First, let's talk about the religious aspect, because at this point it's really impossible to write a review about this series without mentioning it. The first book did not really get into the religion portion very much until the very end, in the second book it was starting to get pretty obvious but still pretty down played. But this last book right here takes a giant mallet forged of its own agenda and ideals and repeatedly beats you over the head with them, and any subtly that the first two books is completely lost here.
Before I go any further, it's worth noting that I am not religious, so I was not personally offended by anything that Pullman was trying to say here. But having grown up in a religious household and knowing quite a bit about the subject he was exploring, I was quite surprised at the ignorance displayed here, and even a bit bothered by it. I mean, come on...evil priests creating bombs to blow up children? The church sending assassins after people? At one point in the series, one of the characters even goes so far as to say that the church is basically responsible for all of the evil in the world. I think whatever message the author was trying to convey about church corruption was lost in both how overdone some of the church's crimes in these novels are and the total lack of subtly when connecting the faux church to the real world one. When it comes to any type of political-ish statements in books, even when it's a position that I agree with, I always hated being beaten down with too-obvious "metaphors". And when it gets to the point where the ideals the author is trying to shove down your throat are so obvious that you can't really come up with your own variation of what the book is trying to say, it also sucks all the fun out of personal interpretation of the book's events.
I also felt that the ending disappointed me. The fates of several characters are never drawn to a conclusion, and the ending felt terribly rushed. I also thought that the developing relationship between the two main characters, which I had been enjoying up until the very end, fell a bit flat by the last few chapters.
So why the three stars? Because I still did enjoy it, overall. I fell in love with the universe the author created, his characters, and the style he wrote it in. The ending, while not completely satisfying, is acceptable, I suppose. And some of the theological elements concerning the "Authority" and how he runs the universe are interesting and thought provoking, although if you are religious you'd probably think it blasphemous...it's just the whole "church is evil" part is so obvious, so overdone, and so blatantly unsupportable, that it even managed to bug little ol' heathen me. It's really a particular part, where one of the characters goes on and on about why she quit the church and became a scientist, that did it for me. If you were to cut out that one part, and instead tie up some of the lose threads that the author left hanging, this last book would have been much improved. Still liked it, but still rather disappointed simply because the first two books were so good.”
Relzo wrote this review Friday, March 15, 2013.