The Amber Spyglass
BlurbLyra and her daemon are eavesdropping when they uncover a plot to murder Lord Asriel. He has returned from the far North where he tells of strange sights-a beautiful city hovering in the sky above the pole, a shimmering Dust that settles on and delineates all but human children. Lyra is scarcely able to save his life before Lord Asriel is off again, on a quest to answer the riddle of the world. Meanwhile, children are disappearing, and when Lyra's dearest friend is taken by the Gobblers, she determines to save him - a decision which leads her on a great journey, a journey that will lead to the discovery of her mother, a disastrous betrayal and the beginning of the unravelling of the mystery of Dust.
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OK prose, but terrible plotting and characters. So many of the ostensibly critical characters (in the world) are either deus ex machina for some specific threat the characters are facing, or blatant ego-stroking for the completely self centered mains. The story is written in third person, but from such a skewed perspective and rationale that it sometimes seems it's a mythical tale told after the fact by the mains about themselves. Besides this, some of the morality is just bizarre and inconsistent. The Church is self-evidently evil because they're subtly censoring scientific institutions (which is only demonstrated once in the whole series) and they sponsor a creepy, child-exploiting antagonist. Fair enough. But the main character sees the distant messiah (her father) kill her best friend for a remarkably similar "scientific" purpose, then he time travels and starts amassing a secret army, and she STILL sees him as a hero. WTF is going on in this story? The whole thing is riddled with motivated reasoning. "We're good, so the insane things we're doing are good." A truly disturbing book if the heroes were not written ironically. Every major event and decision screams #raisedbynarcissists.