The Amber Spyglass is really a sequel to The Subtle Knife more than a conclusion to The Golden Compass . Most everything that I liked in the Golden Compass but was missing in The Subtle Knife is still missing here, while the new additions that annoyed me about The Subtle Knife are turned up to 11.
We get fascinating new worlds (miniature spies with poisonous spines on their feet! creatures with wheels! how weird!) but to the most part they don’t seem to really lead to the story. Lyra… is growing up and supposed to be super important to the upcoming battle, but really this is again a book about Will. And Lyra’s big part? Growing up. That’s about it.
Mrs. Coulter is back and rather than being big bad… she’s sort of played off as a good person who loves her daughter and just did wrong? She doesn’t feel at all like the sam character. Lord Asriel is still on his mission to kill God/the Authority, but we really never get a sense for why. Every single iteration of the Church is shown to be evil and wrong–wanting only to keep people from growing up and sinning–which just feels cartoonishly evil.
Don’t get me wrong. If you made the anti-religious bits a bit less cartoonish/hitting your over the head. It’s a fun book. I like the world building, and there are some interesting ideas in a body/soul/spirit split of humanity and other creatures that are made of different ways.
And oy. That ending. God (who’s not really God, but more the first angel) just sort of dies . Despite a big battle and a whole pile of deaths, what should have been a multiverse rattled war ends entirely too quickly–and with the ‘heroes’ being two I really wouldn’t have expected.
And then Lyra and Will, who have been through so much and fall in love (despite being young teens at best), are told they'll never see each other again . But why? Cost/benefit people. Just open the cuts somewhere people don’t go? Or figure out another way to deal with the inherent problems? Mostly, it feels they come to their answer entirely too quickly.
I think once again having read all three of them, I’ll probably stick to just The Golden Compass on re-reads. The sequels are enjoyable enough to read once, but not really worth the time (for me) to read again and again.