I can point to the very passage that put me off in The Amber Spyglass, when Lyra explained to ghosts trapped in hell that if released "all the atoms that were them, they've gone into the air and the wind and the trees and the earth and all the living things. They'll never vanish. They're just part of everything." That seemed so...atheist dogma. I call myself an atheist, because it's what I am--someone who doesn't believe in a god or gods. But that doesn't mean I can't recognize the secular humanist cant that tries to find a substitute for the idea of heaven to put the fear of death at a distance, and I find the idea hollow and as much an orthodoxy in its way as Dante's heavenly spheres. A friend of mine feels that "Pullman's avil-shaped anti-church polemic ruined the series" and frankly, insert a "almost" between "polemic" and "ruined" and I don't disagree.Nevertheless I returned to The Amber Spyglass, ironically after making my way through the rest of the land of Narnia, and I have to admit that despite how I feel about the, to my adult mind, blatant polemic, just as with Narnia, there is just so much about this novel and series I find brilliant. At the end of The Amber Spyglass, Pullman acknowledges a debt to Milton's Paradise Lost and the poet William Blake, and I can't help but admire how he used those materials. There are so many scenes that stand out to me in this third book. The description of the Underworld is riveting from the very beginning, where bare earth is "beaten flat by the pressure of millions of feet, even though those feet had less weight than feathers; so it must have been time that pressed it flat, even though time had been stilled in this place." Possibly the most moving scene in any of the books is the one in this book where Lyra parts with her daemon Pan at the shore of hell's river.This really is an anti-Narnia, and I think I can appreciate His Dark Materials more for having read Narnia. In Narnia, to grow up is to lose access to that magical land, and it's better to die young than to lose innocence and with it faith. Pullman's message is the opposite. He values experience, knowledge, life. And while Narnia's ideal land is a kingdom, Pullman's is a republic. Although I'm more sympathetic to Pullman's vision, I'd give Narnia a tiny edge. I like the children of Narnia more than Lyra and Will. (Although Lyra grew on me, especially in the last book, and I liked Will from the beginning.) Narnia is more exuberant in its imagination, more charming, and it has more humor. Bu
StephenBarkley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reactionary Christians irritate me. I¿m convinced that there¿s a certain breed of believers that live to protest whatever pop culture serves up. These militant believers target everything from Harry Potter to My Little Pony. This desire to protest has even spawned a new income stream for aspiring authors. Although I have no firm evidence, I¿m pretty sure that the number of books sold to that ¿debunk¿ The Da Vinci Code exceeds the number of DVDs sold!I say all this to let you know what my attitude was like when I started reading The Golden Compass. I figured it was just another good story that a few Christians decided to get angry about for no good reason. I was quite surprised to find something genuinely subversive about the story. Unlike the Harry Potter Books, which assume a basic common worldview, His Dark Materials turns our culture¿s Judao-Christian foundation on its head.Given the profound differences between the two series, it¿s somewhat ironic that Rowling has received more attention than Pullman from Christians. Pullman was right:"I¿m kind of relying on Harry Potter to deflect all that [religious backlash], actually. I was quite happy for Harry Potter to get all the attention so I could creep in underneath all of it." (Powell¿s Books Interview)Spoiler Alert:In His Dark Materials, there are multiple worlds that a few people can travel between. The church (a.k.a. ¿The Authority¿) is a controlling and wicked force in every world. Common also to each world is ¿dust¿, that substance which the church considers original sin. Dust is everywhere, but starts surrounding sentient beings at puberty. Adam and Eve¿s sin is assumed to be sexual awakening coupled with their pursuit of knowledge.One of the surprising turns for me was the notion of afterlife. The ¿world of the dead¿ is nothing more than a holding world where the deceased go when they lose their souls. One of the most triumphant scenes in The Amber Spyglass is the freeing of these soulless dead people to dissolve and become the stuff of the universe again.Positive:I¿ve read a lot of fantasy, and was happy to find something so original. Most fantasy works assume a dualistic worldview and play out an end-time scenario. Good and evil are usually equally matched forces, until good manages to eek out an against-all-odds win. (Incidentally, the brilliance of the Narnia books is their genuinely Christian worldview: good and evil are not equal. Instead, the dualism is properly located between Creator and creation.)Negative: 1. It¿s too easy to demonize the church. A lot of wicked things have been done in the name of Christ. However, let¿s keep this in perspective. Any group of people, whether religious or not, have the capacity to act wickedly. 2. The pathos-laden escape from the world of the dead was quite unsatisfying. Pullman removed the hope of eternal life from readers and replaced it with nothingness (albeit nothingness slathered with a thick helping of poetic charm). His description here is surprisingly close to the Hindu (and Buddhist) concept of Nirvana. Letting our atoms separate and return to the universe which brought them together isn¿t a very exciting prospect for me. 3. When you finish reading these books, it¿s easy to think that God is an selfish autocrat who wants to keep people away from sex and knowledge (in fact, I believe that is the point). Although parts of the church throughout history may have taught that, the Christian Canon is emphatically pro-sex and pro-knowledge.I¿m glad I read these books. I found myself shouting at Pullman through some sections, but I was rarely bored. However, I would only recommend it to children who are old enough to understand what¿s going on behind the story and are willing to think critically¿which, after all, is just what Pullman is proposing.
Iralell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hmmm. Very strange books. Fascinating world development, great alternative view of the origin and place of religion in the world, but not really suitable for the age-group it targets. I could sense a lack of experience in Pullman's writing, so I expect his next effort to be even better (if His Dark Materials hasn't exhausted his imagination. )
Ardwick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Engaging trilogy about Lyra a wild child who investigates the abduction of children and the phenomenon of dark matter in the north. This involves traveling to parallel worlds and finding an assistant. together they mange to solve the mystery of dark matter and the threats to their worlds.
vwbernie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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. : /
pantalaimon700 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I never heard of this book until a year before the movie came out in 2007. I was like, "O.K. Another book." But when I read it, i thought it was the best book ever. It is my favorite book. Lyra Belaqua is my all time hero. I love Pantalaimon! Will is awesome! I cried at the end of the boom when Will and Lyra had to separate from each other... forever.
keristars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my best friends absolutely loves the His Dark Materials trilogy and used to mention it or suggest it to me quite often. I always had a lot of other things to read, so I never quite got around to it until November 2007. I forget why exactly I decided to go ahead and purchase it, except that I had some extra book money that month and film for the first book, The Golden Compass, was due to come out, and so the books were pretty much everywhere.When I sat down to read it, I was expecting something like the Narnia series, since I'd always heard comparisons between the two, only a little more steampunk and less Tolkien-esque fantasy. Happily, His Dark Materials isn't much like The Chronicles of Narnia at all, except that they're both fantasy YA series with a heavy theme of religion. Also, despite the size of the two collections being about equal, HDM was a much quicker read. I guess that's most likely because stuff actually happens in the books and the main characters are actually interesting.But though I greatly prefer HDM to Narnia, I'm not all that crazy about it. It's a good series, and the overall message is pretty good, being one about scepticism and not blindly following authority just because they're authority, but I felt that it went on a little too long and got a little too diactic towards the end - precisely the problems I have with Narnia, actually.It's a very cool universe that Pullman created, and the series is a fun read and definitely worth a read, but it just wasn't the kind of book that I like to read. Maybe if it were a few hundred pages shorter and with fewer diversions from Lyra's point of view, I would have liked it much more.
Audacity88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Three stars for being a great story, and another half-star for turning out to be a thoughtfully controversial moral tale.
AramisSciant on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great adventure, although I definitely liked best the first two books -before he got too much into the whole anti-religion rant-. Read the books before seeing the movie adaptation of 'The Golden Compass'.