The Amber Spyglass is the concluding book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It follows on from The Subtle Knife and Northern Lights (also known as The Golden Compass) and takes place in many more universes. The book deals with love between the protagonists, Lyra Silvertongue and Will Parry as well as some hard decisions they have to make. One major new universe added to the book is one with strange creatures called Mulefa and Doctor Mary Malone's development in her beliefs towards what Dust is and how the world works.
Lyra has been taken by her mother, Marisa Coulter, to a remote cave in the Himalayas in the Valley of the Rainbows of their own world, where she is kept in a drugged sleep. In this state, Lyra dreams that she is in a wasteland (later realised as the world of the dead) talking to her dead friend Roger, whom she promises to help.
In Cittàgazze, a pair of angels named Balthamos and Baruch tell Will that they have come to take him, the bearer of the subtle knife, to Lord Asriel. Will refuses to go until Lyra is rescued, to which the two assent. Will and the angels are attacked by a soldier of the archangel Metatron, the Authority's Regent. Will cuts a window into another world to escape.
A sect of the Magisterium called the Consistorial Court of Discipline learns where Lyra, considered the next Eve, is being held. They send out a small army to capture and kill her. They also know that a woman, Mary Malone, is fated to play the role of the serpent, tempting Lyra; therefore they send a priest named Father Gomez to follow Mary and subsequently kill Lyra.
Lord Asriel sends out a small army to Lyra's cave, to counteract the zeppelins from the Consistorial Court. He also sends two Gallivespian spies, the Chevalier Tialys and the Lady Salmakia, to protect Lyra. Gallivespians resemble humans, but are approximately four inches tall.
Mary Malone, who has stepped through a window from the reader's world into Cittàgazze, eventually goes through another window into a stranger world. She finds a group of elephantine creatures who call themselves mulefa and travel by attaching round seed-pods to their feet and using them as wheels. These creatures have a complex culture, intricate language and an infectious laugh; as a result, Mary begins to think of them as her equals. Eventually, Mary is absorbed into mulefa community, where she learns that the trees from which the seed-pods are gathered are becoming extinct, and have been so for 300 years. Mary, to further understand this problem constructs a spyglass out of sap lacquer that allows her to see Dust. It seems to be flying off into the distance in large streams, rather than falling downward and nourishing the trees on which the mulefa mutually depend.
Will meets Iorek Byrnison, the king of the armoured panserbjørne, whose people are migrating south to avoid the Arctic melt caused by the effects of Lord Asriel's bridge (created at the end of book 1). Iorek agrees to help rescue Lyra. Here, global warming is associated with similar disasters taking place throughout many worlds as a result of the upheavals regarding Dust.
Three forces--Will, Iorek, and Balthamos; Lord Asriel's army; and the Church's army--converge on Mrs Coulter's cave. Will is able to wake Lyra. He is cutting a window into another world when Mrs Coulter turns and looks directly at him. For a moment, Will is reminded of his own mother; as a result, his concentration falters, and the knife shatters. Because the window he has cut is open, Will, Lyra, and the Gallivespian spies manage to escape to another world.
Lord Asriel's forces capture Mrs Coulter, who escapes and flies off in an intention craft to find Lyra. The Consistorial Court of Discipline arrests Mrs Coulter; therefore she allies herself with Roke and Asriel. This side of the war wants to preserve Dust, not destroy it, for they see the Church as trying to take all enjoyment out of life by categorizing as "sin" that which is not evil. The President of the Consistorial Court steals a lock of Lyra's hair from Mrs Coulter.
Iorek Byrnison repairs the subtle knife. Will, Lyra, Tialys and Salmakia enter the world of the dead, leaving their dæmons (worldly identities) behind. Lyra finds Roger in the crowd of ghosts. Will and the Gallivespians decide that the ghosts must be freed from this world, which Will considers a prison camp; therefore they decide to go to the highest point in the land of the dead, where Will cuts a door into another world. At this, the ghosts step through and dissolve into nature.
Mrs Coulter, still captured, is brought to Saint-Jean-Les-Eaux, where she realizes the Magisterium intends to sacrifice her in a bomb dependent on intercision, intended to kill Lyra with her lock of hair. (The device locates where the hair came from and blows up that area.)
Mrs Coulter escapes, Lord Roke dies, and in her absence, the President sacrifices himself to set the bomb off. Despite her efforts to stop him, the bomb is set off.
When they leave the world of the dead, Lyra and Will find Lee Scoresby and John Parry's ghosts, somehow managing to hold themselves together. They tell her to shave the spot on her head where the lock of hair was taken. She complies, and Will puts the hair in another world. Despite this, the bomb still does considerable damage, creating a vast abyss in the world they are in.
The final battle begins. John Parry and Lee Scoresby's ghosts join Lord Asriel's army to fight the Spectres.
Mrs Coulter enters the Clouded Mountain, citadel of the Authority, where she meets the Regent Metatron. Mrs Coulter manipulates Metatron by offering him Lord Asriel's life. This is similar to the means by which Lyra had tricked Iofur Raknison, Iorek's rival for kingship of the bears; in that Lyra had used Iofur's desire to become human to trick him, much as her mother uses Metatron's desire to experience sensual pleasure to confuse him. She leads Metatron to where Lord Asriel waits - at the edge of the abyss. Mrs Coulter betrays Metatron to Lord Asriel, on the grounds that Lyra is precious to both of them. They sacrifice themselves to kill Metatron, and all three fall into the abyss.
Will and Lyra enter the world of the mulefa. They grab their dæmons immediately before doing so; the dæmons run off again.
Lyra and Will's dæmons return and tell them that all the windows between the worlds must be closed, as Dust is leaking out of them all the time. Furthermore, every time a window is made, a Spectre is created; therefore the knife must be destroyed altogether. The angels will allow one window to remain open: the one leading out of the land of the dead. Because Will and Lyra have fallen in true love with each other upon the onset of puberty, and because they cannot live together (as being permanently out of one's own universe causes sickness and death within a little over ten years), this information deeply saddens them. However, they both agree that one day a year, on Midsummer's Day, they will both sit on a bench that exists in the same spot in both worlds and for one hour, will know that they're in the same place.
Lyra returns to Jordan College, where she had lived for many years. Because she can no longer read the alethiometer, having lost the subconscious innocence that enabled her to read it by instinct, she decides to study alethiometry at a special school. Hereinafter, she and dæmon Pantalaimon will follow John Parry's suggestion to build the idealized Republic of Heaven at home. Will, too, returns to his world, accompanied by Mary Malone, and knows that he has a true friend who will understand the whole ordeal.
In 2005, the 10th anniversary of His Dark Materials, Scholastic released hardcover editions of the trilogy that included extra notes to accompany the series written by Philip Pullman himself. These were called 'Lantern Slides'.
Behind the scenes
- Pullman's initial concept for title of the book was The Lacquer Spy-glass, but this was later changed when an editor advised him that 'lacquer' sounded too much like 'lack of'. Thus it became The Amber Spyglass.
- Eric Rohmann, the cover artist for the first US edition, once asked Pullman what the title of the third novel would be, before jokingly suggesting The Sophisticated Monkey-Wrench.
|Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials|
|Main Trilogy||Northern Lights • The Subtle Knife • The Amber Spyglass|
|The Book of Dust||La Belle Sauvage • The Secret Commonwealth • The Book of Dust Volume Three|
|Companion Books||Lyra's Oxford • Once Upon a Time in the North • Serpentine • The Collectors • Green Book|