So at the end of last semester I felt a need for some easy, less-stress reads. Enter young adult novels. I read all three of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Somehow, I had never heard of His Dark Materials until this year. Which is crazy, apparently, since those books were a fundamental part of most of my friends’ childhood reading and life experiences. Feeling left out, I read The Golden Compass.
(I’m not going to follow my usual format with these books because I’m putting the whole series in this one post, and because I have no favorite quotes. As young adult novels, they were quick reads and more for entertainment than mental stimulation.)
To be honest, I don’t think I was as into these books as my friends were…at least at first. I was letting myself get hung up on the anti-religion message going on, instead of the story. I’m not religious, but it seemed strange to me to have a book be so blatantly against it (and The Golden Compass isn’t even the most blatant of the three books). Then I actually thought about books that I love, like The Chronicles of Narnia, that have blatant religious messages. Books are books, and despite their messages, I can still enjoy the story. I think my issue with the His Dark Materials series is that it doesn’t seem like a message sometimes–it seems like anti-religion propaganda, and I wish it didn’t feel so pushed and forced.
Feeling preached at (irony!), I decided at first that I didn’t want to read the next few books. Aside from that, the first book was very dark in portions and the way that Lyra’s parents’ daemons interacted creeped me out a lot. But I got over these things by using logic (all books have messages!) and preparing myself for some violence (the armored bear fight was so gross) and dark adventures. Easy. And I’m glad I regained my senses.
The introduction of Will helped the books so much. Lyra’s character became more three-dimensional! The insertion of other worlds was super awesome! All of the different kinds of people and creatures in all the different worlds were great and interesting! These books did get more anti-religion, but the story was enough here to make it feel more like a message and less like forceful propaganda, and I approve of that. Hurrah! I think it felt less propaganda-y because the story became much more intense and some of the questions were answered. In The Golden Compass we knew to be against the Church and against Mrs. Coulter and we knew it had something to do with Dust, but we didn’t know what that was or why it mattered. We also knew they were up to some shady daemon-separating, but not why. So we knew we were supposed to be anti-Church, but not why or what was really going on. The latter two books answer this (especially The Amber Spyglass), so it feels like the anti-religion sentiments have more of a purpose.
I tore through these books pretty quickly, and was really sad at the end that there wasn’t more (and sad at the ending, but I’m not going to spoil that). I like the second two books better than the third, but these are all pretty good. I’m not sure I would recommend for any younger than young adults; some of it is really violent and some of it is really dark. I certainly wouldn’t define the books as being for children. But for the right age and up, these books are entertaining and enjoyable.