The Subtle Knife

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Yearling, 2001 - Juvenile Fiction - 326 pages
146 Reviews
1. What is wrong with Will's mother? Are her concerns real, imagined, or both? Why and how does Will protect her? 2. What does it mean when Lyra assumes Will's daemon is 'inside'? Do the people in Will's world, our world, have daemons at all? 3. Why does Will's being a murderer enable Lyra to trust him? What characters do Serafina Pekkala and Lee Scoresby decide to trust, and is their trust warranted? In what other ways does trust play an important role in this novel? 4. How has Will learned to make himself unnoticed by others? Relate this to the witches' ability to make themselves invisible. 5. How do the Shadows that communicate with Lyra through the computer relate to dark matter and/or Dust? If Lyra can understand the Shadows as she understands the alethiometer, then is the computer also acting as a truth-giving device? What is the real origin of the Shadows' messages? 6. On page 188, Giacomo Paradisi tells Will the rules for bearing the subtle knife. Why do you think Will must 'never open without closing'? What did Paradisi mean by 'a base purpose'? Compare these formal guidelines to the instinctive rules Lyra obeys when using the alethiometer. 7. Why is it significant that the possessors of the alethiometer and the subtle knife are children? What is the difference between innocence and experience? What has happened to Mrs. Coulter's solders who have undergone intercision? 8. Lord Asriel is mentioned several times throughout the story, yet we never directly see him. He is planning a war that he cannot win without an object that he does not know exists. What does Lord Asriel symbolize in The Subtle Knife ? 9. What did the 'Cave' mean when it told Dr. Malone that she must be 'the serpent'? Where do you think she is at the end of the story? Where is Lyra? 10. In what way can a knife that divides pathways between worlds and can sever bone, rock, and steel be called 'subtle'? 11. DISCUSSION TOPICS IF YOU HAVE READ THE GOLDEN COMPASS AND THE SUBTLE KNIFE In Book One, Lyra is clearly a leader. In Book Two, she seems to have become a follower, a servant to Will's cause. Who is more powerful, Will or Lyra? Whose cause is more important? Is it the same cause? 12. Is the 'psychic death' caused by severing the same as that caused by the Specters? Compare Tony Makarios and the servants at Bolvangar (Book One) to Tullio's actions after Will takes the subtle knife and the final thoughts of Lena Feldt (Book Two). Relate these to the 'natural' deaths suffered by Lee Scoresby and John Parry. 13. Armored bears, witches, severed children and adults, cliff-ghasts, Spectres, and angels are beings with spiritual qualities different from humans. Why does the authorintroduce so many creatures with alternative soul-states? 14. By the end of The Subtle Knife, we have learned that both Will's father, John Parry/Stanislaus Grumman, and Lyra's father, Lord Asriel, are powerful men who have traveled between worlds. Yet one is called a shaman while the other is preparing to be a general. What is the relationship between these two men? Compare it to the relationship between Will and Lyra. 15. The Golden Compass takes place in a 'closed' world where Lyra finds guidance through her newly-found alethiometer. In The Subtle Knife , boundaries between worlds have been broken, Lyra loses her alethiometer, and Will becomes the reluctant bearer of the knife. Explore the many parallels and opposites established between The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife . How is the dualistic imagery of Lyra's and Will's worlds counterpointed by Cittaágazze? 16. Citing a passage from John Miltons Paradise Lost , Philip Pullman has named his trilogy 'His Dark Materials.' How might this citation, and the novels' emerging themes, relate to the following quote: 'The prince of darkness is a gentleman.' - William Shakespeare (King Lear)

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ArkhamReviews - LibraryThing

The Subtle Knife was one of my favourite books as a teen (although I haven't read it in well over a decade) and it still largely stands the test of time. For a children's novel, it is hugely ambitious ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - OscarWilde87 - LibraryThing

The second installment in the His Dark Materials series, The Subtle Knife follows protagonist Lyra Silvertongue on her way to find out the truth about dust, a mysterious substance that seems to ... Read full review

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About the author (2001)

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 PrincessThe 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.