Learn more about CCRLS
Reading recommendations from Novelist
Online learning resources
Cover image for The amber spyglass
The amber spyglass












1st American ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, ©2000.
Physical Description:
518 pages ; 22 cm.
Series title(s):
Number in series:
bk. 3.
General Note:
Sequel to: The subtle knife.
Enchanted Sleeper -- Balthamos and Baruch -- Scavengers -- Ama and the Bats -- Adamant Tower -- Preemptive absolution -- Mary, alone -- Vodka -- Upriver -- Wheels -- Dragonflies -- Break -- Tialys and Salmakia -- Know what it is -- Forge -- Intention Craft -- Oil and Lacquer -- Suburbs of the dead -- Lyra and her death -- Climbing -- Harpies -- Whisperers -- No way out -- Mrs. Coulter in Geneva -- Saint-Jean-les-Eaux -- Abyss -- Platform -- Midnight -- Battle on the plain -- Clouded mountain -- Authority's end -- Morning -- Marzipan -- There is now -- Over the hills and far away -- Broken Arrow -- Dunes -- Botanic garden.
Lyra and Will find themselves at the center of a battle between the forces of the Authority and those gathered by Lyra's father, Lord Asriel.
Reading Level:
Young Adult.

950 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader/Renaissance Learning UG 6.7 26.

Accelerated Reader Grades 9-12 6.7 26 Quiz 44562 English fiction, vocabulary quiz available.


Call Number
JUV FIC PULLMAN, His Dark Materials #3
Pullman, P.
TEEN Pullman, P.

On Order




The unforgettable His Dark Materials trilogy that began with The Golden Compass --the modern fantasy classic that Entertainment Weekly named an "All-Time Greatest Novel" and Newsweek hailed as a "Top 100 Book of All Time"--and continued with The Subtle Knife , reaches its astonishing conclusion in The Amber Spyglass.

Throughout the worlds, the forces of both heaven and hell are mustering to take part in Lord Asriel's audacious rebellion. Each player in this epic drama has a role to play--and a sacrifice to make. Witches, angels, spies, assassins, tempters, and pretenders, no one will remain unscathed.

Lyra and Will have the most dangerous task of all. They must journey to a gray-lit world where no living soul has ever gone and from which there is no escape.

As war rages and Dust drains from the sky, the fate of the living--and the dead--comes to depend on Lyra and Will. On the choices they make in love, and for love, forevermore.

A #1 New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Whitbread Award
Winner of the British Book Award (Children's)
Published in 40 Countries

"Masterful.... This title confirms Pullman's inclusion in the company of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien." -- Smithsonian Magazine

"Pullman has created the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century. An astounding achievement." --The Cincinnati Enquirer

"War, politics, magic, science, individual lives and cosmic destinies are all here . . . shaped and assembled into a narrative of tremendous pace by a man with a generous, precise intelligence. I am completely enchanted." -- The New York Times Book Review

"Breathtaking adventure . . . a terrific story, eloquently told." -- The Boston Globe

Author Notes

Philip Pullman was born in Norwich on October 19, 1946. He graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English. He taught at various Oxford middle schools and at Westminster College for eight years. He is the author of many acclaimed novels, plays, and picture books for readers of all ages. His first book, Count Karlstein, was published in 1982. His other books include: The Firework-Maker's Daughter; I Was a Rat!; Clockwork or All Wound Up; and The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. He is also the author of the Sally Lockhart series and the His Dark Materials Trilogy. He is the author of The Book of Dust, volume 1. He has received numerous awards including the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Fiction Award for Northern Lights (The Golden Compass), the Whitbread Book of the Year Award for The Amber Spyglass, the Eleanor Farjeon Award for children's literature in 2002, and the Astrid Lindgren Award in 2005.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-This book starts where The Subtle Knife (Knopf, 1997) left off. Lyra has been hidden away by her mother, and Will is determined to find her. Meanwhile, Lord Asriel is preparing to fight the forces of the Church's Consistorial Court, as well as the God-like Authority's Lieutenant, Metatron, who hungers for ultimate power over all worlds. At the heart of this discord is Dust, the mysterious substance that is linked irrevocably to consciousness; it is streaming away at an increasing rate, causing havoc in its wake. It is Lyra and Will's destiny to determine the outcome of this situation. Knowledge of the previous books is an absolute necessity in order to understand this one. Even so, it will take dedication and passion to unwind the extremely convoluted plot with its numerous characters. Lyra and Will are as noble, grand, and yet as utterly believable as any characters in children's literature, and they are surrounded by a host of memorable personages. The many facets of the story are so encrusted with tiny and arcane details that the narrative occasionally slows down, and the transitions between worlds and plot lines are often hard to follow. Organized religion is portrayed bleakly; the Church is essentially a dictatorship and the afterlife is a "concentration camp" world set up by the Authority. However, the message of the book remains clear and exhilarating; it is vital to use wisely the divine gifts of consciousness and free will. This is a subtle and complex treatment of the eternal battle between good and evil.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

In concluding the spellbinding His Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman produces what may well be the most controversial children's book of recent years. The witch Serafina Pekkala, quoting an angel, sums up the central theme: "All the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity. The rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed." Early on, this "Authority" is explicitly identified as the Judeo-Christian God, and he is far from omnipotent: his Kingdom is ruled by a regent. The cosmic battle to overthrow the Kingdom is only one of the many epic sequences in this novelAso much happens, and the action is split among so many different imagined worlds, that readers will have to work hard to keep up with Pullman. In the opening, for example, Lyra is being hidden and kept in a drugged sleep in a Himalayan cave by her mother, the beautiful and treacherous Mrs. Coulter. Will is guided by two angels across different worlds to find Lyra. The physicist and former nun, Mary Malone, sojourns in an alternatively evolved world. In yet another universe, Lord Asriel has assembled a great horde of otherworldly beings-including the vividly imagined race of haughty, hand-high warriors called GallivespiansAto bring down the Kingdom. Along the way, Pullman riffs on the elemental chords of classical myth and fairy tale. While some sections seem rushed and the prose is not always as brightly polished as fans might expect, Pullman's exuberant work stays rigorously true to its own internal structure. Stirring and highly provocative. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Middle School, High School) Armed with a rare numbered typescript copy of The Amber Spyglass, I'm tempted to roll up my shirtsleeves, light a cigar, splash some Tokay into a glass, and discuss fine points of reason, fancy, and theology before all hell breaks loose-an amusement that, with the publication of the unsettling third volume of His Dark Materials, just may come to pass. Perhaps my yielding to the temptation of a theological colloquy wouldn't be an unsuitable reaction to The Amber Spyglass. The nature of temptation is one of the book's most compelling if less explicit themes.But, readers, here's a temptation for you. I find it impossible to consider this serious novel without revealing some of its secrets. So if you want to enjoy your first experience of this long-awaited fantasy thriller as a virgin reader, innocent of my plot synopses or interpretations, flag this review and come back to it later.So: Finally we have the much-awaited conclusion to the trilogy. Adorned with its devastating cover art by Eric Rohmann, The Amber Spyglass delivers much of what was promised in the preceding cliffhangers, The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife. (If you need a refresher, you couldn't do better than to listen to the unparalleled audio recordings of each, available from Random House/Listening Library.) Most of the characters from the earlier books, beloved or bedeviled or both, return to continue their fateful roles in this saga that capsizes-or apocalypsizes-the Book of Genesis for our secular humanist times.Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, last seen beyond Alamo Gulch in one world or another, are set to escape from the clutches of Lyra's mother, the fiendish and prevaricating Mrs. Coulter. (For my money Mrs. Coulter beats out the panserbjorne and d+mons as Pullman's most delicious invention, since Mrs. Coulter is the least predictable among Pullman's dramatis personae.) The book rollicks and careers with the narrative gale force we've come to expect. Philip Pullman achieves effects that rival the best accomplishments of the earlier books. In any given chapter Pullman offers more sensuous description and narrative brio than are found in most entire novels. A plot summary can sound breathless and ridiculous, but, friends, it can't be helped. When a novel takes place in multiple worlds, a lot of happenings happen.In freeing Lyra from the clutches of her mother, Will breaks and helps repair the subtle knife. Lyra, burdened by her accidental betrayal of Roger the kitchen boy, persuades Will to join her in hunting for Roger's ghost in the land of the dead, whose Stygian murk has never been so fully and hauntingly described. (The book's strongest scenes are here, as the children wrestle with chthonic mysteries and sacrifice much to liberate Limbo or its like.) On their emergence from the underworld, the children find that the long-awaited battle with Heaven is about to be joined. Assisted by bears, witches, ghosts, and airborne chevaliers from yet another world, the rebel angels make a better go of it this time. The regent of Heaven is the angel Metatron (a name derived from Greek roots that, put together this way, suggest a higher or late-model elementary particle). He is overthrown at last, dashed down into a pit that makes Malebolge in Dante's Inferno look like leafy suburban sprawl. Oh, and by the way, God dies.Finally the pace slackens, and with relief we are swept into the sweet temptation and succumbing of Lyra and Will. Yes, the ur-couple of a million million universes falls in love. We can draw the inference that, as the Old Testament might have put it, Will and Lyra come to know each other, though this is discreetly handled and open to interpretation, both textual and theological. The final chapter is all the more wrenching because until now poignancy has not seemed one of Pullman's strengths.I'm amazed and relieved to report that the author pulls off most of what he attempts, though I feel the need for more vast depths of time than I have so I might reread the completed saga at once. I want to organize all these worlds in my mind. I want to est he implications of the theology to make sure that they are supported by the contortions of the plot. I trust that many readers, young and old, are going to be left with magnificent questions. The big ones. And why not?-that's what books are for.So put another log on the fire and draw your chairs closer and tell me. Is this a book about the death of God or about the defeat of an institutionalized authority unsupported by moral credibility? Can there be such a thing as temptation in a world in which sin has lost its meaning? Is there a creator of all things? The Ancient of Days, unceremoniously spilled from His carriage (caps on the possessive pronoun mine, by lifelong habit), is God but seems not to be the creator; whence, then, did He get His authority? Even in a fantasy, can God be something other than, as Saint Thomas Aquinas defined, ""that which all men agree to call God""? Can a novel truly be about religion if spirituality is no more than a physical phenomenon-angels, d'mons, Dust? With the concept of prophecy (as pertains to Lyra particularly) implying predestination, who organized destiny in a universe wherein God is supposed to be senile and ineffectual? Who, or what, propels prophetic fate? And if ""the Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake,"" as a sympathetic character remarks, what are Buddhists and Ismailis and Jains and even soft-tongued Quakers to make of His Dark Materials?And what is the nature of Dust, really? Do we know? It had seemed to be an aura that surrounds maturing human beings and the artifacts wrought by human consciousness. But in The Amber Spyglass the nature of Dust seems subtly expanded; it now seems related to every physical aspect of every world, including natural forces like wind and the moon, which are exempt from human interference. I'm not sure even now that I would know Dust if I saw it, even with an amber spyglass, the tool Mary Malone uses to examine Dust's traffic patterns.As the ambitious series draws to its worlds-shaking conclusions, I sense that despite clear philosophical antipathies, Pullman draws closer to and perhaps derives more from C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy than from the works of Tolkien or Susan Cooper, to whom he has been compared. And Pullman shares a lot with Lewis: a moral ferocity, albeit of a very different order; a bravura ability to conceive and set in motion a huge narrative apparatus; a knack for the invention of species and worlds. (You'll love the mulefa.) Fusty old Narnia looks awfully tame, even somewhat Disneyfied, by comparison.I suspect it will take all of us a while to discern the counterpoints and the overtones in this massive symphonic accomplishment. I confess my own moral compass is probably more tarnished brass than gold, my critical knife less than subtle; with my spiritual spyglass I still see through a glass darkly, not through amber. But for the sake of ringing out news about this book I struggle for magnificent metaphors and appropriate adjectives. Pour me some more Tokay and let's see what we have.How shall we call it? In the end, His Dark Materials is not Shakespearian because, the divinely complicated Mrs. Coulter aside, Pullman's characters seem to exist in the grip of their fate rather than in defiance of it. Nor can the trilogy properly be called Miltonic, despite the subject matter-the rebel angels battling over Paradise Lost. Milton's work, after all, no matter how it gets away from him, is driven by devotion. And though it sure rockets along, His Dark Materials is nonetheless not Spielbergian, for (like the J. K. Rowling Pullman must know he'll be compared to) Steven Spielberg is at heart a Gothicist, and Pullman avoids dread for its own sake. Perhaps the books are more akin to the Enlightenment labors of a Rousseau and a Descartes, even a Defoe. Pullman sets himself a nigh-impossible challenge: to construct an apologia for secular rationality in the form of a fantasy, which is a most seductive and pleasingly irrational form of literature.In the end, with the mysteries of dark matter resolved, we have only the mysteries of our own dark human selves to contemplate. We close the book with a sigh of elegiac parting. The bears are back tempering steel for their armor, the witches flying about on branches of cloud pine, forging new alliances. Bereft of fantasy and, perhaps, faith, we mortals must resume tempering our hopes for fulfillment and fleeing our fears of disenchantment, twin tasks that circumscribe our days.Many readers will put down The Amber Spyglass only to pick up The Golden Compass again and begin anew, to see how it all fits. But it may not matter how often one goes back to the earlier books. As Pullman says of God's demise, we may only find ""a mystery dissolving in mystery."" Is this not a workable definition of the sacred? Well, whether Dust is defined or not, in a certain garden Lyra and Will, like all of us, are left alone with the unresolvable question framed best, perhaps, by Shakespeare, from Sonnet LIII:What is your substance, whereof are you made, That millions strange shadows on you tend? Turn the light out as you leave. I'll sit here in the dark and think a little while longer. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

The longed-for third volume in this trilogy (The Golden Compass, 1996; The Subtle Knife, 1997) satisfies deeply: full of grand set pieces, resplendent language, and glorious storytelling. Lyra Silvertongue at 12, from a world like but unlike this one, is keeper of the alethiometer—the golden compass. She can read its ways to find the truth, but it has been taken from her. Will Parry, of this world, injured by the subtle knife that can cut windows between worlds, will bring it back to her. And in yet another place, an Oxford researcher makes a spyglass that enables her to see the golden patterns of Dust, stuff of the universe. All of the splendid characters of the earlier books make a return, like Pan, Lyra’s daemon, part of her very self; Iorek Byrnison the bear king; and Lyra’s bewitching parents, Lord Asriel and the terrifying Mrs. Coulter. Whole new races appear: a panoply of angels; the mulefa, whose triangulated legs use the wheel in a new way; the brave and dashing Gallivespians, who live but a decade and are small enough to ride dragonflies. Across this brilliant and vivid canvas, the largest of themes play out: life and death, goodness and evil, self and other, the redemptive power of love. Lyra and Will’s quest is hard and heartbreaking: they can only rely on themselves and each other to save their worlds, and the cost is great. There are roaring battles and moments of great tenderness; there are unforgettable scenes—Lyra and Will leading ghosts through the land of the dead, for example—and not a few echoes of Paradise Lost with some deeply unconventional theological implications. What matters at the last are the stories, and the truth of their telling. Readers will be chastened—and warmed—and sorry to see the last page. (Fiction. 12+)

Booklist Review

See Focus on p.354.

Table of Contents

The Enchanted Sleeper In a valley shaded with rhododendrons, close to the snow line, where a stream milky with meltwater splashed and where doves and linnets flew among the immense pines, lay a cave, half, hidden by the crag above and the stiff heavy leaves that clustered below.
The woods were full of sound: the stream between the rocks, the wind among the needles of the pine branches, the chitter of insects and the cries of small arboreal mammals, as well as the birdsong; and from time to time a stronger gust of wind would make one of the branches of a cedar or a fir move against another and groan like a cello.
It was a place of brilliant sunlight, never undappled. Shafts of lemon-gold brilliance lanced down to the forest floor between bars and pools of brown-green shade; and the light was never still, never constant, because drifting mist would often float among the treetops, filtering all the sunlight to a pearly sheen and brushing every pine cone with moisture that glistened when the mist lifted. Sometimes the wetness in the clouds condensed into tiny drops half mist and half rain, which floated downward rather than fell, making a soft rustling patter among the millions of needles.
There was a narrow path beside the stream, which led from a village-little more than a cluster of herdsmen's dwellings - at the foot of the valley to a half-ruined shrine near the glacier at its head, a place where faded silken flags streamed out in the Perpetual winds from the high mountains, and offerings of barley cakes and dried tea were placed by pious villagers. An odd effect of the light, the ice, and the vapor enveloped the head of the valley in perpetual rainbows.
The cave lay some way above the path. Many years before, a holy man had lived there, meditating and fasting and praying, and the place was venerated for the sake of his memory. It was thirty feet or so deep, with a dry floor: an ideal den for a bear or a wolf, but the only creatures living in it for years had been birds and bats.
But the form that was crouching inside the entrance, his black eyes watching this way and that, his sharp ears pricked, was neither bird nor bat. The sunlight lay heavy and rich on his lustrous golden fur, and his monkey hands turned a pine cone this way and that, snapping off the scales with sharp fingers and scratching out the sweet nuts.
Behind him, just beyond the point where the sunlight reached, Mrs. Coulter was heating some water in a small pan over a naphtha stove. Her daemon uttered a warning murmur and Mrs. Coulter looked up.
Coming along the forest path was a young village girl. Mrs. Coulter knew who she was: Ama had been bringing her food for some days now. Mrs. Coulter had let it be known when she first arrived that she was a holy woman engaged in meditation and prayer, and under a vow never to speak to a man. Ama was the only person whose visits she accepted.
This time, though, the girl wasn't alone. Her father was with her, and while Ama climbed up to the cave, he waited a little way off.
Ama came to the cave entrance and bowed.
"My father sends me with prayers for your goodwill," she said.
"Greetings, child," said Mrs. Coulter.
The girl was carrying a bundle wrapped in faded cotton, which she laid at Mrs. Coulter's feet. Then she held out a little bunch of flowers, a dozen or so anemones bound with a cotton thread, and began to speak in a rapid, nervous voice. Mrs. Coulter understood some of the language of these mountain people, but it would never do to let them know how much. So she smiled and motioned to the girl to close her lips and to watch their two daemons. The golden monkey was holding out his little black hand, and Ama's butterfly daemon was fluttering closer and closer until he settled on a horny forefinger.
The monkey brought him slowly to his ear, and Mrs. Coulter felt a tiny stream of understanding flow into her mind, clarifying the girl's words. The villagers were happy for a holy woman, such as herself, to take refuge in the cave, but it was rumored 'that she had a companion with her who was in some way dangerous and powerful.
It was that which made the villagers afraid. Was this other Steing Mrs. Coulter's master, or her servant? Did she mean harm? Why was she there in the first place? Were they going to stay long? Ama conveyed these questions with a thousand misgivings.
A novel answer occurred to Mrs. Coulter as the daemon's understanding filtered into hers. She could tell the truth. Not all of it, naturally, but some. She felt a little quiver of laughter at the idea, but kept it out of her voice as she explained: "Yes, there is someone else with me. But there is nothing to be afraid of. She is my daughter, and she is under a spell that made her fall asleep. We have come here to hide from the enchanter who put the spell on her, while I try to cure her and keep her from harm. Come and see her, if you like." Ama was half-soothed by Mrs. Coulter's soft voice, and half afraid still; and the talk of enchanters and spells added to the awe she felt. But the golden monkey was holding her daemon so gently, and she was curious, besides, so she followed Mrs. Coulter into the cave.
Her father, on the path below, took a step forward, and his crow daemon raised her wings once or twice, but he stayed where he was.
Mrs. Coulter lit a candle, because the light was fading rapidly, and led Ama to the back of the cave. Ama's eyes glittered widely in the gloom, and her hands were moving together in a repetitive gesture of finger on thumb, finger on thumb, to ward off danger by confusing the evil spirits.
"You see?" said Mrs. Coulter. "She can do no harm. There's nothing to be afraid of."
From the Hardcover edition.