I read the first two books in the series ages ago (and the movie, The Golden Compass? kind of boring), and it says something (about me, yeah, but I mean here about the books) that I didn't rush out for the next one with that I-can't-wait-to-get-my-hands-on-it fervour. (I borrowed these books from the library for crying out loud.) These books have worked on me kind of slowly. I thought them charmingly well-written, blah, blah, but then halfway through the second one oh my god, and I realized why some some Christians might not like these books at all.
But the thing is: the story's much bigger than the sum of its parts. Sure, there's adventure and a magic about it all — the battles and the daemons and the land of the dead — but it's bigger than all that. It all comes together and wheedles into your soul.
Plus, it's superbly well-crafted. Here's my favourite sentence:
She felt as if her skin had turned into lace and the damp and bitter air could flow in and out of her ribs, scaldingly cold on the raw wound where Pantalaimon had been.
Oh, I wish I could read this as a 12-year-old.