His Dark Materials: An Overview


His Dark Materials is a fantasy series by Philip Pullman. I devoured these books in a week. I have had my paperback box set for a few years now. I bought it in a second-hand shop for $3, a real steal. Those books sat on my shelf for yyeeaarrss. 5+ years before I felt the motivation to read them. Why now? #clearingthehoard

Books in the series/universe:

His Dark Materials series:

  • The Golden Compass
  • The Subtle Knife
  • The Amber Spyglass

Companion text:

  • Once Upon Time in the North
  • The Collectors
  • Lyra’s Oxford

The Book of Dust series:

  • La Belle Sauvage

  • The Secret Commonwealth

Should you read His Dark Materials?

Let’s get right to it. I recommend it. His Dark Materials is an exciting series. If you can look past the negative spew that is out there, the series is a twisting fantasy thrill ride. You won’t find dragons or elves in this fantasy read, but there are armored bears, bear kingdoms, and an interesting magic/dust system that is satisfying.

What is this series about??

In short, growing up, corruption, mortality, and friendship.

Book one, The Golden Compass: In a world where dust is a wonder and human have daemons (animals that reflect your inner nature) there lives a girl named Lyra. Lyra is a child without parents, she is rough around the edges but overall has a caring heart. Lyra is also apart of a great prophecy that not many are aware of but is feared. When her friend, Roger, is taken by Gobblers, she takes it upon herself to recuse him. Along the way, Lyra learns the world she lives is not a perfect place, and people do awful things for the “greater good.”

(Book two, The Subtle Knife and book three, The Amber Spyglass: In a parallel world, there lives a boy named Will. People don’t have daemons, adults are being attacked be Specters, and there is an interest in dark matter. Will’s father left on a trip 10-12 years ago and hasn’t come back. His mother is mentally ill, and Will has recently killed someone. His life is far from perfect.

Will meets Lyra. She is lost in a new place that is similar yet very different from her world. Together they tackle a few various tasks only they can complete. As they venture through universes trying to do what’s right war is forming around them. People who Lyra and Will have come in contact with each play a role. Some try to trick them, save them, help them, catch them, kill them…Lyra and Will’s lives become very complicated. Witches, angels, animals, humans, all beings need to pick a side–The Authority or Lord Asriel. As tensions grow, all eyes are on Lyra. Will the prophecy come true?

That is a very, very rough summary leaving out many important characters, but necessary not to spoil too much for those who have not read the books. 

My thoughts…

I rated each of these books 4 stars. I think they are solid works within the fantasy genre that readers of all ages can enjoy. After finally getting around to reading His Dark Material, I think this series is best suited for high school age and above. I am not sure that younger readers would enjoy the series after book one.

These books are old, yet, there are really no spoilers out there. I had no idea how it ended, who ended up where, if anyone died, I knew nothing other than the books have bad press. I didn’t even bother to really look into more than that. All the time the sat on my shelf, I didn’t come across one bit of information that spoiled the series for me. So, I consider this series a hidden gem.

Compared to other YA series, His Dark Materials is dark. I was left wondering if His Dark Materials is even YA/Children’s lit. Book one, The Golden Compass, is on Time’s Best 100 YA book list and can be found on many children’s reading list. I’ve read many reviews of younger readers loving all three books. I don’t know who the target audience is, or if the series was written with one in mind.

Reading as an adult, there are tons of political/religious/sexual undertones a younger reader would miss. Imagine jumping into book 7 of Harry Potter, then the story just gets progressively darker from there. While the main characters are children, I think the series is best enjoyed by a mature reader.

I loved the books, but there are always things we as readers dislike. I liked book one, I loved book two, I thought book three was good, and the ending was fine. I didn’t see a better way to end things, but the journey of book three was a tad a mess for me. It felt rushed and unfocused compared to the first two books.

In time I will visit the other books that incompass this universe. Have you read His Dark Materials?



  1. Louise

    I learned something with this post. The Golden Compass movie is a book adaptation and it’s part of His dark Materials. Cool!! I’ll have to pick the books up at some point 🙂


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