The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
(His Dark Materials, Book 2)

82%

19 Critic Reviews

Squeamish readers should beware: the narrative touches on such grisly topics as trepanning and genital mutilation. Nevertheless, the grandly exuberant storytelling is sure to enthrall.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

The spellbinding sequel to The Golden Compass, the modern fantasy classic that Entertainment Weekly named an "All-Time Greatest Novel" and Newsweek hailed as a "Top 100 Book of All Time," continues the epic adventure, catapulting readers between worlds, and toward a devastating discovery.

Lost in a new world, Lyra finds Will—a boy on the run, a murderer—a worthy and welcome ally. For this is a world where soul-eating Specters stalk the streets and witches share the skies with troops of angels.

Each is searching—Lyra for the meaning of Dark Matter, Will for his missing father—but what they find instead is a deadly secret, a knife of untold power. And neither Lyra nor Will suspects how tightly their lives, their loves, their destinies are bound together...until they are split apart.

A #1 New York Times Bestseller
Published in 40 Countries

“Just as quick-moving and unputdownable as The Golden Compass. . . . The mysteries deepen and the wonders grow even more extravagant.” —The Washington Post

“Pullman’s imagination soars . . . A literary rollercoaster ride you won’t want to miss.”—The Boston Globe

“The story gallops with ferocious momentum . . . Devilishly inventive.” —The New York Times Book Review
 

About Philip Pullman

See more books from this Author
PHILIP PULLMAN won the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in honor of the body of his work. His books include the internationally renowned His Dark Materials trilogy. Mr. Pullman lives with his wife in Oxford, England.
 
Published November 13, 2001 by Knopf Books for Young Readers. 304 pages
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Children's Books, Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure, Education & Reference. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Subtle Knife
All: 19 | Positive: 18 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 20 2015

Angels that bless and Specters that eat the wills of adults appear; tantalizing glimpses of the past and future abound; the whole is presented in a rush of sensuous detail that moves and entrances. Pullman has so intricately woven the textures of the two books...

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Dec 29 2015

Squeamish readers should beware: the narrative touches on such grisly topics as trepanning and genital mutilation. Nevertheless, the grandly exuberant storytelling is sure to enthrall.

Read Full Review of The Subtle Knife (His Dark Ma... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Phoenix on Aug 15 2011

Perfect, Pullman plays around with the king of description and steals his throne. Every sentence has a piece of suspense and joy in it. I would strongly recommend this vivid and great read which is the second book in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Phoenix on Aug 15 2011

Perfect, Pullman plays around with the king of description and steals his throne. Every sentence has a piece of suspense and joy in it.

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Examiner

Above average
Reviewed by Yumin Ye on Jan 03 2010

Both are destined for escape from murder and both are willing to stick together to find what they need. Imagine a knife that could cut a window in the air, into another world, another place that is so different from our world...Lyra and Will's journey isn't over. Don't forget that this is only the second novel in the trilogy.

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Teen Reads

Good
Reviewed by Tammy L. Currier on Nov 02 2015

In this stunning sequel, Philip Pullman's intentions become ever more clear, as he slowly reveals the connections between Dust, the bridges between worlds, angels, supreme beings, and cosmic forces; and takes on the very foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.

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SF Site

Good
Reviewed by Lela Olszewski on Dec 29 2015

Pullman's straightforward writing style gives a simple elegance to the book. This style reminds me of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy (although the books are dissimilar in plot and setting).

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Common Sense Media

Excellent
Reviewed by Matt Berman on Jan 01 1997

Nonstop action and stunning imagination make this a more-than-worthy sequel. In fact, these two elements make this even better than The Golden Compass, its astonishing predecessor...The author writes poetically, and with a scope of vision that goes far beyond that of ordinary fantasy...

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Curious Book Fans

Good
Reviewed by collingwood21 on Jul 20 2011

I feel confident in recommending The Subtle Knife to all readers aged 10 and over who enjoy a good fantasy adventure.

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Fantasy Book Review

Good
Reviewed by Amanda White on Mar 01 2012

I enjoyed this book immensely, more so than the first...The character of Lyra continues to develop, with the logical and mature Will at her side..Again, there are real instances of grief in this book and it is by no means all happy ever after, but this makes the story all the richer and more absorbing for it.

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Fyrefly's Book Blog

Good
Reviewed by fyrefly on Jan 02 2009

The Subtle Knife is so different from The Golden Compass, structure-wise, that the first time through I was more focused on following the story, and didn’t catch all of the complexities of the world(s) that Pullman builds. Dust, dark matter, conscious thought, angels, etc...

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Fantasy Faction

Good
Reviewed by KJ Braxton on Apr 08 2014

I was instantly intrigued by Pullman’s approach at opening with an entirely new set of characters. As well as new characters Pullman throws the reader into a new drama...The overall narrative of the trilogy is revealed in this book and it is epic and extreme, certainly not what you’d expect from a series written for children.

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SF Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Thomas M. Wagner. on May 01 2001

...The Subtle Knife continues the adventures of Lyra Belacqua in unexpected and often astonishing ways...Where the book really earns its stripes is in its stunning momentum...its breathless action scenes, and in its moral and philosophical depths, which it explores without a shred of didacticism.

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Eagle

Above average
Reviewed by Russ Allbery on Oct 30 2005

Despite a significantly different setting, it builds heavily on the previous book and should not be read out of sequence...This is not a bad book; I enjoyed it and finished it off in a day. It's just a letdown after The Golden Compass and isn't up to that standard of inventiveness and characterization.

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The Book Lover's Boudoir

Excellent
Reviewed by pamelascott30 on Aug 16 2013

The characterisation really takes off in The Subtle Knife. I felt I got to know Lyra a lot more. Pullman gives her room to breathe and develop. I really liked Will. He comes from a different world from Lyra and the world they find themselves in...The Subtle Knife is a great, compelling read.

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https://www.sfsite.com

Above average
Reviewed by Lela Olszewski on May 03 2014

In addition to unique worlds, fascinating characters, and emotionally powerful writing, the book has a variety of other exemplary qualities. I enjoyed the touches of humor that help relieve the tension generated by Lyra and Will's almost constant flight from danger.

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http://www.complete-review.com

Above average
on Aug 19 2015

The Subtle Knife is the middle book of a trilogy, and it depends very much on what came before -- and even more so on the promise of what is to come...The Subtle Knife offers some good adventures, and in the knife itself at least one brilliantly realised invention.

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Speculiction

Above average
Reviewed by Jesse on Dec 17 2012

Picking up events loosely where Northern Lights/The Golden Compass left off, the novel expands upon the first to include a variety of other worlds...In the end, The Subtle Knife goes a long way toward expanding Pullman’s world and defining the vision he set out to put into words.

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Rachel Ann Haley

Above average
Reviewed by RACHEL HANLEY on Mar 29 2013

THE SUBTLE KNIFE does put me in mind of middle book syndrome, but I hesitate to say that, because Pullman's slower-paced, simpler-plotted book still far exceeds most books you could pluck from the shelves at random. Measured alone, THE SUBTLE KNIFE is an intricate, adventure-packed story.

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Anthony Allsopp 14 Nov 2013

Rated the book as 5 out of 5

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