Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Subtle Knife Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk
Series: His Dark Materials Book Two
Pages: 341

Buy on Amazon!

(Contains spoilers for the Golden Compass).

His Dark Materials continues shortly after the concluding events of the Golden Compass.  Like the Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife continues the overarching inverted Adam and Eve metaphor that dominated the plot of the first book.

New characters and new worlds dominate this sequel, all of them welcome additions that help to advance the story.  Perhaps one of the greatest parts of the book is the knife the book is named after, which is probably one of the greatest magical items ever put into a fantasy book.

Despite the new characters and magical items The Subtle Knife functions like your typical part two in a trilogy: the plot thickens, the stakes are raised, and great evil meets the main characters.  The Subtle Knife is a great sequel that keeps the momentum from The Golden Compass running, however it does not surpass the quality of the first book.

After jumping through the portal at the end of The Golden Compass, Lyra finds herself in a world called Cittagazze.  In Cittagazze adults and older children live in fear of menacing spectres, fearsome creatures that eat their souls.  However, the spectres do not have the ability to harm young children.
While in Cittagazze Lyra meets a new friend who gets tangled in her quest to help her find the source of dust.  Along the way they find an object that has tremendous power, an object that prepares Lyra to meet her destiny.

The Subtle Knife is really all about continuing Lyra’s story, while introducing readers to the character that will metaphorically be acting as an Adam to Lyra’s Eve.  Additionally, readers are also introduced to the metaphorical Snake from the Adam and Eve story, too.  The addition of these two characters helps drive the story in a new direction, and the influence of Milton’s Paradise Lost (which the series is based off of) can be seen a lot more clearly in the second book.

Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel still continue to impress as great characters.  They have a similar presence to the His Dark Materials series, as Severus Snape did to the Harry Potter series.  Coulter’s increasing complexity as a character is truly a spectacle to behold.  Readers can begin to see the conflict within her heart will ultimately lead to a spectacular conclusion no matter what she chooses to do.

The same thematic depth that was present in The Golden Compass is still a part of The Subtle Knife.  The soul sucking spectres only seem to harm older children and adults, thus the spectres give a legitimate fear to the young children in Cittagazze of growing up.   The issue of growing up, and the fears that come a long with it are thoroughly explored in this book.

If the previous book’s take on religion offended you, than this book will probably anger you even more.  The issue that has earned this series the most criticism is the destiny that Lyra will have to face.  Without divulging in spoilers I can simply say, I could see why people who are religious might be upset by the turn of events in this book.

Regardless of your religious preference, I’ve got to say The Subtle Knife is still a great book.  For some people who chose to read this book, an open mind will be a necessity.  Pullman explores issues in The Subtle Knife that will require you to think about the why humans are here and what the purpose of humans are?  It’s a book that requires young and old readers to search within themselves to find answers to questions that have been asked by humans for millenniums.

Score: 9.4

No comments:

Post a Comment