The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials #2) Review

Subtle KnifeI have not enjoyed a series as much as I have enjoyed this series, for a long while. The writing is consistent, the plot is well thought-out and the story is written purely for the audience’s enjoyment, not for anything else. There were so many details that were placed into this book that I could feel the level of care Philip Pullman had towards this world.

If you haven’t heard of the His Dark Materials trilogy, then you need to seriously check it out. As this is the second book, if you don’t want any spoilers as to what happens in the previous book and this one, I definitely recommend taking a hike and reading this amazing creation first.

For all those who want a brief summary of this book before hand whether it’s to refresh your memory or because you want to see if your interested in continuing the series, here you go:

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…

I have nothing else I can possibly write about this book that doesn’t spoil anything except if you haven’t read it, then you are missing out on not only fantastically developed characters and plot lines but a fascinating world and mesmerizing writing style.


I have to admit, I did get confused in the story for a bit. There were three separate worlds that were being talked about in the same book and the way you could differentiate between them was the little symbol on the top corner of the page.

From what I understood: The Compass – the world that Lyra originated from and the first book was set in. The knife – the world where spectre’s exist and are killing adults and Lyra and Will go into to discover where the knife is. The tree – is our world where Will originated from and is as close to the human world that I think there is at the moment.

What I enjoy immensely about this series, is the way that there is a protagonist, yet you get involved in so many different story lines such as Serafina’s and Lee’s as well as Will’s. Lyra is not always the centre core of the story, you get to experience so much more of the world. I also enjoy how the introduction of different aspects of the worlds, such as the hole traveling into the multiple worlds, is incorporated in a manner that seems as though it has been thought out and planned. Will’s battle against the boy who took the knife was so tense, and so aggressive that you can feel the intensity of the situation. Yet, he gains control of it and is revealed to be the bearer of it. This adds to the plot because they can then use his talent to get ahold of the alethioemeter that Sir Charles stole from them.

The main purpose of Will’s journey in this novel was to locate his father. When he does, you get a limited amount of pages of conversation between them before he gets killed. This is something that I also appreciate. Nobody is killed for no reason in this story. It is all played out with foreshadowing and exposition. Grumman mentions the witch he rejected, who ultimately is the one who ends up killing him. Sir Charles is killed due to his greed and selfishness which is shown throughout his part in the story. The only death I was so heartbroken about was Lee Scoresby. I actually cried while reading it as my train whizzed by. His character was such a genuine, whole-heartedly good person who brought that sliver of light and excitement. The intensity of that battle at the end made you honestly believe that there was a chance he was going to get out the alive but Pullman pulls that hope away from you and stomps on it as Lee and his daemon die together.

Lyra and Will’s friendship is so heartwarming. It’s hard to believe that they’re actually only 12 as they talk and act so much older and I can’t wait to see how he finds her and how they’re relationship develops as friends.

There were aspects that I am still confused about. Like, the scenes where it is revealed that Lyra is the ‘next Eve’ which I didn’t understand. Also the aspect of Angles being added in confused me cause they seemed to have an all-knowing side to them as they didn’t step in to save Grumman or Lee after they ‘completed their tasks’. Spectres are also still confusing to me as well as how Mrs Coulter is controlling them as they are supposed to be able to affect adults. The plot line with how Will has to reach Lord Asriel also confused me as in my mind he’s the evil guy. So…I’m not sure how this is all going to play out but I am so excited for it!

Language/Style: 9 points
Plot: 9 points
Story: 9 points
Characters (People): 9 points

Giving this book a total of 36 points out of 40. So amazing for a sequel that my expectation for the final book is sky high right now. I’m also so interested in looking into some more of Philip Pullman’s writing.

Favorite Part: 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.”

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