The Subtle Knife

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Knopf, 1997 - Juvenile Fiction - 326 pages
230 Reviews
The questions, discussion topics, and author information that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of The Subtle Knife . The Subtle Knife is Book Two of Philip Pullman's trilogy 'His Dark Materials'. In Book One, The Golden Compass, young Lyra Belacqua journeys through 'a universe like ours but different in many ways.' The most striking difference between Lyra's world and ours is the existence of daemons. These spirit-creatures, physical manifestations of the human soul, can change shape until their human companions reach adolescence. Then each daemon settles into the animal form that best reflects the inner nature of its human counterpart. In The Golden Compass, Lyra discovers that her mother, Mrs. Coulter, is conducting experiments in which children are severed from their daemons, turning them into emotionless, almost inhuman beings. Mrs. Coulter and her colleagues are doing this to learn more about a substance called 'Dust, ' which seems to accumulate on humans when they reach maturity. While many fear Dust, both Mrs. Coulter and Lyra's father, Lord Asriel, see it as the source of great power. The Golden Compass concludes with Lord Asriel harnessing the power of Dust to create an opening in the atmosphere of his world, forging a bridge to another universe. This he fearlessly crosses, leaving Mrs. Coulter behind. Lyra perceives that Dust is good and vows to discover its secrets with the help of her 'golden compass', or alethiometer, a truth-seeking device. And so Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon, follow Lord Asriel into the other world. The Subtle Knife begins in our own world, where Will Parry, driven by curiosity about his mysterious, missing father and concern for his vulnerable, disturbed mother, accidentally kills an intruder. While fleeing, he finds a 'window' into a sunlit otherworld. What could be a better refuge than a hidden universe? But this universe is a strange, empty place: a city that seems to have been abandoned in such haste that food is left rotting on plates at a sidewalk cafe. The inhabitants of the city, Cittágazze, have fled from the invading Specters, ghostlike creatures that devour the souls of adults. But Specters are harmless and invisible to children, and soon Will meets another fugitive child in Cittágazze: Lyra. Although he does not know it, their lives are soon to become forever intertwined when Lyra's alethiometer gives her one simple command: Help Will find his father. The richly imagined world of Book One seems almost quiet and simple when compared to the turmoil of Book Two. Here 'Dust' is called 'dark matter' and has been joined by a myriad of other complex phenomena, including the Specters and bene elim (angels). One protagonist has been replaced by two, Lyra and Will. Most significant of all, Lyra's truth-giving compass seems to pale in comparison to the power of Will's new acquisition, the subtle knife, the Ćsahćttr, the knife that will cut ANYTHING. What can it mean to be the bearer of such an instrument?

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User Review  - hopeevey - LibraryThing

Volume 2 of this series is a pleasant read. The writing is good, although the characters are a bit stilted and predictable. This volume, especially towards the ends, may begin to merit the claim that ... Read full review

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User Review  - Narilka - LibraryThing

Strange men have been harassing Will Parry's mother for years about his missing father, even going so far as to break into their house searching for documents! Will knows he must keep his mother safe ... Read full review

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About the author (1997)

PHILIP PULLMAN is one of the most acclaimed writers working today. He is best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass), which has been named one of the top 100 novels of all time by Newsweek and one of the all-time greatest novels by Entertainment Weekly. He has also won many distinguished prizes, including the Carnegie Medal for The Golden Compass (and the reader-voted "Carnegie of Carnegies" for the best children's book of the past seventy years); the Whitbread (now Costa) Award for The Amber Spyglass; a Booker Prize long-list nomination (The Amber Spyglass); Parents' Choice Gold Awards (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass); and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, in honor of his body of work. In 2004, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

It has recently been announced that The Book of Dust, the much anticipated new book from Mr. Pullman, also set in the world of His Dark Materials, will be published as a major work in three parts, with the first part to arrive in October 2017.

Philip Pullman is the author of many other much-lauded novels. Other volumes related to His Dark Materials: Lyra's Oxford, Once Upon a Time in the North, and The Collectors. For younger readers: I Was a Rat!; Count Karlstein; Two Crafty Criminals; Spring-Heeled Jack, and The Scarecrow and His Servant. For older readers: the Sally Lockhart quartet: The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well, and The Tin Princess; The White Mercedes; and The Broken Bridge.

Philip Pullman lives in Oxford, England. To learn more, please visit philip-pullman.com and hisdarkmaterials.com. Or follow him on Twitter at @PhilipPullman.