The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The Subtle KnifeHis Dark Materials, 2Philip PullmanYA FantasyLaurel Leaf LibrarySeptember 9, 2003Paperback288

Here is the highly anticipated second installment of Philip Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy, begun with the critically acclaimed The Golden Compass. 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.

After loving The Golden Compass so much, I couldn’t wait to read the second book. I devoured it pretty quickly and found that while I did like the story, I wasn’t as in love with it as I had been with Lyra’s first adventure. Let me break it down a bit. The world building was amazing. Will was a cool character—I really liked him. Lyra… started to get annoying. I loved the tweaked Original Sin story in the other Dust world, but the increasing religious overtones kind of spoiled my reading experience. I loved The Golden Compass because it was a fantasy adventure with a spunky girl and daemons. I hadn’t known that it was a religious allegory, even though people told me it was. It was more clear here, and I think that’s why it lost some of its appeal. That, combined with a slower, less urgent plotline made me feel that the story was dragging much more than the first one.

​Despite all that, the plot was exciting—how could it not be with a knife that can cut through space to open doors to other worlds?—and I still want to read the third and final book in the trilogy.

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