Just when you thought this series of books couldn't get any more fantastic, the author steps up to an entirely new level, introducing characters and concepts that are admittedly pretty advanced for youngsters (although my 7 and 11 year olds absolutely love these books). For early teens, it is a perfect introduction to philosophical and ethical ideas that require some serious thought. The nature of religion versus dogma, the concept of self, the idea of power of self-sacrifice, the portrayal of multiple realities, all are explored in new and fascinating ways.
The audio production of the entire series is top-notch and riveting, and has resulted in my driving around the block many times just to get to the end of the next chapter.
Contrary to claims that this book is anti-religion - it is more a criticism of political authority, ignorance, and power. This is not the God of our world - this is an alternate universe. The church in this story is a repressive political entity that relies on fear and intimidation.
It is frightening to see how many people fear these books and wish to ban them rather than to see them as a starting point for discussion of ideas (do not underestimate your children and their ability to comprehend these ideas). These books do not challenge anyone's faith - it really points out the the pitfalls of blind faith versus the true power of actual deeds. Pulling these books out of libraries as some wish to do would be a tragedy, and it seems to reflect more of a lack of faith in one's own beliefs than anything else.
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