This sums up my feelings on Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass. Glad I’m not alone in this. I always felt Pullman undermined himself in the very end. In more than one way.
Philip Pullman—Northern Lights (1995)
Pullman let us down. This book is [on the list of sf books every socialists should read] because it deals with moral/political complexities with unsentimental respect for its (young adult) readers and characters. Explores freedom and social agency, and the question of using ugly means for emanicipatory ends. It raises the biggest possible questions, and doesn’t patronise us that there are easy answers. The second in the trilogy,The Subtle Knife, is a perfectly good bridging volume… and then in book three,The Amber Spyglass, something goes wrong. It has excellent bits, it is streets ahead of its competition… but there’s sentimentality, a hesitation, a formalism, which lets us down. Ah well. Northern Lights is still a masterpiece.
From here (where you can read the rest).