The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman Review

Hi guys, this is the second book of the His Dark Materials Trilogy, if you missed my review of the first book, Northern Lights (or Golden Compass for those in America) Click Here. Heres the info and sypnosis from Goodreads :

326 pages.

First Published July 1997

‘Lyra and Will, her newfound friend, tumble separately into the strange tropical otherworld of Cittàgazze, “the city of magpies,” where adults are curiously absent and children run wild. Here their lives become inextricably entwined when Lyra’s alethiometer gives her a simple command: find Will’s father. Their search is plagued with obstacles–some familiar and some horribly new and unfathomable–but it eventually brings them closer to Will’s father and to the Subtle Knife, a deadly, magical, ancient tool that cuts windows between worlds. Through it all, Will and Lyra find themselves hurtling toward the center of a fierce battle against a force so awesome that leagues of mortals, witches, beasts, and spirits from every world are uniting in fear and anger against it. This breathtaking sequel will leave readers eager for the third and final volume of His Dark Materials.’

At the end of Northern Lights I was left on the edge of my seat, wondering what Lyra discovered in her new world. The Subtle Knife, however, opens with twelve year old Will Parry who has just dropped his mother off at his old piano teachers house after killing a man. This is an unexpected, yet totally thrilling opening, as Will’s story is as fraught with danger and adventure and Lyra’s is.

The now dead man was one of two men, chasing after Will’s mother for papers regarding his long missing father. On the run from the remaining man, and soon the police Will slips through a window at a roundabout and into a new world. (I should mention that Will is from our world, whilst Lyra comes from a parallelworld

There he meets Lyra, who is as wild as we left her and slightly in awe of Will. They are in the city of Cittagaze, where Spectres roam, stealing souls from from adults and leaving the children to roam the abandoned City. Will and Lyra travel back to Will’s world, Will to find out more about his father, and Lyra to find more about the mysterious Dust. The Alethiometer tells her to visit Dr Mary Malone, a former nun and scientist researching dark matter.

They continue to travel between the two worlds, until a man steals Lyra’s Alethiometer and both Lyra’s and Will’s world seem like they are about to collide. The man promises to return the Alethiometer if Will brings him a special knife that is in Cittagaze. Little does he know, that this is the Subtle Knife, a knife that can cut through worlds.

Serrafina Pekkala also ventures into the new world with her witch clan, intent on helping Lyra. She finds a dead Lee Scorseby, and the remains of a fight between him and the church. Mrs Coulter too, ventures into the new world, finds out the prophecy that was made about her daughter ad vows to kill her.

I have to say second books in a trilogy are normally my least favourite books. There seem to either be building up for the final book or still riding the wave of the first, either way nothing much happens. This can’t be said about The Subtle Knife. It is action packed and full of world travelling goodness.

Lyra, of course, is still the wild child that followed Lord Asriel into a new world. She seems, as I said before, awestruck by Will and is determined to help him. She is still the lovable rogue from Northern Lights though, although if I have one complaint it’s that we don’t see enough of Pan in book two.

Will is also a great character. Burdened by the mysterious disapearence of his explorer father and taing care of his mentally ill mother, he has a lot of things on his plate. And even though he is a murderer, he is very morally sound, quite serious and sensible for a twelve year old boy. Quite the opposite of Lyra!

Of course Pullman theme is aggressivly anti church/anti religion and although I have no problem with his stance, I feel that it may have being to the detriment of the story sometimes. However, as usual he is a brilliant writer, and an excellent world builder. It’s not easy to build one – and the knife opens up the possibility to thousands of them.

The Subtle Knife is overall, a triumph. An excellent and exciting plot, three dimensional characters, beautiful written and a knife that lets you travel between worlds. What more could you want? I would recommend this book to kids who love books, young adults and the young at heart and those who love a kick ass fantasy story.

Laura 🙂 xx


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