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  • His Dark Materials, Book III: The Amber Spyglass
  • Written by Philip Pullman
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

The Amber Spyglass brings the intrigue of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife to a heart-stopping end, marking the final volume of His Dark Materials as the most powerful of the trilogy.

Along with the return of Lyra and other familiar characters from the first two books come a host of new characters: the Mulefa, mysterious wheeled creatures with the power to see Dust; Gallivespian Lord Roke, a hand-high spymaster to Lord Asriel; and Metatron, a fierce and mighty angel. So too come startling revelations: the painful price Lyra must pay to walk through the land of the dead, the haunting power of Dr. Malone's amber spyglass, and the names of who will live - and who will die - for love. And all the while, war rages with the Kingdom of Heaven, a brutal battle that - in its shocking outcome - will uncover the secret of Dust.

Philip Pullman deftly brings the cliffhangers and mysteries of His Dark Materials to an earth-shattering conclusion and confirms his fantasy trilogy as an undoubted and enduring classic.

Excerpt

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.
Philip Pullman

About Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman - His Dark Materials, Book III: The Amber Spyglass

Photo © George Reszeter and the Oxford Times

“Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all.”—Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman is the acclaimed author of the His Dark Materials trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. His other books for children and young adults include Count Karlstein and a trilogy of Victorian thrillers featuring Sally Lockhart. The Golden Compass, the first of Pullman's His Dark Materials triology, won the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Fiction Prize.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I started telling stories as soon as I knew what stories were. I was fascinated by them: that something could happen and be connected to another thing, and that someone could put the two things together and show how the first thing caused the second thing, which then caused a third thing. I loved it. I love it still.

I grew up at a time when TV wasn’t as important as it is now. In fact, part of my childhood was spent in Australia at a time when that country didn’t even have TV so a lot of my early experiences with stories came from the radio, which is a wonderful medium. I remember listening to gangster serials, and cowboy serials, and best of all: “Faster than a speeding bullet—more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s SUPERMAN!”

Superman on the radio was exciting enough, but when I first saw a Superman comic, it changed my life. Soon afterward I discovered Batman, too, whom I loved even more. I had to argue with my parents about them, though, because they weren’t “proper” reading. I suppose what persuaded them to let me carry on reading comics was the fact that I was also reading books just as greedily, and that I was good at spelling; so obviously the comics weren’t harming me too much.

My favorite stories for a long time were ghost stories. I used to enjoy frightening myself and my friends with the tales I read, and making up stories about a tree in the woods we used to call the Hanging Tree, creeping past it in the dark and shivering as we looked at the bare, sinister outline against the sky. I still enjoy ghost stories, even though I don’t think I believe in ghosts anymore.

I was sure that I was going to write stories myself when I grew up. It’s important to put it like that: not “I am a writer,” but rather “I write stories.” If you put the emphasis on yourself rather than your work, you’re in danger of thinking that you’re the most important thing. But you’re not. The story is what matters, and you’re only the servant, and your job is to get it out on time and in good order.

The most valuable thing I’ve learned about writing is to keep going, even when it’s not coming easily. You sometimes hear people talk about something called “writer’s block.” Did you ever hear a plumber talk about plumber’s block? Do doctors get doctor’s block? Of course they don’t. They work even when they don’t want to. There are times when writing is very hard, too, when you can’t think what to put next, and when staring at the empty page is miserable toil. Tough. Your job is to sit there and make things up, so do it.

As well as keeping going, there are many other things I’ve learned about this craft, and some of them came to me when I was teaching. What I enjoyed most in that difficult and valuable profession was telling stories, telling folk tales and ghost stories and Greek myths, over and over, until I knew them as well as I knew my own life.

And in doing so, I learned some of the laws of a story. Not rules - rules can be changed. “Smoking Permitted Here” can become “No Smoking” overnight, if people decide smoking is a bad thing. But laws such as the law of gravity can’t be changed: Gravity is there whether we approve of it or not. And so are the laws of a story. A story that is unresolved will not satisfy—that’s a law. If a scene does not advance the story, it will get in the way—that’s another law. You must know exactly where your story begins—that’s a third. And so on.

One strange thing about stories is that you sometimes know how long they’re going to be, even before you’ve begun thinking about them. With His Dark Materials, the trilogy of which the first part is The Golden Compass, I knew from the very start—even before I had a main character in mind, and long before I knew what might happen to her—that this story would be 1,200 pages long. That was the size of it. I knew, too, that I was going to enter a world I hadn’t known before: a world of fantasy. Previously, all of my books had been realistic. When I began writing it, I discovered a kind of freedom and excitement I’d never quite felt before. And that is one of the joys of writing: You constantly encounter new experiences.

I live in Oxford now, and I do my writing in a shed at the bottom of the garden. If the young boy I used to be could have looked ahead in time and seen the man I am today, writing stories in his shed, would he have been pleased? I wonder. Would that child who loved Batman comics and ghost stories approve of the novels I earn my living with now? I hope so. I hope he’s still with me. I’m writing them for him.


PRAISE

THE GOLDEN COMPASS

—Winner of the Carnegie Medal
—An American Booksellers Book of the Year (ABBY) Award Winner

“As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra’s adventures.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

THE SUBTLE KNIFE

—An ALA Best Books for Young Adults

“More than fulfilling the promise of The Golden Compass, this second volume starts off at a heart-thumping pace and never slows down. . . . The grandly exuberant storytelling is sure to enthrall.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“The intricacy of the plot is staggering. . . . There is no doubt that the work is stunningly ambitious, original, and fascinating.”—Starred, The Horn Book Magazine

“The character development as well as the relentless pace . . . make this a resoundingly successful sequel. . . . It will leave readers desperate for the next installment.”—Starred, Booklist


THE AMBER SPYGLASS

—A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

“Pullman has created the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century.”—The Cincinnati Enquirer


“Absorbing. . . . Like Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling, [Pullman] invents a world filled with strange divinations and wordplays.”—Newsweek

“A literary masterpiece . . . [that] caps the most magnificent fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings and puts Harry Potter to shame. . . . A page-turning story that builds to a powerful finish.”—Oregonian

“Impossible to put down, so firmly and relentlessly does Pullman draw you into his tale. . . . [A] gripping saga pitting the magnetic young Lyra Belacqua and her friend Will Parry against the forces of both Heaven and Hell.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


I WAS A RAT!
“Phillip Pullman's tale is fast and clever.”—The New York Times Book Review


COUNT KARLSTEIN
“In this deliciously gothic thriller there are enough demon huntsmen, evil guardians, and brooding castles to please even the most desensitized reader.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“A welcome diversion . . . [that is] dashing, sparkling, and wildly over the top.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly
Praise

Praise

“Pullman has created the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century.”—The Cincinnati Enquirer

“Absorbing. . . . Like Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling, [Pullman] invents a world filled with strange divinations and wordplays.”—Newsweek

“A literary masterpiece . . . [that] caps the most magnificent fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings and puts Harry Potter to shame. . . . A page-turning story that builds to a powerful finish.”—Oregonian

“Impossible to put down, so firmly and relentlessly does Pullman draw you into his tale. . . . [A] gripping saga pitting the magnetic young Lyra Belacqua and her friend Will Parry against the forces of both Heaven and Hell.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



From the Paperback edition.
Reader's Guide|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book

The Amber Spyglass brings the intrigue of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife to a heart-stopping conclusion, marking the final volume as the most powerful of the trilogy.

Along with the return of Lyra, Will, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, Dr. Mary Malone, and the armored bear Iorek Byrnison, The Amber Spyglass introduces a host of new characters: the Mulefa, mysterious wheeled creatures with the power to see Dust; Gallivespian Lord Roke, a hand-high spymaster to Lord Asriel; and Metatron, a fierce and mighty angel.

And with rich characters and mounting suspense come startling revelations, too: the painful price Lyra must pay to walk through the land of the dead, the haunting power of Dr. Malone's amber spyglass, and the names of who will live - and who will die - for love. And all the while, war rages in the Kingdom of Heaven - the shocking outcome of this brutal battle will uncover the secret of Dust.

In The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman deftly weaves the cliffhangers and mysteries of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife into an earth- shattering conclusion - and confirms his fantasy trilogy as an undoubted and enduring classic. The questions, discussion topics, and author information that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of each of the books in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

Discussion Guides

1. Dust, Dark Matter, and Sraf are three different names for the same material. How do these names reflect the different worlds they come from? What attitudes and feelings does each society have about this material?

2. Why do you think the subtle knife breaks when Will thinks of his mother? When the knife breaks, do you think Mrs. Coulter is aware of her influence on Will? Are there any connections between Mrs. Coulter and Will's mother?

3. In each book of the His Dark Materials trilogy, a special device (such as the alethiometer, the subtle knife, or the amber spyglass) is introduced in connection with the pursuit of Dust. What are the different properties of each instrument? How does each instrument reflect the personality of the person that uses it (i.e., Lyra, Will, and Dr. Malone)?

4. When asked to mend the subtle knife, Iorek is hesitant: "Sometimes a tool may have other uses that you don't know. Sometimes in doing what you intend you also do what the knife intends, without knowing." What do you think the knife's intentions are? Based on these intentions, who do you think created the knife and for what purpose?

5. By the end of The Amber Spyglass, what similiarites can you see between Lyra and Mrs. Coulter? How is Lyra's storytelling different from Mrs. Coulter's lying?

6. In The Amber Spyglass, Mrs. Coulter goes through a dramatic transformation as her maternal feelings for Lyra break through to the surface. What is the catalyst for this change?

Suggested Readings

The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

The Left Hand of Darkness and The Earthsea Tetralogy by Ursula K. Le Guin

A Swiftly Tilting Planet and A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle

The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Paradise Lost by John Milton

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien


From the Paperback edition.

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