This has been a wonderful adventure fabricated with bits and pieces of popular lore from everywhere. My short description, for people who have been asking me when they see me toting the books around under my arm in the last few weeks, has been: "it's like Harry Potter, but MUCH MUCH MUCH better." It's much richer, more diverse, more complex in the way of cultural elements, from MANY different cultures of the world, not just Anglo-Saxon and Greco-Roman.
At first, I thought I just completely missed the ruckous it caused back in 1997/1998. There's noise about Harry Potter supposedly portraying witchcraft/occult in a positive light, but this series is very pointedly blasphemous. It's _very_clear_ to me what Philip Pullman is saying, there's nothing metaphoric or implied about it. I find it an altogether fascinating point of view.
But in reading online commentaries on this, it sounds as though the Christian community have redrawn the fence to a spot where they like it... ie. "it's not really saying what it's saying." *eyeroll* Whatever it takes for you to be able to admit it's a good story, I guess.
Everything in this series is incredibly well put together. Good and evil have depth and complexity as they should. I thought the hat-tip to the subject of homosexuality was very graceful. Overall, it's still light and fantasy-fairytale-like with powerful moments of realization, moments of fear, pain, despair, hope, joy, serenity and everything you'd want in a coming-of-age story.
I can't decide whether to look forward to the movie adaptation slated for release in 2007. I know how movie adaptations of books go... But I'm pleased that they might still retain what I consider an INTEGRAL part of the original plot as ferociously controversial as it's bound to be.