Cassy's Reviews > The Subtle Knife

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
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's review
Oct 09, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: favorites, books-in-2009, ya-lit, children-s-lit
Recommended to Cassy by: Jenna
Read in October, 2009 — I own a copy , read count: 2

** spoiler alert ** There was a lot that I forgot about this book and that just made it all the more enjoyable. It says a lot if a book can make me feel just as emotional about it the second time around (especially when the last time I read it was only a few years ago.)

I loved Lee Scoresby so much in this book. His character really comes out like it didn't have a chance to in the first one. Granted, that's probably because he didn't show up until nearly the end in the previous book but you definitely get to know and love him in this one. He is so incredibly protective of Lyra and so humble, you can't help but admire the man. Therefore, his death is that much more tragic. Not only does a great hero die, but he dies protecting this girl he loves more dearly than if she were his daughter.

I like Will, but I liked him less reading this book a second time. You feel bad for him (his mother being sick and then his father being killed seconds after they realized they had found each other) but there's just something about him I don't like. Pullman seems like he's trying to make Will a kid and an adult, all at once but it's not working correctly. Instead he just seems too grown up when he should be like a kid and too like a kid when he should be an adult.

Will and Lyra are also too comfortable with the thought of murder in this book. I understand the need to protect what you love even if it means doing something like killing another human being, but I feel like that's not something people, and especially children, think of as often as Lyra and Will thought about it in the book. It seemed every other chapter it was mentioned that they would kill if they had to and it didn't bother them in the slightest, as if it were totally normal to be at ease with taking another life. Lee Scoresby had to do it to save himself and he STILL mentioned how he hated taking another life. I was hard pressed to believe that these children, who have been through so much, would be so at peace with the idea of murder. Especially Lyra, who watched Roger die.

I liked watching the witches this book and thought they played a good part. Pullman manages to incorporate a mythical thing without making it a lifesaver. The witches have powers, yes, but they're not unlimited. They don't save Lyra every time she's in trouble and I like that. Too often authors use their powerful beings to get their protagonist out of tight situations.

I forgot how much sexual innuendo was in this book. I have a tendency to read things for the pleasure of it the first time I read it and turn off the analytical part of my brain (as best as I can.) Usually it works pretty well but I miss all the double meanings and symbolism and intricacies that an author puts in them. When I know how the book is going to turn out, I pick up on all these things more. Mrs. Coulter is a tease and Pullman makes it really obvious when she's getting information out of Lord Boreal. "Would you like me to really please you?" It surprised me a little at first and made me wonder how I missed it the first time. Also, the reference to the witch that went to see Lord Asriel and how she saw him in his chambers and the other witches "knew what happened then." I am no stranger to sexual themes in a book but I feel there's a time and place for everything. I could see Mrs. Couter seducing Lord Boreal and that made sense. I don't see why we needed to know that the witch did it with Lord Asriel.

Through the whole book, you were so anxious about Will and his father. You knew that they needed to meet, that they needed to see each other and such peril was coming to them both. I knew what happened and I was still turning the pages as quickly as I could to see if they would meet. When John Perry was killed before he was able to have at least a small reunion with his son, I was heartbroken.

I'm glad that Pullman used this book to really focus on moving the story forward. Everything came back to Lyra and Will in this book and, even though there were times that were focused on other characters, those other characters were doing things for those children. I didn't have to hear about Mrs. Coulter who, honestly, I don't really care that much about. I didn't have to listen to Lord Asriel and his quest to contend the Authority. I liked that I saw Lyra and her journey and her mistakes.

I also liked that there was less of the instantaneous "I love Lyra!" syndrome. Dr. Malone, though she told Lyra things, was still wary of her and ONLY came to trust her when she saw that Lyra could manipulate the machine. The children in Cittàgazze really hated both Will and Lyra, were suspicious of them from instant one. The suspicion of Lyra and Will was a lot more realistic to me. I'm also really glad that people didn't get "I love Will!" syndrome, because I might have cried if they did.

The second installment of His Dark Materials was a lot more satisfying than the first (and I liked the first.) A lot of the problems in book one ironed themselves and there was a lot more excitement.
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Reading Progress

10/05/2009 page 20
6.13% "Whatever this new world was, it had to be better than what he just left."
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