The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Rating: 5


His Dark Materials, Book Two: The Subtle Knife

Author: Philip Pullman

Reader: Philip Pullman and a full cast

Short Review: Like The Golden Compass, this is a wonderful adventure told by a surprisingly-talented author-narrator and a full cast. The book is a bit less fantastic, in a sense, because some of it is set in our world, but no less enjoyable.

Long Review: As with the first book, I absolutely loved Pullman’s narration. I like to think that all talented writers are also talented story tellers, in the most literal sense. Sadly, it’s not so. Pullman clearly knows how to read aloud, though, and his pacing, diction, and performance are wonderful.

This story, because it is partially set in our world, has less of the comfort of the first book. Lyra has to travel without the help of Iorek and the Gyptians, she has lost any sort of parental support, and she knows how terrible the world(s) can be. All of the novels in the trilogy are dark, of course, but this book focuses on Lyra’s growing independence and responsibility. It also introduces Will, Lyra’s partner for the rest of the series. Where Lyra is boisterous and impetuous, Will is reserved and calculating. He is the first of the children we encounter in the story with a strong sense of adult responsibility, and that automatically changes the tone of the novel.

I’m reticent to say anything more, really, because I view the three books as part of a whole, and because I’d hate to ruin the story for anyone who hasn’t read or heard it. Suffice it to say I love these books and think you should listen to them. ‘Nuff said.