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Book Review of 'The Subtle Knife' by Philip Pullman

I am a homemaker, mother and a wife. I have a passion for books. I always like to know about different books and love to read them.

About the Author and the Book

The Subtle Knife is the second book of the trilogy – His Dark Materials. The trilogy is written by Sir Philip Pullman. As I mentioned in my earlier review of the first book of this trilogy (Northern Lights), Philip Pullman is well known for his writings for children and young adults. His stories are very influential and he is known as one of the world’s most acclaimed writers. He was offered a knighthood in the year 2019 and his trilogy ‘His Dark Materials’ won several awards.

The Subtle Knife is one of the bestselling fantasies and the book on its own has also won many awards. This book was first published in the year 1997 in the UK by the publishers Scholastic. The book is written for the ages 11+.



The story of this book is in continuation of the first book of the trilogy ‘Northern Lights’ with the introduction of a few more characters. In this book, the author has talked about three different worlds existing side by side.

Will, a twelve-year-old boy accidentally kills a man. His mother is not well and his father, who is an explorer, is missing for the past several years. Will is on the run to find his father and is also hiding from the police. Unintentionally, he enters a completely different world, where he meets Lyra (the main character of the previous book ‘Northern Lights). Lyra is also new to this world. So, there are three worlds, one of Lyra, one this new one, and one of Will (which is ours).

Lyra and Will find, that in this new world, there are no adults but only children. They go back to Will’s world, as Lyra wants to know more about ‘Dust’ from Will’s world. There, she meets a rich man who steals her alethiometer. This alethiometer is very important for Lyra as it can tell a true answer to any of her questions. This rich man puts a condition to Will and Lyra that if they want alethiometer back, they have to bring him a Subtle Knife from the new world as he can’t go there.

On the other hand, the witches from Lyra’s world are very worried about the safety of Lyra and they all plan to find her. Lee Scoresby, who also helped Lyra once, is also worried about her. He goes to find a person called Mr. Grumman, who he thinks came to his world long ago and possesses an object that can protect a person from any danger. Mr. Scoresby wants to get that object and give it to Lyra.

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Now, what is this Subtle Knife and why is it so important? Will Lyra be able to get her alethiometer back? Where is Will’s father? Is he dead or alive? Will he be able to find him? Are witches and Mr. Scoresby going to get successful in their search?

For answers to all the above questions, readers will have to read the book.

The Blurb (on the back of the book)


My Views

This book has maintained the high standards set by the first book. The imagination of the author is noteworthy. Language is very proficient. There is a lot of detail that brings the scenes in front of your eyes. The main characters are dauntless. The introduction of new characters has given freshness to the book. The author has shown complete control of the story and has got successful in bringing everything together. However, the story is not fully finished. For that, you have to read the third book.

What I disliked about this book is that the first book was mainly concentrated on Lyra. Lyra was a very strong character in the story, whereas, in this book, Will has become more important than Lyra. Lyra remains the part of the whole story but the spotlight is more on the Will.

What I liked a lot is that the moment you think that it is getting a bit slow, certain action grips you and immerse you completely back in the book and then you feel like reading more.

Overall, the book is intense and powerful. I would recommend it for ages 12+

© 2022 SD Mistry

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