>Philip Pullman – The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials Book 2)


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

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5 Responses to >Philip Pullman – The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials Book 2)

  1. StephanieD says:

    >Now that you've read two books, do you believe that this series is anti-religion? When I read the first book, I didn't feel like Pullman was making a statement to that effect, but then I was reading it for the story's sake, not for any subversive messages.

  2. phtreviews says:

    >In many fantasies it is a struggle between good and evil. Almost always the side of good wins. This leads people to believe the author is religious. Now in His Dark Materials, the church is definitely portrayed as bad. The main opposition to the church is Lord Asriel. I wouldn't exactly call Lord Asriel a good person either.IF Pullman really is trying to send a message through these books, I think it's that you shouldn't be to stubborn either way. Being religious or not does not determine good or bad.

  3. >I've never read Pullman, i am not a fan of fantasy either. Indeed a book can convey a messagefor or against religion but that's acceptable because the reader can make up his mind on the issue!

  4. phtreviews says:

    >That's a good point Erik. I've read some interviews with Pullman (kind of wishing I hadn't so soon because it revealed some spoilers) and he is upfront about him being an atheist. Just as not all religious people try to convert others to their religion, not all atheists try to convince others to become one.

  5. How interesting – I totally missed the details about Lyra’s world being 30,000 years away from Will’s. An interesting idea in the time/space thread. Thanks for pointing this out.

    My review: The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

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