His Dark Materials: The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman
February 23, 2010 § 12 Comments
And here I was thinking that the story could not get any better.
The Subtle Knife is the second book in the trilogy, His Dark Materials. The first book, Northern Lights does end with an actual pause, a pocket of space, if you will, to allow some breathing space, some brief moment to take it all in. And right from the word go in the second book, you’re thrown into a completely different world. Literally.
It was a little confusing at the beginning, with all the different worlds that were intersecting and interconnecting with each other. Instead of being confined to their own particular world, the characters now seemed to have this uncanny freedom to move in and out, through little windows of air. It was just so surreal, so out there, so bizarre. Throw into this a Lord from World A who’s now a knight in World B, who knows almost everything there is to know about Lyra, and there’s this other World C where it seems like only children exist.. Well, the list of superimagination just goes on.
But that’s just what makes this book so so… the word eludes me presently. It just pulls you right into it, brings you along with Lyra and Pan and her new-found friend, Will, as they move from one world to another, running away from dangers that they can’t identify, straight into enemies they can’t see. And then you have the witches come join in the fight to protect Lyra; a man from the first book turns out to be this other man in book two, one and the same but you just never expected him to be him. And there’s this physicist in one of those worlds who studies dark material (I’m so going to find out more about quantum physics after this) who gets sucked into this big war without even knowing the big things she might be up against.
I know I made all that sound like a huge mess, but trust me, it isn’t. Everything flows so well in the book, flawlessly into one another, it only feels natural. You read it and you have this weird sense that something’s going to happen, and you hope it won’t, and it starts to look like it won’t, you think it’s going to be fine, and then it happens anyway, and that’s the bit when you go, “Oh my God.” You can’t believe that just happened, but you just believe it. I lost track of the number of times that happened for me.
There were so many things happening in the second book, and much more layered than the first one, although it’s comparatively shorter. But right now, this second book has left me with a cliffhanger. It’s a little scary how urgent it feels for me to get on to the third book, The Amber Spyglass, but that’s what it’s like.