His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman

In Books by Kevin MaschkeLeave a Comment

It seems as if all I’m reading lately are trilogies! And after the Shattered Sea trilogy, Trajans trilogy (only in Spanish) and the Space Odyssey, it was the turn of His Dark Materials. His Dark Materials is a fantasy trilogy, formed by Northern Lights (The Golden Compass), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, and written by the British author Philip Pullman and in which we’ll accompany an orphan girl named Lyra through multiple universes in which magic, theology and science are intertwined in a discrete and at the same time sublime way.

In the novels we encounter a great variety of characters – very differentiated by their ideologies, cultural and social environments and beliefs – and we can see how these characters evolve and change, some more clearly, while others in a way Something more subtle. We encounter conspiracies, action and mystery in equal parts that will keep us hooked more and more as we move forward in history.

The popularity of His Dark Materials led New Line Cinema to buy the rights to bring the trilogy to the big screen, releasing the cinematographic version of the first novel at the end of 2007, titling it The Golden Compass. But given that some ideas expressed in the novels can be understood as criticism against religion, they have been under constant criticism from various conservative Christian sectors, including the United Stated Catholic League, forcing Hollywood to cancel the filming of the second and third films.


Northern Lights

Lyra Belaqua learns of the existence of Dust through her uncle and, before leaving, receives an artifact called a alethiometer, which can be asked any question, if you know how to, and are able to interpret the answers. The strange and secret alethiometer that Lyra possesses will force her to embark on an incredible journey that will take her to the icy Arctic lands, where the witches’ clans reign and the polar bears fight. On her journey, Lyra participates in a rescue expedition carried out by the Giptians. In the North, Lyra makes new friends and allies, and learns how to use the alethiometer.

The Subtle Knife

Will has to protect his mother from her imaginary fears, but one day, when two mysterious men appear to get information about his missing father, he discovers that those fears are more than real. During his escape he finds a mysterious window leading into another world. There, he will meet the impetuous and mysterious Lyra, a girl who claims to belong to a third world and promises him to help him find his father. In this world, Will obtains a dagger with the particular ability to open windows between the different parallel worlds. Both children, with the help of allies, start a journey in search of answers about the Dust.

The Amber Spyglass

Will finds himself before two renegade angels who want to take him to Lord Asriel, but he ignores them in favour of rescuing Lyra with the help of Chevalier Tialys and Lady Salmakia. Together they will travel to the world of the dead and to the world of the Mulefa, where they will discover the true nature of the Dust, while a great battle takes place between the Authority and the army of Lord Asriel. Will and Lyra end up falling in love, but they must destroy the Subtle Dagger, thus closing the windows between the different parallel worlds and condemning themselves to hopelessly be separated.


I watched the Golden Compass movie a long time ago, shortly after I was released in 2007, and I did not remember much of it when I started reading this trilogy. And the truth is that I am very happy because the books got me hooked up from the first chapter. I loved the story, and the characters were most interesting (some more than others) and varied. I would have liked the author to develop some parts a bit more and inquire more in some points – such as the character of Mary Malone, her story and the role she plays – but the plot does not leave much space to deviate through the different universes, worlds and creatures, and I think it’s good to leave some things for the imagination.

I am anxious to get hold of La Belle Sauvage, the first book in Philip Pullman’s recently announced new trilogy, called The Book of Dust, and which according to the author is neither prequel nor sequel, but an “Equal” that will introduce new main characters and share some familiar characters.

Personally I recommend His Dark Materials to anyone who likes fantasy novels with a great story and very interesting (and perhaps unusual) ideas.

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