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The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2) Paperback – September 10, 2002

Book 2 of 3 in the His Dark Materials Series

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: His Dark Materials (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reissue edition (September 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375823468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375823466
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (782 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,142,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

With The Golden Compass Philip Pullman garnered every accolade under the sun. Critics lobbed around such superlatives as "elegant," "awe-inspiring," "grand," and "glittering," and used "magnificent" with gay abandon. Each reader had a favorite chapter--or, more likely, several--from the opening tour de force to Lyra's close call at Bolvangar to the great armored-bear battle. And Pullman was no less profligate when it came to intellectual firepower or singular characters. The dæmons alone grant him a place in world literature. Could the second installment of his trilogy keep up this pitch, or had his heroine and her too, too sullied parents consumed him? And what of the belief system that pervaded his alternate universe, not to mention the mystery of Dust? More revelations and an equal number of wonders and new players were definitely in order.

The Subtle Knife offers everything we could have wished for, and more. For a start, there's a young hero--from our world--who is a match for Lyra Silvertongue and whose destiny is every bit as shattering. Like Lyra, Will Parry has spent his childhood playing games. Unlike hers, though, his have been deadly serious. This 12-year-old long ago learned the art of invisibility: if he could erase himself, no one would discover his mother's increasing instability and separate them.

As the novel opens, Will's enemies will do anything for information about his missing father, a soldier and Arctic explorer who has been very much airbrushed from the official picture. Now Will must get his mother into safe seclusion and make his way toward Oxford, which may hold the key to John Parry's disappearance. But en route and on the lam from both the police and his family's tormentors, he comes upon a cat with more than a mouse on her mind: "She reached out a paw to pat something in the air in front of her, something quite invisible to Will." What seems to him a patch of everyday Oxford conceals far more: "The cat stepped forward and vanished." Will, too, scrambles through and into another oddly deserted landscape--one in which children rule and adults (and felines) are very much at risk. Here in this deathly silent city by the sea, he will soon have a dustup with a fierce, flinty little girl: "Her expression was a mixture of the very young--when she first tasted the cola--and a kind of deep, sad wariness." Soon Will and Lyra (and, of course, her dæmon, Pantalaimon) uneasily embark on a great adventure and head into greater tragedy.

As Pullman moves between his young warriors and the witch Serafina Pekkala, the magnetic, ever-manipulative Mrs. Coulter, and Lee Scoresby and his hare dæmon, Hester, there are clear signs of approaching war and earthly chaos. There are new faces as well. The author introduces Oxford dark-matter researcher Mary Malone; the Latvian witch queen Ruta Skadi, who "had trafficked with spirits, and it showed"; Stanislaus Grumman, a shaman in search of a weapon crucial to the cause of Lord Asriel, Lyra's father; and a serpentine old man whom Lyra and Pan can't quite place. Also on hand are the Specters, beings that make cliff-ghasts look like rank amateurs.

Throughout, Pullman is in absolute control of his several worlds, his plot and pace equal to his inspiration. Any number of astonishing scenes--small- and large-scale--will have readers on edge, and many are cause for tears. "You think things have to be possible," Will demands. "Things have to be true!" It is Philip Pullman's gift to turn what quotidian minds would term the impossible into a reality that is both heartbreaking and beautiful. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy now appears in sophisticated trade paperback editions, each title embossed within a runic emblem of antiqued gold. The backdrop of The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book I sports a midnight blue map of the cosmos with the zodiacal ram at its center. The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass carry similarly intriguing cover art, and all three titles offer details not seen in the originals: in Compass and Knife, for example, Pullman's stamp-size b&w art introduces each chapter; Spyglass chapters open with literary quotes from Blake, the Bible, Dickinson and more.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman is Amazing.
Jake Boyd
If you are one of those people who are sensitive to certain views of religion and the church, by all means, pick out another book.
Emily Weber
Just as good as last time this book keeps you turning the pages.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 55 people found the following review helpful By nymphaea on September 21, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After speeding through the Golden Compass, one of the best fantasy books I had read in years at the very least, I could barely wait to start on the sequel. Unfortunately, it did very little to live up to my expectations.

Nearly all of the charms of the first book--a unique and well realized alternate reality, an interesting and masterful reshaping of "real world" institutions into this alternate reality, intriguing technologies--were lost in the sequel. However, the biggest disappointment had to be what I consider the near character assassination of Lyra. Lyra, I thought, was one of the primary strengths of the first book. In the Golden Compass, we had that rarest of all things, a female protagonist in a fantasy novel who isn't some kind of patient saint or super warrior. She was selfish, brave, ungrateful, loyal, resourceful and something of a brat. In short, she felt very much like a real girl who found herself swept up in horrible events far beyond what any 12-year-old child should have to face and, while she had her failures, faced those challenges with resourcefulness and sometimes terrible courage. At the end, we had Lyra, betrayed by her own parents, her dearest friend dead, about to leave behind the sole protector she'd found--but who was facing this unknown new world and a war against her giant of a father because she felt it was right. It was a powerful image.

So I excitedly opened The Subtle Knife only to find Lyra's quest nigh well abandoned. Will is a decent if underdeveloped character, but he's tremendously common. In how many fantasy novels is the chief protagonist a boy with a mysterious father who ends up having a destiny well beyond his expectations? Will as sidekick I could have born.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 1997
Format: Hardcover
When Dickens' novels were first serialized, anxious crowds gathered at American docks, waiting for each fresh installment from across the ocean. Readers of Philip Pullman's "The Golden Compass" have found themselves similarly looking across the water for its sequel, and after an eighteen month wait "The Subtle Knife" has finally arrived.
"The Subtle Knife" is the second installment in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, in which Pullman has created an alternate universe nearly as vivid and credible as our own. Whereas "The Golden Compass" was set in a parallel world in which bears talk and witches fly, the action of its sequel occurs primarily in our own world. The book introduces a new protagonist, Will Perry, who joins the heroine of "The Golden Compass," Lyra Belacqua, in an eschatological quest for the nature of "Dust" -- subatomic particles which correspond to the mysterious dark matter of modern astronomy. Will and Lyra meet in Cittagazze, a frightening world in which spectres suck the souls from adults, and thus the only fear children have is of growing up.
Reviewers of "The Golden Compass" made inevitable comparisons to Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. While it is difficult for any fantasy book to escape the long shadow of Frodo Baggins, the Dark Materials series admirably avoids the painful kitsch that so often mars Tolkien's work; Pullman's characters seldom burst into song or sigh as they contemplate a noble past where men and elves walked tall and... well, one gets the picture. Indeed, what sets Pullman apart from so many fellow fabulists is his respect for restrained, inventive language.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I snatched up the Subtle Knife from my bookstore the very first day the book was released, eager with anticipation. Almost three years later, at 15, I still have not lost that joyous and excited feeling of delight every time I pick up the book. I originally reviewed the book long ago, but I came back to check what others thought about Philip Pullman's masterpiece. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed. Readers seem to be criticizing Pullman for the religious aspects of his works and their apparent "immorality." The fact that these absurd thoughts completely contradict the ideals of the pluralistic society we're supposed to be living in doesn't even bother me at this point. Readers simply fail to realize that the very nature of Pullman's work forces him to deal with these issues! The Dark Materials Trilogy is based on a single passage from Milton's Paradise Lost, which, as you know, deals with Satan's rebellion, original sin and man's fall from grace. And although Milton in his first two books of Paradise Lost portrays Satan as an almost heroic character, no one accuses *him* of blasphemy. In fact, he was a devout Christian, one of the greatest writers of the seventeenth century and his work is commonly upheld to be a great resource to and extension of the Christian faith. Pullman simply takes a few lines from Paradise Lost and explores the concept within them. What if God had indeed, created other worlds that we are not aware of? Pullman, with his immense genius and imagination decides to explore this question. What if there were thousands of worlds like ours, where every possibility of probability occurs? He manages to answer this question in a magnificent and skillful manner. His work needs not be marred by religious censure.Read more ›
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The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2)
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