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The Subtle Knife

(His Dark Materials #2)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  366,005 ratings  ·  9,935 reviews
What is he? A friend or an enemy? He is a murderer. Will has just killed a man. He's on the run. His escape will take him far beyond his own world, to the eerie disquiet of a deserted city, and to a girl, Lyra. Her fate is strangely linked to his own, and together they must find the most powerful weapon in all the worlds...
Paperback, 325 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Scholastic (first published July 22nd 1997)
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Kaitlin Moore 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)
Warren You absolutely must read the first book first. As in any trilogy, the first book lays the foundation of all that is to come, and reading the second bo…moreYou absolutely must read the first book first. As in any trilogy, the first book lays the foundation of all that is to come, and reading the second book myself, I've had to refresh my memory several times by referring to the first. I don't see that the second book can make complete sense without having read the first.(less)

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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  366,005 ratings  ·  9,935 reviews

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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.
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
Sean Barrs
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
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.”

Lucy Langford
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing

”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!
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
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
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.
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, ya, 2019-shelf
Re-read, 11/5/19:

I think I still enjoy the emphasis on the extended worldbuilding in this book more than the flavor of the characters. Lyra is somewhat diminished, unable to shine in the Big Happenings of the first book, relegated either to lying (unsuccessfully) to a relative suburbia world, losing her way, and relying an awful lot on Will, her new friend.

Will, on the other hand, is only really interesting when he holds a knife.

*shrug* I found all the villains in our tale much more interesting.
Candace Wynell McHann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amy | littledevonnook
The second in the trilogy and possibly my favourite out of the three.
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
Jun 29, 2019 rated it liked it
“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.”

I find it tough to rate this. On the one hand, it started off great. On the other hand, there are now quite a few POVs, some I care about, some I don't, and the world has literally been blown apart and expanded. I think I somehow prefer reading fantasy set in our world, maybe because it lends the reality
Dannii Elle
This is the second instalment in the His Dark Materials series.

Windows can be opened leading from one world to another and fearless Lyra has no qualms about venturing there. On the hunt for answers about the science of dust, and justice for those who would abuse it, Lyra is joined by Will. Will comes from another world and another Oxford, both like and unlike her own, and has his own secrets to protect and his own enemies he has sworn vengeance against. The unlikely duo traverse these worlds tog
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
Bentley ★
See this review and more like it on!

Last month I read and reviewed The Golden Compass, so I could prepare myself for the HBO/BBC adaptation that will be coming out next year. This was a series that I’d missed out on as a kid, and truth be told I was a little bit wary about starting them as an adult. Luckily, the first book in this series knocked my socks off, and this sequel followed in its footsteps and actually improved upon the original – in my opinion!

The Subtle Knif
May 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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
[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
Shelves: pub-1997
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
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
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
Timothy Urges
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love the worldbuilding.
Love the themes.
Love the argument.
Zitong Ren
3.5 🌟 rounded down to 3 🌟

I understand people may see someone give a three star and think it’s probably not that great of a book since the rating given is pretty average which is not exactly the case for this book, which was a hair’s width away from me rounding it up to a four star, but I had some issues with it and I had to cede that star away. For those who are not aware, I did thoroughly enjoy the first book and gave it a four star, which did mean I was greatly entertained by it.

This book was
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Book 1 at least my understanding of Dark Material/Matter/Dust has grown! This one is MUCH darker which is fine, some of the ideas are complex and has some philosophical ideas which the target audience may struggle with. I had to read some sections a couple of times to see if I’d understood. This one focuses a lot on religion and control and in the case of Lyra’s world the two are one as the religious based Magisterium controls her world. In this one we ...more
Lots of big, complex concepts for a children's book. Having no children, I don't have a feel for how it would play to them. To me it's interesting and heady. Pondering...

4 Stars

Listened to on audible. Philip Pullman narrated and has a cast of characters. It's very good.
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
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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)

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