A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Enough action here to appeal to reluctant readers. Teachers and parents wishing to delve into the plot with readers can check out the publisher's guide (there, you will also find a list of recommended reading).
This book has a controversial theme: The only heaven is in our own world, and the best we can hope for after life is oblivion. If this idea is offensive to you, then this book will be also. However, kids caught up in the fantasy and action will probably miss most of the book's theological leanings.
Positive Role Models
Will rescues Lyra, and the two are on an adventure that involves constant courage.
Violence & Scariness
Plenty, some rather gory. Murder, deaths in battle, mutilation, beheading.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing, intimations of sex, sexual feelings.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A boy is made to drink vodka.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there's a fair amount of violence here, some gory, though not as much nor as graphic as the second book in the series. Though handled with great delicacy and discretion, part of the plot revolves around the sexual awakening of the two main characters. There are also themes in this one that are bound to upset some religious readers: The author manages to question just about everything about religion in this book while he sends his main characters on trips through Heaven and Hell. You'll also find more bad guys in the rigid religious institutions than anywhere, and one Father is sent by the church to kill a main character. However, kids caught up in the fantasy and action will probably miss most of the book's theological leanings.
Is It Any Good?
If you haven't read the first two books, don't even think of trying to read this one first -- Pullman, praise be, wastes no time bringing readers up to speed. In fact, even if you have read the previous books, you may want to reread them before tackling this -- there's a lot to keep track of.
Readers who were expecting the conclusion of the trilogy to make all things clear may be disappointed; Pullman has a lot to say, but he also leaves a lot for readers to figure out themselves. Still, the author hasn't lost his touch -- it's as riveting and fast-paced as ever. His characterizations are even stronger, although his plotting is weaker here than in the first two books; there's a lot of meandering about, setups that promise more than they deliver, and plot lines that just peter out. But Pullman's point seems clear enough to perceptive and more mature readers: The only heaven is in our own world, and the best we can hope for after life is oblivion. If this idea is offensive to you, then this book will be also. Those able to support -- or at least tolerate his perspective -- will find a feverishly exciting adventure.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.