The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

As I did for The Northern Lights, I listened to The Subtle Knife on audiobook. I binge-read this trilogy; I just couldn’t get enough of the characters and the story and I was constantly on the edge of my seat.

Lost in a new world, Lyra finds Will—a boy on the run, a murderer—a worthy and welcome ally. For this is a world where soul-eating Specters stalk the streets and witches share the skies with troops of angels.

Each is searching—Lyra for the meaning of Dark Matter, Will for his missing father—but what they find instead is a deadly secret, a knife of untold power. And neither Lyra nor Will suspects how tightly their lives, their loves, and their destinies are bound together… until they are split apart.

I didn’t like Will. There, I said it. Please don’t hate me. I don’t know whether it was the voice actor of the character or the actual character in itself, but I just found him obnoxious and arrogant. In The Northern Lights, Lyra did everything by herself and was strong-willed and independent, and then, in The Subtle Knife, she meets Will and then starts relying on him. She lets Will do things for her and I just couldn’t deal with it at times. Where was the strong, independent young girl that was a role model for young female readers? We were left with a girl who relied upon a boy. And part of my soul just died.

The Subtle Knife definitely suffered from second-book-syndrome. It seemed like a filler book; a bridge between the first and third. I mean, the idea of the knife was amazing (a knife that can cut between worlds? Count me in) but there just seemed to be a lot of running and not much story going on.



“The sight filled the northern sky; the immensity of it was scarcely conceivable. As if from Heaven itself, great curtains of delicate light hung and trembled. Pale green and rose-pink, and as transparent as the most fragile fabric, and at the bottom edge a profound and fiery crimson like the fires of Hell, they swung and shimmered loosely with more grace than the most skillful dancer.”

― Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife



What I did like about this book was that it sometimes moved away from Lyra and Will’s adventure and concentrated on the side-characters and what they were doing back in Lyra’s world. Was it necessary to the overall story? I didn’t think so at the time but in reflection, I definitely think it was necessary. It showed you the build-up to the third book, it portrayed the political tension – a behind-the-scenes if you will.

This book builds upon the religious themes of the first book and talks about the goal of  ‘killing God’. I can imagine this whole trilogy being opposed back when it was first released due to this anti-church point of views and at times, I found this back story very interesting. But then at other times, it seemed a bit too much. I mean, c’mon! It’s supposed to be a middle-grade trilogy. I cannot imagine a middle-grade individual reading this trilogy and understanding the themes of this series and the underlying messages being sent (I know that this is a massive generalisation of middle-grade children, but you get my drift).

Overall, this book was okay. Like I said before, it was a filler book and definitely suffered from second-book-syndrome. I’ve already started listening to The Amber Spyglass, but I’m only fifteen minutes into it so I haven’t formed an opinion on it yet! Just keep your eyes peeled for a review on the final book, which should be up in the next couple of weeks (hopefully!)

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