Saturday, July 3, 2010

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Subtle Knife

The intrepid young Lyra has passed through a shimmering portal in the sky and finds herself in a beautiful, haunted otherworld--Cittagazze, where soul-eating Specters stalk the streets and wingbeats of distant angels sound against the sky. But she is not without allies:  twelve-year-old Will Parry, fleeing for his life after taking another's, has also stumbled into this strange new realm.
On a perilous journey from world to world, Lyra and Will uncover a deadly secret:  an object of extraordinary and devastating power. With every step, they move closer to an even greater threat--and the shattering of truth of their own destiny.
[from the back cover of The Subtle Knife]

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Harry Potter fans, LOTR fans, anyone who wants a fantasy tale in diet form
High point: The world
Low point: Lyra
Reader maturity: 13+

I've had a lot of luck with 2nd novels lately. Often they fall victim to the 2nd novel curse:  a bridge between books, as I read somewhere today. The Subtle Knife is definitely a bridge...but you don't have to know (or like) what happens in The Golden Compass to appreciate the actions in The Subtle Knife.

Lyra makes less of an impact in The Subtle Knife, which is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much more. Aside from sharing the spotlight with the charming and mature Will, she's also grown up somewhat and recognizes that people other than herself matter. (That's a HUGE step for her.)

The Subtle Knife was filled with nonstop action and scary new creatures. The witches feature more heavily here, adding, in a strange way, a more human element. Of course, Lyra's mother and a strange, evil man make an appearance in a normal and yet extremely threatening way. The two children deal with very adult problems--lies, deception, subterfuge--and they handle it all very well, making mistakes along the way but learning important lessons about real life. Will has a bright future ahead of him, and I'm excited to see what he and Lyra can accomplish next.

Title:  The Subtle Knife
Author:  Philip Pullman
Genre:  Fantasy Fiction
Year:  1997
Book Source:  Purchased


  1. I agree with you. I've read the Dark Materials trilogy before and couldn't like Lyra initially. Its one of the few stories I like without liking the heroine. Hope you get to enjoy the last book soon.

  2. I have had this book with me for a long time but somehow I have never gotten around to reading it yet...nice review.

  3. This series is... surprising. I enjoyed them more than I thought I would, but the ending to the third book is so incredibly bittersweet. I'm interested in hearing what you think! (There are also some very... odd parts in the book 3.)

    I didn't notice that Lyra was too self-centered. I simply felt that she was a little kid (at least in book 1).