The Subtle Knife

As mentioned in my previous book review, altough not a bad book, The Golden Compass undeniably remained a YA novel. But I had heard so much concerning Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials that I kept telling myself that there had to be more to this than what I first glimpsed in the opening chapter of this trilogy.

So I gave The Subtle Knife a chance, and I'm sure glad I did so. While its predecessor was definitely aimed at a younger audience, this one can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. There were a number of hints which appeared to point toward a moral complexity to this story in The Golden Compass. And I'm quite pleased that the author has been laying the groundwork pertaining to those by exploring concepts such as the unending conflict between Church and Science. The theological and philosophical aspects of this second volume give another dimension to what is shaping up to be a very good fantasy tale.

The worldbuilding is much better in The Subtle Knife. Now that the portal is open, we are exposed to a number of worlds. And since there are countless parallel universes linked by various doorways, I have a feeling that we might see more of them in the next volume. As was the case with The Golden Compass, the imagery is once more arresting.

The dialogues are better than in the first book. Definitely not as juvenile, which was a bit of a relief. Lyra is finally experiencing "character growth," which does her a world of good.

The characterizations have also improved. The addition of Will as a main character was perfect. Lyra was always some sort of brat, but Will is a child who was forced by circumstances to grow up too rapidly. Hence, they form a somewhat well-balanced team together. And Lyra becomes more mature as the story progresses. Secrets are revealed about Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel. Those secrets, along with the revelation of the great confrontation which is brewing, perfectly set the stage for The Amber Spyglass. We are also introduced to a number of new characters, such as Dr. Malone, who continue to give more depth to this story.

I felt that this novel was too short. It gives us a few glimpses of the depth of Pullman's work, but not enough. I can only hope that the final volume will live up to the expectations generated by The Subtle Knife.

The final verdict: 7,5/10

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