Picking up Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass , the third and final volume in his trilogy, was a more imposing task than picking up the first two. Pullman seems to have fallen into the trilogist's trap -- at the end of the second book, he belatedly realizes that he's only halfway done with the trilogy, and needs to cram a lot into the final volume.

Tad Williams' To Green Angel Tower, a third volume that was split into two 900-page books for paperback release, stands as the crowning example of the trilogy-at-all-costs third volume; fortunately Pullman's case isn't that bad, but this book is nevertheless far longer (and with smaller type) than the previous two. Which isn't a big deal, really, except that it is. Somehow, the idea of reading through another 30 pages of a 480 page book is less appealing than reading through another 30 pages of a 280 page book. I like a feeling of tangible progress, I suppose.

At any rate, this book took a lot longer to read than the first two, both because of its length, and because I was less quick to pick it up in my odd free moments. Actually, now that I think of it, there's another, rather idiosyncratic, reason I was slower to read it than the previous two volumes.

When I read books, I'm very careful with them: I won't crack the spine, I won't get the pages dirty, I'll try to avoid scuffing the corners. This means that I can't read while I'm eating, need to be careful where I take the book, and must generally exercise significant care. Anne, on the other hand, is your prototypical book-destroying reader: she wrinkles the spine, bends corners to mark her page, and reads in the bath without regard for the harmful effects of humidity on paper.

Since Anne got to the two previous books before I did, the books were ruined before I started them, and I was able to treat them with a greater casualness than I'd ever treat one of my own books; with The Amber Spyglass, though, I was reading an essentially-new book, and even though I knew Anne will ruin it as soon as she reads it, I found it difficult to treat it as badly as I know she will, so I held off from reading it in sub-optimal conditions until I was able to overcome my instinctive protectiveness.

So we can see that allowing yourself to destroy your books makes it easier to read them; I still don't think it's a worthwhile price to pay. Thankfully, Anne has imposed on herself a voluntary injunction against reading my books, so I don't need to panic about her degenerate reading habits.

Well, that was a nice bit of digression. We were talking about a book, weren't we? Oh, right: Pullman. Anyway, then.

The thing about this book is that I can't really tell you anything at all about it without comprehensively spoiling the previous two books, because the plot takes an unexpected turn midway into the series, and giving that turn away would ruin much of the fun of developing surprise. (For that reason, I also recommend not reading the cover blurbs or laudatory quotes; but that's standard practice in the Kozlowskiverse, anyway.)

So, without saying a single word about the plot, I'll just tell you that this actually is really good, and I recommend it widely. Helpful kind of fellow, aren't I?

Okay, maybe I can be a bit more helpful: All of the setup in the previous books is satisfactorily resolved in this one, which is quite remarkable, considering how much setup there was. All of the plot points and all of the character arcs are accounted for, and not always how you'd have thought they would be. This book is an excellent conclusion to a intricately-plotted, fast-paced, well-written, likable-character-laden, and brilliantly original trilogy. I've got nothing but good things to say about it.


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