Home > Books, Choices, Relationships > Philip Pullman, I’m not impressed

Philip Pullman, I’m not impressed

I read Philip Pullman’s The Shadow of the North this evening. Or rather, I read most of it. I stopped reading after Pullman started killing off main characters for fun.

Even with several hours to calm down, I am still deeply offended by Pullman’s hubris. He seems to think that the plot of his mystery is engrossing enough that I will keep reading it even as he gets rid of the characters that form the novel’s heart. I think he badly misjudged the quality of his plot. The mystery was thin and boring from the start of the book. The only reason to keep reading was for the rich cast of characters he created. I was surprised and disappointed when he allowed the heroine’s dog to die, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt since it seemed to bring the heroine and her long-time love interest together. I felt betrayed, however, by his casual killing off of this same love interest just a few scenes later. Bizarrely, Pullman continues unblinkingly with the story, having the heroine move mechanically through the process of catching the bad guy while she’s numbed by grief. Few plots are strong enough to withstand the deaths of two important characters. In the case of The Shadow of the North, I had no interest in continuing to invest in the remaining characters when I knew the author had so little regard for their lives.

The only reason I can fathom for killing off the second character is to set up Pullman’s third book in the trilogy, in which the surviving heroine and her fatherless daughter are “set upon by dark forces.” Since Pullman has shown that he is happy to let dogs and lovers die, I’m not sure why he thinks the reader should trust him with the life of a toddler. I will not be reading the next book in the trilogy – in fact, I may not be reading any of Pullman’s other books. When an author cares more about his ego and his sequels than he does about the characters or the reader, I stop reading.

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