The Subtle Knife

by Philip Pullman

Lyra\’s adventures continue in The Amber Spyglass, second novel in the His Dark Materials series. It has become clear not only to Lyra but also to many other figures in the story (who have their own plots and designs) that the boundaries between worlds are fragmented in places. People can step between different universes with unprecedented ease- though it\’s not always safe what they find. Lyra finds herself on a quest to help Will, a boy from another world (one more like ours) find his missing father and a small weapon of great power. Difficulties arise because Lyra, having become proficient in reading the golden compass, can be quite headstrong and have her own ideas about what course their paths should take. I\’m glad to see that near the end she learned her folly and buckled to the guidance of those wiser than herself, although I was really surprised she never asked for advice on how to heal Will\’s persistent wound (did this occur to anyone else?). Anyhow, their adventure takes many turns as they find themselves in another world where adults are preyed upon by unseen wraiths and children run wild, fleeing from a rich man who wants to steal their most prize possession, and battling a madman who holds the weapon which only Will can use. Lyra also gets more involved in research into the mystery of Dust, the implications of which are becoming more and more clear. One thing I really like about these books is that (so far) it\’s hard to tell exactly which side you\’re supposed to be rooting for. Who are the good guys, and who the bad? Each character seems to have their own motivations and nobody is just \”black or white\”. I like that. It makes the characters feel so real, and complicated. The storyline doesn\’t only follow the children but also shows events happening to other characters from the first book: the witches, the armored bear, the balloon man- all who have a part to play in what looks to be a great battle at the end (book three!) which I\’m eager reading towards myself now.

Those are just my quick thoughts. I wish I could say more in depth, but jotting this down in a bit of a hurry…

Rating: 4/5 ……. 326 pages, 1997

More opinions at:
Worthy of Note
Ace and Hooser Blook
Outside of a Dog
Eagle\’s Path

3 Responses

  1. I am so glad to see you are enjoying the books — I so loved them, honestly. I was surprised at how the series has lingered in my thoughts, inspiring me to even write poetry surrounding the lore of the trilogy. But of all things, the entire concept of the subtle knife is the thing that sticks with me.

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