I grew tired of the Harry Potter series several volumes ago -I couldn’t stand Harry’s selfishness, his lack of talent or spark, his air of superiority and aloofness over his sidekicks, nor how everyone seemed to gladly die / risk everything / fall on the wayside so that he could continue living his self-absorbed life. And although I truly enjoyed The Lord of the Rings and everything Tolkien since high school, I had to admit to myself that, even though the Middle Earth is tremendously extensive and peculiar, it’s also ethically and psychologically shallow.
Enter His Dark Materials, a fantasy trilogy by Philip Pullman that isn’t a decade old, but that has all the signs of a classic. These books (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) are fast-paced, always entertaining, and always surprising. But more importantly, Pullman writes with a ferocious, unrelenting intelligence. His characters (even his talking, armored polar bears!) feel more real, more true to life, than most other characters of the genre. Lyra and Will, the heroes, are truly deserving of that title. And even though the plot is grandiose, it always feels personal and intimate, an underlying, bittersweet reflection on responsibility and growing up.
You’ll find the trilogy on the children section of your bookstore, but don’t let that discourage you –it’s more intense, insightful, and challenging, than most adult literature.