The world-changing events of The Amber Spyglass are behind them, and Lyra and Pan find themselves utterly changed as well. In Serpentine, they journey to the far North once more, hoping to ask the Consul of Witches a most urgent question.
[Serpentine] is the slenderest of creatures, almost plotless and at 80 generously illustrated pages barely thick enough to have a spine ... Serpentine is a trifle, but it brings with it all the familiar delights of Pullman’s work: its effortless clarity, its intelligence, its ineffable mix of coziness and darkness, innocence and experience.
Pullman, a former teacher, is an astute mapper of the uncertain frontiers between adolescence and maturity – and Serpentine is a thoughtful exploration of those borderlands. It is gently paced, and readers expecting the rollicking thrills of His Dark Materials might stumble. But Pullman’s commitment to the full complexity of his creation – deepening its themes as Lyra ages – is admirable. Serpentine contains riches despite its brevity ... while it fits comfortably into the wider, wilder universe Pullman is building, the story never quite shakes a sense of irresolution. Perhaps though, as Pullman suggests in his author’s note, such untidiness is simply part of 'being alive and being human'.
Some stories are complete, and they don’t need sequels or new additions… but they keep haunting the author and the readers anyway, so adding to them just feels natural. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is one such story ... Serpentine is a sweet short story ... [it] is a very well-written piece, with good dialogue and beautiful imagery. If there is one negative, it is that it does not stand very well on its own ... it nevertheless reads as a sweet, brief homecoming to a beloved world.