I have finished reading The Subtle Knife, book 2 of His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. Being used to reading books that are 600+ pages, these comparatively shorter books, 2-300 pages, are quite refreshing. You may have remembered my glowing review of The Golden Compass, so I had very high hopes for book 2.
In truth, I was rather disappointed. The Subtle Knife was not as action packed as The Golden Compass but that wasn’t the only reason I didn’t like it as much. I can’t remember if book 1 was the same, probably was, but book 2 used omniscient narration. I’m sure I have, but I don’t remember reading any other books that used a true omniscient narration. This made for some awkward moments in book 2. For example the author would be looking through the eyes of a man, at the same time talk about certain things the man doesn’t know about. This is particularly troublesome because the whole series talks about different worlds and different people of those different worlds, so you don’t exactly know what the people are supposed to know. There would also be instances where the focus of a scene would shift from one person to the next which made it difficult to follow at times.
Well enough about what I didn’t like about the book and let’s get on to the book itself. As you may have remembered at the end of The Golden Compass, Lord Asriel, Lyra’s father, opened up a gateway or window into another world and stepped through. Lyra followed him, curious about Dust. In The Subtle Knife, Lyra met a young boy named Will. He is from a world closer to the one we know where our daemons are inside.
Also in book 2 we are introduced to yet another world. This is a crossroads world so to speak. To get from one world to the next, you have to go through this world. Reminds me of The Chronicles of Narnia. Anyways in this crossroads world there are no adults because they are hunted by Scepters. For some unknown reason Scepters are only attracted to adolescents or adults, much like Dust is. Could they be the same thing?
We find out in Will’s world there are scientists who study Dust, only they call it Shadow Particles or Dark Matter. From this world we learn that Dust is conscious, as Lyra already suspected from the althiometer, and from the crossroads world we learn that the Scepters came about because an invention, the Subtle Knife, was created that split matter up into tiny pieces. So tiny that they couldn’t be seen by the eye. From this the Scepters escaped.
Book 2 did more than reveal Scepters and Shadow Particles though. In this book we find out that Lyra’s world is actually 30,000 years before Will’s world. So not only can you cut through to different worlds, but time as well. This also explains how Lord Asriel, despite only being in the new world for a short while has amassed a huge army with an enormous fortress. According to the witch Queen, this must have taken eons of planning and preparation.
The Subtle Knife ends with Will finally finding his father. I’ll leave you to read the book to find out who Will’s father is and why he is important.
In case you needed more reviews to tempt your interest, here is another review, R-views The Subtle Knife review , but I must warn you, R-view didn’t enjoy this book as much as book 1 either. Just to be fair, here is a reviewer who actually liked it more than book 1: Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist