The Subtle Knife

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Northern Lights. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Subtle Knife was written by Philip Pullman and first published in 1997. It forms the second part of the epic His Dark Materials trilogy, preceded by Northern Lights (published in America as The Golden Compass – 1995) and followed by The Amber Spyglass (2000). The novel picks up shortly after Northern Lights left off and so you really need to read the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Will Parry has always believed that his mother’s paranoia was some sort of sickness, yet everything changes when two sinister men show up at his house and begin to pester her for information on his missing father. Their harassment only serves to make his mother worse and, when the men eventually break into his home, Will accidentally kills one of them in a struggle.

Knowing that he will soon be hunted by the police, or worse, Will escapes into the night with a briefcase full of his father’s letters. On the outskirts of Oxford, he accidentally discovers a window to another world – the oddly deserted city of Cittàgazze – and it is here that he first meets Lyra Silvertongue and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, and learns about their escape from their world.

As Lyra and Will get to know each other and explore the Cittàgazze, they come to learn of the existence of a device that can be used to cut holes between worlds. However, little do they know that their discovery is linked to a greater war. Far away, unknown to them, Lyra’s allies search for her. They know that Lord Asriel is building an army and has plans to defeat the Magisterium by slaying the Authority that they worship. Although the angels failed in this task decades ago, the witches fear that this time he will succeed and their prophecies tell that Lyra will somehow be instrumental in his victory…

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Northern Lights

northern-lights

Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass as it is known in America) is really a book that needs no introduction. It was first published in 1995 and forms the first part of Philip Pullman’s epic His Dark Materials trilogy. The novel is followed by The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000). It has since been adapted into many formats, including a film and graphic novel, and a companion series has recently been announced with the first title due for publication at the end of this year.

Since the death of her parents, Lyra Belacqua has been raised at Jordan College and is content roaming the roof tops and fighting the travelling Gyptian kids with her friend, Roger, and daemon companion, Pantalaimon. However, nothing can last forever. Roger mysteriously disappears one evening and, shortly afterwards, a beautiful woman named Mrs Coulter expresses an interest in adopting Lyra. Although worried about her friend, Lyra is excited to live with such a beautiful and intelligent woman. However, the Master of Jordan expresses concern about Mrs Coulter’s intentions. He gifts Lyra a rare truth telling device called the alethiometer and makes her swear to never show it to her new guardian.

The longer that Lyra spends in Mrs Coulter’s home, the more that she realises that the woman isn’t as kind as she first seemed. When Lyra discovers that she is directly linked to the Gobblers – a group of kidnappers who may be responsible for Roger’s abduction – she runs away and sets off on a journey of her own. Her goal is to save Roger and then head North in search of her Uncle Asriel – a prisoner of the panserbjørne – and deliver the alethiometer to him.

However, Lyra’s journey is filled with danger. Armoured bears, warring witch clans, and the terrible secret behind the Gobblers all stand between her and her goal. Most mysterious all is the nature of Dust, unexplained particles that drift down from the Northern Lights and stick to adults. Is it true that they pour from a parallel world? And if so, what are Lord Asriel’s plans for it?

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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