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His Dark Materials: The Subtle Knife (Book 2) Mass Market Paperback – September 9, 2003
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Frequently bought together
From the Publisher
|His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (Book 1)||His Dark Materials: The Subtle Knife (Book 2)||His Dark Materials: The Amber Spyglass (Book 3)||The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Volume 1)||The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth (Volume 2)|
|Enter the world of His Dark Materials||The modern fantasy classic soon to be an HBO original series – HIS DARK MATERIALS!||The second book in the HIS DARK MATERIALS series – soon to be an HBO original series!||The third book in the HIS DARK MATERIALS series – soon to be an HBO original series!||Set in the same world as HIS DARK MATERIALS - meet Lyra before the events of The Golden Compass!||Set in the same world as HIS DARK MATERIALS - discover what happened to Lyra after The Amber Spyglass!|
“The intricacy of the plot is staggering. . . .There is no doubt that the work is stunningly ambitious, original, and fascinating.”—The Horn Book Magazine, Starred
“The character development as well as the relentless pace . . . make this a resoundingly successful sequel . . . it will leave readers desperate for the next installment.”—Booklist, Starred
“A literary rollercoaster ride you won’t want to miss.”—The Boston Globe
From the Inside Flap
On a perilous journey from world to world, Lyra and Will discover an object of devastating power. And with every step, they move closer to an even greater threat?and the shattering truth of their own destiny.
- Publisher : Laurel Leaf; Reissue edition (September 9, 2003)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0440238145
- ISBN-13 : 978-0440238140
- Reading age : 10 - 17 years
- Lexile measure : 890L
- Grade level : 5 - 12
- Item Weight : 5.3 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.13 x 0.81 x 6.88 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #947,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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The book itself (and the other two books) are well written. The story and characters are good. The world building is superb and it provides ideas that I've not seen elsewhere (external daemons, the alethiometer, etc.). If this is "YA", then its at the upper end.
The theology of the book (series) is very similar to that of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: a highly skewed exaggeration of "Christianity" that is then very easy for the story to criticize (a "straw man" fallacy). This is basically the Tower of Babel except that that the "god" and the "church" of the books isn't at all like Christianity (well, it may resemble certain aspects of *medieval* Roman Catholicism like the Inquisition but not historical Christianity as a whole) and therefore just falls apart. It almost sounds like wishful thinking on the part of the author of an otherwise entertaining set of books.
The two if them find that neither comes from the world they are in. So, they work together to accomplish a task that neither child understands. They fight for the life of an old man, only to find Will is now the bearer of a special knife. He is suppose to fight in a war he knows nothing about . His father is killed by a witch that is suppose to protect him and Lyra. As he approaches the camp where Lyra is suppose to be sleeping, he sees Lyra has been taken there are angels there to guide him to his destination.
Seeking a place to hide, Will discovers an open window to another universe, and steps through. There, in a city abandoned by adults and populated by children and Specters, he meets Lyra. The two of them recognize each other as kindred souls, even as they realize that the men chasing Will are tied to Mrs. Coulter and the people pursuing Lyra. News comes that Lord Asriel has torn asunder the barriers between worlds, and that both Lyra and Will have crucial roles to play in the coming conflict with The Church and The Authority.
"The Subtle Knife" is clearly a bridge book between the first and third volumes of the trilogy. There is plenty of action and much is revealed about the inner workings of the plot that propels the story. Not quite as thrillingly original as the book it follows, "The Subtle Knife" also seems to be written to favor Will a bit more than Lyra, who was headstrong but smart in "The Golden Compass" but now somewhat more stubborn and foolhardy in this volume. It remains, however, a compelling read.
In this book, Lyra meets Will in a world that neither of them come from. It's a world made up only of children although it's obvious that grown-ups were here not too long ago. They learn from the children that the Specters take over the adults until finally they just disappear.
Will is searching for his long lost father who never came back from an expedition to the North that he joined many years ago. Lyra consults her althiometer and determines that it is her job to help Will. In the end, Will is summoned by Lord Asriel, Lyra's father.
I guess the final book in the series, The Amber Spyglass, will determine whether I like this series enough to continue on to the author's next series starting with The Book of Dust. For now I'm in a wait and see mode.
This is the best book of the Trilogy, but you gotta read #1 to understand the plot, and your gotta read #3 to see how it all turns out.
This book is where the plot widens... where Lyra's role as Mother Eve becomes clear, in waging a war on Authority, the Creator, alongside the fallen Angels, Lord Asriel and Will Parry - the subtle knife bearer...
Pullman has created a truly sublime plot by tying in theoretical physics, theology, and anthropology as his protagonists travel across multiverses, a step closer to preserving human consciousness!
I am looking forward to reading the next book - The Amber Spyglass.
Top reviews from other countries
Whereas the first book gave us only one world, so here we actually have three, as we carry on following the adventures of Lyra, and now Will as well. Taking us back to Lyra’s world, so we see what is happening there and how others have crossed over to seek Lyra, some to assist her, and others to try and bring about her downfall. Inspired partly by Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, so there are many other elements here, including influences from William Blake’s poetry, and even Keats, along with religion, physics (especially quantum physics), metaphysics and philosophy.
As we see, what is the organised religion in Lyra’s world do not want the young girl to succeed in her quest, but can she be stopped? Will is also on a quest of his own, to find his father, but with a knife, called the subtle knife coming into his possession, so he finds that his destiny is far greater than he thought. Making us ponder many things, this of course does raise the question of free will, and whether it really exists. Also this takes in loyalty, duty, friendship and respect, things that we should all know about.
With a number of thrills and spills this is a great read for young and old alike, obviously with us more mature readers taking in all the nuances that this tale has. As with the first novel this does have a lot to offer any reader, and will make you think about many things, including your own place in the world. Also, this has a great ending, which leaves things up in the air for the third volume.
The story has escalated rapidly from Northern Lights, as Lyra unknowingly finds herself sandwiched between two factions - the Magisterium in their crusade against Dust, and Lord Asriel who has now set his sights on destroying the being that they worship (known as the Authority). The result is deeply original, yet still felt as though it was lacking something fundamental. I think the main problem is that Pullman's ideas are far too grand for this novel. The Subtle Knife is a bit of a smorgasbord - it contains a bit of everything but its scope is so broad that it lacks finer detail. We see glimpses of the bigger picture - of Lord Asriel's fortress and Mrs Coulter's ever growing greed - but there isn't enough room in the novel to really focus on any aspect.
In this, The Subtle Knife is a bit of a middle-novel. It really exists to move the key characters into the places that they need to be for The Amber Spyglass. It's not a bad novel by any means - in fact, I think it's better paced than Northern Lights - however, the perspective does jump around a lot between important parties. It's not just Lyra's story anymore. Will, Mary Malone, Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala also are the focus of chapters and so the 3rd person narrative flits between them and the various worlds that they travel to. The novel also ends on a very sudden cliffhanger, leaving it feeling incomplete as a whole.
Yet where The Subtle Knife really grabbed me was its characters. I cared about all of them deeply and never wanted any of them to come to any harm (which is unfortunate, as Pullman has no trouble tearing out my heart and crushing it). Although Will and Lyra often seem older than pre-teens, they are still both really likeable protagonists and showed noticeable growth and maturity throughout the story. The twists and turns in their destiny are also compelling, drawing the reader in and leaving you wondering how things can possibly turn out okay in The Amber Spyglass.
All in all, this is not a perfect read but is a strong sequel to Northern Lights. I really look forward to seeing how it all wraps up in the final book.
This series is aimed at children and (I think, as is often the case now,) read mostly by adults. I certainly wouldn't encourage children to read it. I found the second volume dark and disturbing, and towards the end I became more and more depressed by it. Pullman's writing moves into a more visionary mode, becoming less and less attached to any kind of reality, and there comes with it a loss of hope - which, together with optimism, is an essential quality for a children's book.
I have heard that this series carries with it religious undertones which twist the principles of Christianity (and perhaps other religions), turning them around. I couldn't see such a theme in 'The Golden Compass', but it surfaces in 'The Subtle Knife' - perhaps less clearly if, like a child, you are not aware of it. Is this dangerous? I find it fascinating, but again, I'm not sure it's appropriate for the young reader.
I worry about 'young readers' being exposed to dark literature. Their world is already peppered with a great deal of crime, (including knife crime), lack of opportunity and extreme focus on self. But this is a line of thought for another place.
I could only give this book one star, and I definitely wouldn't read it again. I'm not sure, now, whether I will continue to the third book... maybe I need to read something cheerful and humorous now, to restore my equilibrium!
When Lyra takes the "wormhole" (His Dark Materials is really sci-fi in a wizard's robe) she enters an entirely new story, and becomes a different character. Mrs Coulter is as scary as ever: perhaps the most terrifyingly sweet woman in the genre. The parallels between "their" world and "our" world aren't laboured, and as the action moves north to Svalberg the distinctions blur; after all, both universes are covered in snow. Much as Pullman's effortless prose style made us accept daemons are perfectly reasonable in part 1, we accept moving between dimensions as entirely normal in this part 2.
What's more, I hate fantasy. I just hate it: full of lazy supernatural powers and magical get-out-of-jail-free cards. But I'll give any author a chance, and Pullman of course came with somewhat powerful credentials. I'm glad I took the plunge. The Subtle Knife uses the devices of the fantasy genre, but... differently. The mcGuffin (the knife itself) isn't sought reverently for its power; it falls into someone's hands, and it's a huge burden, not a benefit. A true twist that gives the series its narrative strength.
So... a terrific read. But you knew that already. What I'm appealing to in this review is non-fantasy readers. If you think it's beneath you, try His Dark Materials and you might be surprised.