Special Editions of His Dark Materials

2005 marked the 10th anniversary of His Dark Materials, and as such Scholastic Press released beautiful hardback editions.



Not only do they have gorgeous metallic covers and a bound bookmark to help you keep your place, but each book has an appendix filled with additional snippets of information. These bits and pieces are in the form of letters, notes, and drawings by Lord Asriel currently housed in Jordon College Library, notes and drawings from Dr Grumman, and papers by Dr Mary Malone from Secret Magisterium files.

Pullman also includes a small introduction at the start of each appendix offering details about where these files were found, are being stored etc to give a great authentic element that keeps it in the realm of the story.

In Northern Lights the appendix reads:

These papers were discovered among the effects of an anonymous scholar after his death in Oxford. They were sent for auction with all his other books and papers and their significance was recognised by Mr Ian Beck, the celebrated artist, who bought them for a small sum.

How they arrived in this universe is still a mystery. It is possible that there exists wormholes, or doorways, opening from one universe into another, and that somewhere in the Oxford of this world there is such an opening into the library of a college in another Oxford entirely.

If that is the case, there may be other such items in this world still awaiting discovery.

There are a few drawings but it’s mainly notes by Lord Asriel with random thoughts he has jotted down relating to Grumman, Lyra, and the witches, plus  inventory for his trip to the North.


Lord Asriel’s notes


Lord Asriel’s notes
















In The Subtle Knife the appendix reads:

The provenance of these papers is obscure. It is possible that they came into the possession of Lord Asriel and were deposited with his own papers in Jordon College Library, but the absence of a library stamp makes that unlikely. It is known that Dr Grumman travelled widely in the Arctic and Siberia, and had numerous acquaintances among the witch-clans and the native people of the north as well as in the worlds of scholarship, politics, and science. Any of them might have acquired such things and inadvertently, or even deliberately, allowed them to slip out of one world and into another.

Items such as these papers are not uncommon. They turn up frequently in auctions, in book-dealers’ catalogues, and the like. Usually their significance remains mysterious; it is only when they are seen in the context of a larger narrative that their meaning suddenly becomes apparent.

This appendix is filled with drawings of the local landscape and points of reference, instructions for making bloodmoss, Grumman’s thoughts about Lord Asriel and his documentation of witch-clans, plus various shaman related notes.


Drawings by Dr Grumman


Notes and drawings by Dr Grumman
















While the others have long introductions, The Amber Spyglass appendix simply has:

Papers of ‘Mary Malone’

Archive of the Magisterium


In this appendix are various pages of Mary’s notes about the world she went into and her studies on what she found.


Dr Malone’s notes


Dr Malone’s notes
















What is wonderful about these items, as hinted by some of the introductions, is when they’re read in the wider context of the narrative you get more to the story. Seeing Mary’s notes upon her arrival in the new world, drawings by Dr Grumman and even Lord Asriel’s papers gives you insight into their character, an extra side of the story, motivations, and discoveries. In these snippets of letters and diary entries it can reveal a lot more about these characters and the wider story itself.

The Amber Spyglass (#3) by Philip Pullman

Published:  14th September 2001Goodreads badge
Scholastic Point
Pages: 548
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

70949Will is the bearer of the knife. Now, accompanied by angels, his task is to deliver that powerful, dangerous weapon to Lord Asriel – by the command of his dying father.

But how can he go looking for Lord Asriel when Lyra is gone? Only with her help can he fathom the myriad plots and intrigues that beset him.

The two great powers of the many worlds are lining up for war, and Will must find Lyra, for together they are on their way to battle, an inevitable journey that will even take them to the world of the dead…

The Amber Spyglass marks the final and gripping conclusion to the His Dark Materials trilogy. After an intense build up through the previous two books it all comes together in this magnificent story that brings everything together in perfect synchronisation, coupled with powerful emotions and an unforgettable series of events.

Structurally, Pullman is a master at weaving together everyone’s stories, one after the other and changing focus at just the right time. Even at the beginning when a unique point of view is provided, Pullman breaks this up incredibly well, giving it power in the words, as well as great narrative placement for the accompanying chapter.

There is so much you could say about this novel, from full and complicated characters to the incredible and complex plot and the magnificent way every tiny detail fits in and is not forgotten. The most admiral is of course the way everything connects and plays a role and the way Pullman can have so much emotion and meaning in the simplest of sentences. A single line can have so much power, and can break your heart in a moment, even if it isn’t all that sad.

From about halfway through the book, there is barely a page that goes by that doesn’t make you want to (or actually) tear up in fear and admiration, heartbreak or pride (may just be me though). These characters, who you have been following and falling in love with through each of these books, become so much a part of you that you wish they were real and you wish them happiness and safety, anything otherwise is unbearable.

It is amazing how Pullman manages to make you feel as if you are in these worlds besides the characters, of all the similar things some worlds have, there are grand and many differences, and yet you feel empathy and reflect on what you would do in the same situation, you feel the pain and the horror, the love and affection as if it were your own life. It messes you up but it is a wonderful feeling to have.

There is a sad beauty to The Amber Spyglass as well, in just a short period of time you can see how Lyra’s grown up, and you see her change as you read. The way she interacts with Roger in the final book compared with how she is in the first is bittersweet and is a wonderful example of how she’s changing. Pullman is wonderful at sprinkling in moments and sentences throughout all three that show these changes, always in the right places and always woven marvellously into the narrative.

Aside from the grand ideas, one things Pullman shines at is capturing voices. From Dr Mary Malone to Mrs Coulter, Lyra and Will, each unique voice captures the experience, inexperience, seduction, firmness, and strength that the person has or needs. There is life in the voices Pullman writes with that brings the characters out of the page and makes you believe they could be alive. Even the minor characters with the fewest of lines are alive with the voices Pullman gives them.

The wonderful thing about Pullman’s writing is that there is not one final moment of exhilaration and excitement that concludes this epic trilogy; instead it is ongoing and constant. At the start of the book there is quiet drama and suspense growing and building, each moment adding on the last until it breaks into a final dash to the end, not necessarily always fast paced but still spectacularly gripping. From midway through you can find the exact moment when things become even more intense. From then on there are rises and falls of tension and suspense, joy, sadness, and adventure. The final battle, predicted long ago in Northern Lights has finally arrived and Pullman makes you feel right in the middle, heart bursting with pride, uncertainty, and excitement as favourites fights for themselves, for Lyra, and for the side of good. It is an absolute thrill to read.

After such an impressive story and build up, the conclusion always had a chance to be a letdown. Yet Pullman offers an ending that you aren’t expecting but it is an ending that is the right and best ending there could be. The eloquence and style in how the story concludes, bringing forth references all the way from Northern Lights through each book, is divine. Everything is wrapped up with loose ends tied but everything is not perfect, which is the best way to do it, after a story like this there needs to be scars.

This is a story that makes you want to cry because of happiness and cry because of heartache. This is such a big bold story that is littered with importance and fantasy and magic and truth that there is no other way to tell it than with big emotions. From page one begins a story that will touch you and move you and in all honesty it is going to get worse and more emotional before you reach the halfway mark and then rip your heart out and step on it a few times by the end. But it will do so with utter perfection and mastery, I promise.

You can purchase The Amber Spyglass via the following

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Depository | Booktopia

Bookworld | QBD

Dymocks | Kobo

Characters in The Amber Spyglass

Many of the characters from the previous two books make appearances in The Amber Spyglass, both brief and otherwise. The main reoccurring characters include:

Lyra Silvertongue          Will Parry

Dr Mary Malone          Iorek Byrnison

Balthamos          Baruch

Mrs Coulter          Lord Asriel

Serafina Pekkala

There are also numerous new characters as well. The Amber Spyglass is a wonderful place where reunions of beloved characters come together with new faces, all working together and against one another in the final battle that brings this series to a thrilling end across numerous worlds and with uncharted dangers.

Chevalier Tialys

chevalier_tialys_by_meadowerThe Chevalier Tialys is a Gallivespian, a race described as being as tall as the length of a human hand. Because of their size they are excellent spies and ride around in saddled dragonflies they raise from larvae. Tialys is described as having dark hair, bare feet, wearing Capri-length silver trousers and looking “strong, capable, ruthless, and proud”. Like all people of the Gallivespian race, Tialys has spurred feet, able to inject various levels of poison into enemies.

Lady Salmakialady_salmakia_595

The Lady Salmakia is a Gallivespian spy, just like Tialys. They are partners on their mission for Lord Asriel. Like Tialys she is described as being “strong, ruthless, and proud” and is depicted as quite maternal, and much more diplomatic and calm than her partner. Lyra describes her not as beautiful, but as having a face someone suffering would want to see. Salmakia is dressed similar to Tialys, bare spurred feet but with a silver skirt and a green blouse.


The Authority

The Authority’s Church and organisations are mentioned frequently throughout the series but he himself only appears in The Amber Spyglass. He is the first angel to come into existence, followed by the other angels, and resides and rules from the Clouded Mountain, a mobile city believed by those in that universe to be Heaven. He took power over the Kingdom of Heaven under false pretences and lies but when other angels discovered his illegitimate claims they began the rebellion against the Kingdom of Heaven. The Authority assumes several names, including “Yahweh”, the “Lord”, “El”, “Adonai”, and “the Almighty”. As he got older he withdrew into the city and appointed Metatron as his regent.


xaphania2_595Xaphania is the leader of the rebel angels who have allied with Lord Asriel. Like other angels she is described as being naked, winged, and luminous, not shining but having an unseen light shine upon her. She is higher up than Balthamos or Baruch and is clearly visible to corporeal beings.



metatron2_595Metatron is the Regent of Heaven, appointed by the Authority but also seeks to overthrow him and seize power himself. He is a medieval Judaic Archangel and is the ultimate antagonist of the series even though he doesn’t appear until the end. He is said to be the biblical character Enoch, who is in the line between Adam and Noah.


atal_by_jennarotancrede-d36eq16The Mulefa are not so much a character as a species, but one in particular, Atal, is a reoccurring figure and friend to Dr Mary Malone. Mulefa is the plural while Zalif is the singular. The Mulefa are a sapient species who inhabit the universe Dr Malone escapes into. They have four legs, short horns, and a prehensile trunk that is used as hands as well as communication. They are elephant-like creatures but have a diamond shaped skeleton without a spine and they use giant seed pods as wheels, attached to the spurs on their front and rear legs. Adding a seed pod is classed as a rite of passage when a Zalif is old enough to fit one. The seed pods fit the front and rear legs, with the side two being used to propel them alone, much like a cyclist without pedals.

Fun Facts About The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

70949The final book in the His Dark Materials trilogy was published in 2000; five years after Northern Lights first came out. At 548 pages it is the longest in the series and Pullman admits it took three years to write. This is an amazing book, not only for the ideas and the masterful execution, but because it brings together everything that Pullman had been working towards and building up to in the previous two books. There are moments towards the end of The Subtle Knife that break your heart, but that is nothing compared to what The Amber Spyglass will do to you.

The title refers to a telescope/spyglass created from two lenses with a lacquer from plants, as well as bamboo to separate the lenses. It was constructed by Dr Mary Malone and allows humans to see Dust. Like the previous two books, The Amber Spyglass has won numerous awards. In 2001 it became the first children’s book ever to win the Whitebread Book of the Year, and was named Children’s Book of the Year. It was also included on the longlist for the Man Book Prize, another first for a children’s book. Other awards it has received include winning the British Book Award, the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, Parents’ Choice Book Award, Horn Book Fanfare Honor Book, New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, and ABC’s Children’s Booksellers’ Choice. It was also featured on the New York Times Bestseller list.

While the previous books has hand drawn images at the start of each chapter, The Amber Spyglass opens its chapters with a quote from one of Pullman’s favourite authors, and like the images, it has symbolic meaning to the coming chapter. Among the authors quoted are John Milton, William Blake, and Emily Dickinson, as well as many others, and Pullman included them as a way to acknowledge their influence. Later editions have the hand drawn images with each chapter, of which Pullman say are some of his best.

Similar to Northern Lights, there has been controversy with certain aspects of the story though less about religion more about apparent sexual references. This series has been marketed primarily towards young adults but Pullman also intended the book to speak to adults. This is clear with the content, themes, and some of the more adult inferences seen in The Amber Spyglass. In North America some parts of book have been censored where Lyra’s incipient sexuality is described, which is a shame because it does actually play an important role, as does everything Pullman includes. In response to this, and his story in general, Pullman has commented “Nowhere in the book do I talk about anything more than a kiss. And as a child, a kiss is enough. A kiss can change the world.” The sexual realisation of the characters is as natural and innocent as the kiss that’s described and as Pullman says, “This 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.” You can see the changes here.

With this year being the 15th anniversary of The Amber Spyglass being published and the 20th since Northern Lights, it’s wonderful to see how over the course of five years of writing, three books, and an idea slightly controversial but incredibly brilliant, how much has changed, not only seeing how these characters have grown, but the effect it’s had on people reading about them. Pullman’s trilogy is apparently not as well known or popular worldwide as Harry Potter became (though still managing to sell almost 20 million copies) which is a shame, though interestingly sales matched those of Harry Potter in the USA, and despite the controversy has received a lot less criticism for books with a lot more obvious content than Harry Potter ever had. But all that aside, those who know it love it, and even with that movie it has remained loved and treasured.

Pullman has stated that when he began Northern Lights he did not know where the story was going, at least not in any detail. With a rough idea of where it was all headed it is astounding to see where it ended up. To read only one of these books is doing it a disservice, to understand fully the masterpiece all three need to be consumed, only then can you see the bigger picture, the grand idea and intricate and detailed creation that has been described as being the most ambitious work since Lord of the Rings.

Why I Love His Dark Materials

HDM trio Disclaimer: I really wanted to make a post gushing about how amazing His Dark Materials was, and how much I adore it, cherish it, and am fascinated by it, and I hope in part to have done that. Writing about why I love a series was harder than I thought, there is too much to say and too many feelings to try and put into words without taking a week to write it and have it be a few thousand pages long on each book. So forgive the clunkiness of this post and just remember this post is simply an extension of “Oh my god this series is amazing, it will make your mind dazzle, your heart break, and make you envious, disgusted, proud all at once. It is a masterpiece of literature I have loved since I was 12 years old and I will continue to adore it for as long as I can read. READ THIS SERIES! READ NORTHERN LIGHTS! Fall in love with Lyra and Iorek, read the entire trilogy and be moved by Will, fascinated by the mulefa and have your heart beat out of your chest in so many moments of anticipation, suspense, action and dismay. You will not regret it.” So keep that in mind 🙂

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

The first time I read Northern Lights was when I was in year seven at high school. I cannot remember exactly how I was introduced to the series, I have a feeling it may have been a friend at the time, but either way I was hooked from the very beginning. I remember walking between classes, head in the book, navigating around students with instinct alone, never once looking up from the pages. I would read and reread each book in the series incessantly; getting lost in the world of Lyra and Pan, riding on the back of Iorek through the snow covered North, falling in love with Will and being amazed at Mary’s discoveries, but most of all my heart would ache to live in a world with daemons. From my first reading and even now I long to have a daemon of my own, not just for the marvel of having a companion that changed form, that was absolutely a part of you, but because when they settled you are able to discover the kind of person you truly are. It sounded magnificent. There is so much to love about His Dark Materials. I love that the people at Jordan college have come together to raise Lyra. I love that through every book there is so much joy coupled with intense sadness and heartache but also so much bravery and determination. I love that this incredibly complex story remains easy to read but is filled with the most complex ideas and theories. I love that daemons change for kids as often as their emotions change, that they are a visual representation of their soul, their feelings, and their strength. The entire series is an amazing concept and a wonderful retelling of a classic tale. Rereading Northern Lights has reminded me of all the wonderful things that make His Dark Materials the brilliant series it is. The light heartedness, the danger, the magic and the mysteries, the heartbreak and the horror, all mixed together into this phenomenal story. There is a certain magic about revisiting old favourites. Falling in love all over again with Lyra and Pan, Iorek and the Gyptians is easy, each time feeling like a first time read, even knowing where the story will go. The excitement is still there, the fear, and the disgust and sadness when terrible things happen. Another advantage of rereads is the fact you can always pick up something you have never seen before. But while there are new things to discover, there are the same moments, the same characters, that stay with you forever, moments you’ll never forget. In my typical cryptic and spoiler free way I will tell you I have never, not once, gotten over Tony. I find myself thinking about this series quite often, Lyra in the cupboard, Will and his mother, Lee Scoresby and Hester on the hillside, but I still feel so much sadness thinking about that boy with his fish. Reading it again was just as painful as the first time, Pullman has a way of making you feel everything like it’s the first time. It’s spectacular, but very emotional. What was also wonderful is that from the first pages to the last I pictured everything in my head just as I had always done, my images of characters and places were the same as when I was 12 years old, it was like returning to a familiar place after years being gone, to find it was just how you left it, the same faces welcoming you home. From Northern Lights to The Amber Spyglass there is nothing to lose by reading a series like His Dark Materials. The way Pullman migrates from Lyra in Northern Lights to Will in The Subtle Knife is seamless, and the gradual build up of characters, perspectives, worlds, and ideas is magnificent and should be (and has been) commended. I cannot imagine not having read this series, it hasn’t changed my life exactly, but it so much a part of my life it may as well have. These books have given me a story that is simply stunning, one that I will never forget, and one that I look forward to rereading again and again for many years to come.