The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman | Book Review
Updated: Mar 29
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Lyra has stumbled into a new world. One filled with monsters and terror. But she and Pan are not alone. A boy named Will hides in this strange dark world called Cittagazze. Guided by the alethiometer, Lyra must help Will find his father and abandon her search for dust. All the while Asriel gathers his troops and prepares for war. Together the children will travel between worlds and discover the one tool that may turn the tides of war.
The Subtle Knife has an entirely different feel than the previous novel. The pacing is faster as it draws away from philosophy and focuses on war. For those who follow organized religion, this one might be offensive. The atrocities that can arise through organized religion are the center of the upcoming war. The witches will speak of horrors done to children and fellow witches all under the mantle of God. Pullman uses real-world examples to emphasize these stories and make them undeniable.
Lyra does seem to take a step back in this novel. While she does still have some key chapters, Will predominantly takes the stage. He is a conflicted boy who the reader can easily feel a connection to. Everything he does is to protect his mother who suffers from mental illness. He sees how the world views his mother and how people try to hurt or take advantage of her. Growing up without a father, Will has been the only protection for her.
His Dark Materials is by no means a light and easy read. The darker themes and hardships the characters must face are not for someone looking for a feel-good fantasy novel. The Subtle Knife dives further into the sins that humans commit and the evil that can lurk deep inside a person, no matter what world they are from.
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Interested in my thoughts on book one? Check out my book review!