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In the third and final installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra has been kidnapped by her mother. She’s been drugged into a deep sleep, presumably for her own protection, as her mother has just now started feeling maternal instincts, however misguided they may be. It’s up to Will to rescue her so they can continue on their journey from the previous book.

Lyra and Will must head into the world of the dead for two reasons: for Lyra to make amends with Roger, and for Will to speak with his father. As the two of them search for the way to the world of the dead (because it’s not quite as simple as just cutting a window), they meet tiny Gallivespian spies and sassy angels. While Lyra and Will journey into this unknown world, Mary Malone begins a new life with the Mulefa in a parallel world, where she inadvertently expands upon her previous research on Dust.

Oh, this book broke my heart. I cried. More than once. This one wasn’t particularly fun to read, and it doesn’t have a happy ending. But the ending was fitting, and if you’ve read the other two books of the series, you wouldn’t expect this installment to be particularly fun anyway.

Lyra and Will grow up in this book. Sure, they started to grow up in The Subtle Knife, but they become almost-adults here. They learn tough lessons. They get their hearts and spirits broken. Pullman’s not shy with destroying their hopes and dreams, or the hopes and dreams of his readers.

As with my previous reviews of the series, here are four things I really liked in this book:

1) Mary Malone and the Mulefa. Of all the parallel worlds we encounter in this trilogy, I think the world of the Mulefa was my favorite. These oddly diamond-shaped creatures who roll around on wheels was such a departure from Pullman’s other worlds, whose creatures were fairly similar to ours. The ability of the Mulefa to live hand-in-hand with nature was wonderful, and I loved the way Mary’s previous research tied into their needs.

2) Death. I loved the whole idea of death in this book, in particular the idea that your death is floating around you all the time, and if you just acknowledge it, it can be almost a comfort to you. However, if you fear your death, try to avoid and ignore it, it becomes something that haunts you. I really liked the idea of personifying death to be someone that will help you through to the world of the dead.

3) Mrs. Coulter. I know, I know. How can I have liked her in this book? It’s not so much her character that I liked, but what Pullman did with it. Is she good? Is she evil? Has she had a change of heart? Does she really care about Lyra, or is she just using her? Does she plan to betray Lord Asriel or not? She kept me on my toes. I much prefer that to a character who is obviously a bad person.

4) As with The Subtle Knife, Will and Lyra’s relationship. These two were responsible for at least half my tears in this book. The way things turned out was heartbreaking, but it fit with the overall theme of the book, and I can’t fault Pullman for that.

What a book. What a series. I’m so glad I read it, and only upset that I didn’t do it sooner.

Final rating: 

★★★★☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #42: a book you own but have never read.

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