Monday, November 2, 2015

The Subtle Knife » Review

In the sequel to The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman shows how a book can be totally different from its predecessor while still holding true to the style and heart of the original.

At the end of His Dark Materials' first installment, Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon, stepped through a rift in the universe and into a parallel world.  Needless to say, I was anxious to see how Lyra was faring and where she went.  Masterfully, however, Pullman draws out the suspense by introducing us to a new protagonist, Will Parry, who lives in a place readers are quite familiar with.

After becoming immersed in the alternate Britain of the first book, it was somewhat jarring to encounter our own, modern world.  I thought it was pretty genius, however, making His Dark Materials into a more complex fantasy.  The interplay between the worlds was fantastic, as we soon see, for early in the book, Will stumbles into a parallel universe himself and bumps right into Lyra Silvertongue.

The chemistry between Will and Lyra was fantastic, but not in a romantic sense.  Their interactions were dynamic because they're such fundamentally different people.  Will is very much an adult before his years, solid and responsible, while Lyra is like the spirit of childhood, clever and minxish.  The two were at delicious odds when they first meet. However, what Will and Lyra both are is resourceful, and pretty soon, they've created an intriguing plot for readers to follow.

Our slew of villainous adults from book one are back in The Subtle Knife, with even more adversaries thrown into the mix for good measure.  We have Mrs. Coulter, beautiful, charismatic, and charming, with her true nature revealed by her infernal monkey daemon.  Then there is Lord Asriel, seemingly a force for good but willing to do incredibly evil things.  The fact that Coulter and Asriel are Lyra's true parents, well, it makes matters even more complex.  Such intriguing questions emerge. Do Coulter and Asriel have love for their daughter inside their hearts, at all?  And how much of her parents' characters is made manifest in Lyra?

The Subtle Knife was an outstanding book, straddling the line between middle grade and young adult.  In the end though, the book is ageless.

1 comment:

  1. Another one of those series on my bucket list. Someday, someday.