BOOK REVIEW: The Subtle Knife {His Dark Materials Book 2} by Philip Pullman

"What were these mysteries? Was there only one world after all, which spent its time dreaming of others?"

A lot has happened since I turned the last page of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. Most notably, I became hooked on HBO Max's His Dark Materials, which made delving into The Subtle Knife sooner, rather than later, an absolute necessity. After all, how could I best prepare for the third and final season of the show without at least cracking the spine of book two? Though I, admittedly, had moments of struggle while reading book one; I found no evidence of a second book slump here. Quite the contrary, in fact. I flew through this installment, growing more fond of both Pan and Lyra with each passing page; while adoring the consistent worldbuilding and introduction of newbies. Needless to say, book three, The Amber Spyglass, has already been downloaded, and is waiting for me to begin reading.

Lyra Belacqua and her Daemon, Pan, are no longer in the Oxford they once knew. And perhaps that is for the better. Roger, Lyra's best friend, is dead - sacrificed for the sake of science by the devious Lord Asriel {aka Lyra's father}; while the cunning Mrs. Marisa Coulter's {aka Lyra's mother} whereabouts are unknown for the time being. Though grieving the loss of their friend, Lyra and Pan know that they must forge forward in order to uncover the meaning of Dark Matter and protect others from the actions of Lyra's parents; which is how they find themselves in a New Oxford. Discovered accidentally, New Oxford is like Lyra's Oxford, yet different...and it connects Lyra and Pan to other worlds, such as Cittigazze, where the two meet Will Parry, an individual on the run who is destined to become their ally.

At twelve-years-old, Will Parry has seen more bad than good in humanity; and has shouldered the brunt of duties typically expected of an adult. The child of a mentally ill mother, and an explorer father who mysteriously disappeared years ago during an expedition, Will has quite a bit on his plate - especially when one takes into consideration that he is the primary caregiver for said mother. Though Will has no memory of his father, he is convinced that he is still living, and is on a quest to find him and bring him home. It is in Will's Oxford, that he passes through to the world of Cittigazze and begins his journey. Though Lyra and Will are both seeking something different, what they find, aside from friendship, is something far more sinister.

Upon stepping through to the world of Cittigazze, Lyra and Pan notice two things: 1} the city is overrun with children, with no adults in sight; 2} soul-eating Specters plague the streets {think Harry Potter Dementors}. In a very short time, Lyra and Pan stumble upon Will, whom they feel is a part of their future, so they consult the Alethiometer...

"What is he? A friend, or an enemy?”

“He is a murderer.”

Despite the Alethiometer's ominous response, Lyra and Pan forge a strong friendship with Will, soon discovering that a powerful weapon known as the subtle knife exists within Cittigazze. The subtle knife has the ability to cut between worlds...but only for the hand chosen to wield it.

If I'm being honest, my greatest disappointment in The Subtle Knife was not with the book itself; rather, it had to do with a character - or lack thereof. Iorek Byrnison {yes, the polar bear} was one of my favorite characters in The Golden Compass, so not having him present in the pages of The Subtle Knife gutted me. That said, I was quite happy with the return of both Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala. The way their stories intertwined with Will and Lyra's was quite seamless; as was the worldbuilding between worlds. At times, I did find the Cittigazze setting and characters found within to be somewhat lackluster; however, I understand the role they played in forming The Subtle Knife and paving a path for The Amber Spyglass - the concluding tale in this trilogy that I cannot wait to dig into!

Star Rating: ****



ellie said...

Such an awesome review! So glad to read it. Definitely, the epic tale continues!

Caitlin'nMegan said...

It does look rewarding. Too bad about the polar bear. Here's to an awesome reading list for 2023!

Ivy's Closet said...

Exciting to hear about this one. Thanks so much! Looks like you are off to a great year of reads❤️

R's Rue said...

Thank you for sharing. Love you friend.

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