20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Review by His Dark Materials fansite director, 1 Dec. 2003
The book is divided into five chapters: The Novelist, The Novels, The Novels’ Reception, The Novels’ Performance, and Further Reading and Discussion Questions. The first chapter is a 13-page biography of Philip Pullman, and a compact analysis of Pullman’s works. The chapter “The Novels” gives a complete analysis of His Dark Materials, reviewing the many different aspects of the books, from Dust to Politics to Religion and The Church, and even Environmentalism. Mrs. Squires also analyses the roles Lyra, Will, Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coulter, and Mary Malone play in His Dark Materials. The third chapter is, as the title suggests, solely about the novels’ reception, and the author describes and quotes the reactions to the novels by different parties, commendable here is the fact that Mrs. Squires notes the positive reception as well as the negative reception of the books, which makes for a very informative read. The chapter “The Novels’ Performance” is a small 3-page chapter that covers the fame of His Dark Materials. The final chapter: “Further Reading and Discussion Questions”, gives a list of questions about: Storytelling, Daemons, Gender, Innocence and Experience, Religion and The Church, Realism and Fantasy, Intertextuality, and Children’s Literature. It also contains a vast Bibliography, and a list of useful websites.
My Opinion: This book offers all that a reader’s guide should. It contains extensive information about Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials, and their reception and performance. Mrs. Squires manages to give a very complete overview of all these points, also due to the fact that she constantly utilizes quotes from articles, reviews, interviews, and other His Dark Materials-related texts. The book's style makes for a very pleasant read, so that this book is not one of those strict and dull reference guides.
I’m a very critical reviewer. When I review a book I usually spend at least a whole page highlighting the book’s faults and flaws, and draw the inevitable conclusion: A nice concept, but due to a flawed execution ultimately a failure. However, this time I was denied this pleasure. Mrs. Squires’ book is indeed a reader’s guide, so it will only be of real value to those who have either read or are adequately acquainted with the His Dark Materials. That is, together with the slightly steep price (In the UK £5, in de US $10 for this 95-page book), the only bad points of the book, and I believe them to be minor faults. Mrs. Squires manages to capture the very essence of His Dark Materials that we fans are well acquainted with, and that has made us love the books.
My Verdict: If you’ve read His Dark Materials, buy this reader’s guide. If you haven’t read His Dark Materials, read them, and then buy this book.