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The Subtle Knife

(His Dark Materials #2)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  314,049 ratings  ·  7,714 reviews
Here is the highly anticipated second installment of Philip Pullman's epic fantasy trilogy, begun with the critically acclaimed "The Golden Compass." Lyra and Will, her newfound friend, tumble separately into the strange tropical otherworld of Cittagazze, "the city of magpies," where adults are curiously absent and children run wild. Here their lives become inextricably en ...more
Hardcover, Part of Three Volume Set, 299 pages
Published 2008 by The Folio Society (first published July 22nd 1997)
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Kaitlin Moore-Morley So Atheism is the denial of God... I would say the book is more pantheistic or agnostic depending on how you choose to view the work. The witches have…moreSo Atheism is the denial of God... I would say the book is more pantheistic or agnostic depending on how you choose to view the work. The witches have their own goddess, there is a heaven, and angels, and hierarchy. But the book never addresses how the earth was formed other than dust formed the angels.

However there are nuggets of beauty for the person who chooses to believe in God, particularly in the third book when grace is addressed.

I'm a Christian pastor.... I love the church and all it is supposed to be and Pullman's world is often hostile to the church that is. I'm good with that. However, often times it's easy to be critical or reduce to a word [like that book is] "atheist" when your beliefs are threatened or the dark spots are pointed out by an outsider. It makes it easier to get people to ignore the work.... because God forbid there is a piece of fantasy fiction that isn't theologically accurate. (less)
Patrick Jean-Jacques His Dark Materials is an excellent trilogy Lucy. It's best to read NORTHERN LIGHTS first though because SUBTLE KNIFE will make more sense. As Warren…moreHis Dark Materials is an excellent trilogy Lucy. It's best to read NORTHERN LIGHTS first though because SUBTLE KNIFE will make more sense. As Warren and Beck said, it's essentially a sequel or direct follow-up. In my (humble) opinion it is the best one too because it's the shortest part, it has a good pace and a lot of significant things happen in it. AMBER SPYGLASS will need more patience to read, as I felt it is the deepest from a theological context.(less)

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4.12  · 
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(A-) 81% | Very Good
Notes: Changes direction from the last book, expanding the mythology and affirming religion as the key theme of the series.
Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
When I read this the first time I completely overlooked a main component of the book. I approached it as if was the second book in the series, a massive mistake. I wrote a review criticising the fact that the novel felt awkward; it had no beginning or end: it just felt like the typical content you’d find in the middle of the story. The ironic point of this is that most critics take the trilogy as one whole book, rather than three separate works. And this really is the best way to approach the st ...more
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The second entry in a trilogy is often, in my opinion, the best. The author doesn't have to introduce the universe or the characters, as they did in the first installment, but they don't need to worry about wrapping up all the plot points either. Instead, the focus can be on 'the good stuff': elaborating on the story, teasing us more, giving action, chopping off Luke's hand and so on. Instead of the good stuff, in The Subtle Knife I feel as though we've had a bait and switch pulled on us.

In The
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit.”

Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

”What is he? A friend, or an enemy?”...

“He is a murderer.”

This book has the introduction of Will; a young man/boy who is compassionate, caring, brave and a warrior. After a frightening account, Will has to go on the run where he escapes to a different world to the deserted city of Cittagaze, and meets an interesting girl called Lyra Belacqua, her Daemon; Pantalaimon and her ability to read a strange instrument called the alethiometer. This strange world runs parallel to his own.

They lear
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2), Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife, the second book in the His Dark Materials series, is a young-adult fantasy novel written by Philip Pullman and published in 1997. The novel continues the adventures of Lyra Belacqua as she investigates the mysterious Dust phenomenon and searches for her father. Will Parry is introduced as a companion to Lyra, and together they explore the new realms to which they have both been introduced.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دهم ماه
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weird like The Wizard of Oz, magical like Harry Potter, and interesting, totally unlike "Chronicles of Narnia." The symbolism is so agog, so strange... Obviously, it makes for a great young adult novel!!
David Schaafsma
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I share this review again in the fall of 2017 as a fourth volume (though Pullman later wrote two companion pieces to the trilogy, entitled Lyra's Oxford, and Once Upon a Time in the North), The Book of Dust, has been released, to encourage all ages to read. As with most great "children's" books, there are a range of levels on which Pullman is working. He's taking on the Roman Catholic view of reality, C.S. Lewis (in The Chronicles of Narnia), and is in conversation with John Milton, whose Paradi ...more
Dec 04, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

I am not a fan of forwarded emails. They frustrate me, because they usually come from the same group of people, people I like a great deal but who never send me a normal "hey, how's it going?" message. Just "Support our Troops" or "Tell every woman you know she's special" or "Microsoft is running a test and if you send this you could get a check for $1,000!" When I see the letters FWD in the subject line, I usually simply delete it.

I lost track of the number of emails I received telling me about
Caz (littlebookowl)
Mmmmk. So I rated this 2.5 stars when I read it a few months ago, and I was unsure if I would finish the series... I've since decided I won't be reading book three. I'm honestly pretty disappointed with a tweet the author posted and his subsequent responses to those who replied, especially his trans readers. In this case, I've decided not to separate the author from the work.
For a moment, just imagine that after reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone you were so enthralled by the protagonist (even if you weren't bare with me), his friends and the entire world that has been established. It has moral undertones, but at it's heart it is a fun fantasy novel. Then you pick up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and suddenly Harry has been downgraded as a protagonist in favor of Dan, our brand new second main character. He's super awesome and whatnot and sort o ...more
Candace Wynell McHann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shayantani Das
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two very strange things happened last week. I gave I Am Half Sick Of Shadows: A Flavia De Luce Novel two stars and am now giving this book five star. It is strange because the former book’s protagonist, my dear Flavia De Luce is my favorite obstinate pre teen. On the contrary, Lyra, another stubborn, precocious, pre-teen absolutely annoyed me in the previous book. Right now though, I can not for the life of me imagine why I did not like the first novel and Lyra. Well, at least I adore her right ...more
Amy | shoutame
The second in the trilogy and possibly my favourite out of the three.
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just as fantastic all these years later. Still shocking, still clever, still more grown up than a lot of 'adult' books out there. This book doesn't shy away, doesn't talk down, and definitely doesn't disappoint.
It has been a while since a book last left me with the desire to have my head trepanned and to become a shaman. And I suppose these days it is difficult to get on the training course and who knows if the pension scheme will be all that it was cracked out to be?

Reading I thought this business of the human mind and the flow of consciousness through a multiplicity of universes reminded me of something else. As always it takes some days for this kind of thought to percolate down to the answer - I re
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this case, the high rating is not for the actual quality of the book (that is very good btw), but for all that it meant to me while I was growing up.
Much like the city of Citagazze, The Subtle Knife is the crossroads between Northern Lights and The Amber Spyglass, and as such I think it's unfair to judge it as a single novel. It introduces the wonderful characters of Will and Mary, and brings the whole concept of multiple worlds into play. We also see small hints of the rebellion that will be raged across the worlds, but more importantly we see the beginnings of Lyra and Will. In Will we see someone who's had responsibility thrust upon them ...more
[May 21, 2019]

Reading my original review from seven years ago is wild. I came back to this story and found something completely different here; I found myself completely different. There are still quibbles-- yes, some of the messaging is heavy handed and yes, Pullman's story style and world building is just slow-- but I was so focused on what this story wasn't that I couldn't appreciate what it was.

I'll have full thoughts after we cover this on Snark Squad Pod, but for now, I'll say that I'm bu
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why, no, I have never read His Dark Materials before. It was not a thing in Poland and after seeing that nonsensical film I was not exactly inspired to read it.

However, when I was in New Your a few weeks ago, my friend there practically forced these books on me. And then it got really cold, the water in our pipes froze and reading some good children's fantasy novel seemed like the best idea.

This series is definitely improving as it goes on. I liked this better than the first part. The first few
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Annalisa by: Ryan
What I did like about this book is that it starts with Lyra, a girl we have become acquainted with from another world, meeting Will, a boy from our world. Bringing the fantasy into our own reality was surreal and interesting. But only for a minute and then it became a bore. The story was slow and at some points stopped altogether to allow Pullman his theological preachings of anti-church and anti-god. If the story had been metaphorical I would have enjoyed it more, but it became less fiction and ...more
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
The strangest thing about Phillip Pullman's The Subtle Knife is that it doesn't feel like the second book in a series, making me wonder whether Pullman first wrote this in conjunction with The Amber Spyglass, then wrote The Golden Compass as a prequel, which then became the first book in the series once they were published.

Not that it matters.

What matters is that The Subtle Knife is too fast, too plot driven, and too much "a set-up" book to be an effective second book in the trilogy. Second bo
May 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens

It is so surprising to me that the thing I found vastly irritating right at page one of the first of this series - the daemon - so quickly captivated me. You have this daemon in you, all of us, just as the story goes. And as a child it is anything, it has the fantastical vision that children have, there is nothing to stop it. But then we mostly grow up and we mostly lose the idea that we can do anything, we lose imagination, we lose the unconscious bravery of our childhood, we lose the i
Brigid ✩
So, I'm re-reading this trilogy for the first time in like twelve years! I was curious to see what my stance on it would be after all this time. I remember loving the first book as a kid and then being a little iffy about books two and three ... and well, I think I liked this second installment a bit more as an adult, but I do still feel it's not quite as strong as the first book.

There are still a lot of things I love about The Subtle Knife:

• The world-building continues to be very entrancing, e
Sep 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first read this book I was young enough to still pronounce the 'b' in 'subtle', and now I can't look at this book without doing it again. I still think it sounds better that way - it gives the word a sort of dull power that I think depicts the mysterious magic of the knife much better than the silly, flippant 'suttle'. Saying 'sub-tle' opens up previously-unimagined worlds which extend indefinitely into the distance.

And this is what is good about this series. I've come up with a list of
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This second volume of His Dark Materials introduced a couple of new characters such as young Will, who becomes Lyra's friend. Lyra has crossed the bridge between the worlds at the end of the last book and landed in a city of another where there are no adults, apparently because of specters. Shortly later she meets Will, who has had it hard in his very own way what with his sick mother and missing father. For some reason, the alethiometer tells Lyra to help him find his father.
Through Will, Lyra
Executive Summary: I liked this better than the first one, but I still don't seem to love this series like so many others.

Audiobook: The audio book was fantastic again. Not only the story narration but all of the voice readers make this a great choice in audio.

Full Review
So this book adds a second protagonist named Will whose seemingly from our world. I find him more likable than most of the other characters, including Lyra, but that's not saying very much. I just don't like most of the charac
André Oliveira


Can I say that this book is better than the first one? I think it is, but once again, I couldn't connect with the characters.

This book expands the world presented in the first book and I honestly really like the idea behind it. It is truly compelling and exciting!!!

Yes! I am going to read the final book.
Apr 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrns
I am rereading the trilogy before commencing the Book of Dust. Just as wonderful on a reread. I barely remembered it but a scene between Lee Scoresby and his daemon made me cry as it did the first time.
Wonderful series. Recommended, but start with Northern Lights.
Rebecca McNutt
I wasn't really a big fan of the first book in this series, especially since a major character was abruptly killed off for no good reason. However, The Subtle Knife is a lot less dark and more intense, adventurous and memorable in my opinion. New characters are introduced, new themes, and Lyra herself is older and knows what she's doing a lot better.
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In 1946, acclaimed author Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England, into a Protestant family. Although his beloved grandfather was an Anglican priest, Pullman became an atheist in his teenage years. He graduated from Exeter College in Oxford with a degree in English, and spent 23 years as a teacher while working on publishing 13 books and numerous short stories. Pullman has received many awards ...more

Other books in the series

His Dark Materials (3 books)
  • The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)
  • The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)
“Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit.” 251 likes
“For a human being, nothing comes naturally,' said Grumman. 'We have to learn everything we do.” 94 likes
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