Book Series Review: His Dark Materials

Just over twenty years after its initial publication, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials continues to awe young and old readers alike.

By Laura Green


His Dark Materials Stage Play Banner; Sourced from Nuffield Theatre.

His Dark Materials Stage Play Banner; Sourced from Nuffield Theatre.


Pullman’s coming-of-age fantasy and adventure trilogy, His Dark Materials, tells a gripping tale of an alternative universe. The novels deal with the concepts of growing up, spirituality, and good and evil.

Set over three books, Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, protagonist Lyra Belacqua sets off on a journey to rescue her friend from an underground organisation and discover the meaning of the phenomenon called ‘Dust’.

The thing that makes Pullman’s world so magical is its nuanced characters, it’s exciting to delve into the physical and non-physical realms, and its rendering of real-world paraphernalia interwoven into a magical landscape. Not only this, but it deals with the complexity of growing up so genuinely that it feels like you’re there with Lyra.

Then there’s the concurrent, maddening question that directs the story’s plot – what has all this got to do with Lyra? Aided by armoured bears, enchanting witches, and proud gypsies, Lyra faces her demons with an unflinching moral compass to guide her and discover her heart-wrenching fate.

The experience is life-changing both for Lyra and the reader. It’s been a favourite story of mine since I was young and is a fantastic reflection of how young girls can achieve powerful, world-altering things by following their guts.

Movie still. Sourced from The Verge.

Movie still. Sourced from The Verge.

The series has seen many adaptions, from audio books, to stage dramas, to cinema and now faces a TV show adaption by the BBC, which commences pre-production during Spring this year.

Considering the grandeur, tenderness, and daring of the novels, it’s no wonder that the magic of Pullman’s most renowned series is so infectious.

Feature Image Credit: Oxford Student.

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