Review of 'The Subtle Knife'

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
Book 2 of the His Dark Materials series

The second book of the “Dark Materials” trilogy we find Lyra now in a new world, that of Cittàgazze where Spectres turn adults into zombies and children run amok. She befriends Will, a 12-year old who knows his way around the various worlds connected by portals. It is with Lyra that they come across the Subtle Knife – An enchanted knife that is able to cut holes between the various worlds. Of course, the knife is not something to be handed over easily and there is a terrible price that must be paid…

Pullman's prose is quite fluid with the novel very easy to read with the story moving quickly along. In this book Lyra is not the main character of the first and this is all the more interesting for it. Will is an altogether much more mature foil to Lyra's impulsiveness that often gets them both into difficult situations. I did find the symbols in the margins helpful to keep track of the world where the action described occurs – It is difficult sometimes without it.

The complexity of the plot is not much more beyond what we have already seen in The Golden Compass with the exploring of other worlds is what is largely focused on. Characters from the first book are only seen fleetingly (if at all) but that does make it a bit more refreshing and new.

It will be interesting to see how the series is concluded in The Amber Spyglass.

Rating:

Review Date: 2008-02-25


Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic

Publication Date: 1997


Other reviewed books by Philip Pullman: