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The Subtle Knife, Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition (His Dark Materials, Book 2)(Rough-cut) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 28, 2007
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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
In a starred review, PW said, "More than fulfilling the promise of The Golden Compass, this second volume in the His Dark Materials trilogy starts off at a heart-thumping pace and never slows down." Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
I immediately ordered the third book in the series. (The Amber Spyglass), which I am reading now.
Philip Pullman does an excellent job of narrating his books, as does the supporting cast.
The story itself is really as much for adults as for older children and explores theological. philosophical scientific themes to the level of so-called Dark Matter and creation theory. It melds the themes of original sin, the soul and good and evil with the building blocks of the universe. In the telling, it does not treat younger readers/ listeners with any less respect than adults.
There has been speculation as to why the second two books in this series were not given the 'Golden Compass' filmic treatment and that the Catholic Church were to blame in this respect, for its condemnation of the apparent anti-Catholic nature the story. It is most likely that the first film didn't gross so well, thus funding was not forthcoming to complete the film trilogy. However, it does suggest that the work is taken seriously enough for Church to shout, in the words of Father Ted, "Down with this sort of thing!".
The plot is amazing. The ending is just as great as the last one, and it leaves you just as hungry for more.