October 08, 2011

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife is the second book in the Dark Materials trilogy, yet being its own book, somehow seems incomplete. It definitely cannot be read as a standalone and a reader should start with The Golden Compass. For those not familiar with the first book (and a spoiler as well) it is about a little girl named Lyra and the adventure she and her daemon Pantalaimon get into when they are given an alethiometer that tells the truth all the time. When her father breaches a path between her world and the next, she is drawn to go over the bridge and through despite the dangers.

Here is this book we are introduced to Will Parry who has stumbled across a doorway into another world after killing a man. He meets Lyra in this strange abandoned world and brings her back to his where she is able to meet a physicist and find out more about the matter called Dust that everyone seems so concerned about. When her alethiometer is stolen, they are able to gain a knife, a special knife that can open doorways and try to recover the alethiometer from the dangerous man who stole it. There are more problems arising however as Lord Asriel (Lyra's father) starts amassing an army to take down the Authority himself.

The characters in this book are intriguing. Will is interesting and has a very solid backstory. Lyra actually takes a second place role to him in this book, yet still remains a spunky character. There are some other characters that are essential to the story, but they don't have as much time in the book as Lyra and Will.

The writing is simple as this story was intended for children, but there are some concepts and words that may be difficult for younger children. In addition, this book just felt like an episode in a series and really didn't have its own beginning or end and so just felt like an incomplete middle of a book. It also had a very rushed pace.

I like the series and think that even with the controversy surrounding it, it makes for a great fantasy read if one takes it that way. I'm certainly glad I have the next in the series to read after finishing this one as it will make the story seem more complete.

The Subtle Knife
Copyright 1997
288 pages

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