The Subtle Knife

The Subtle Knife

Book - 1998
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Random House, Inc.
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 Æsahættr, the knife that will cut ANYTHING. What can it mean to be the bearer of such an instrument?
***** Just announced! THE BOOK OF DUST, the long-awaited new work from Philip Pullman, set in the world of His Dark Materials, will be published as a work in three parts, with the first volume to arrive in October 2017! *****


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

Baker & Taylor
As the boundaries between worlds begin to dissolve, Lyra and her daemon help Will Parry in his search for his father and for a powerful, magical knife.

Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, 1998, c1997
ISBN: 9780440418337
9780345413369
9780375823466
Branch Call Number: YA FANTASY PUL
Characteristics: 288 p. ;,18 cm.

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t
teresadao
Aug 17, 2015

The first book was better, with more of Lyra's world.

The Subtle Knife really offended me because of all the religious references... definitely agree with rene (below).

In addition, darker and less action mostly because of the prescence in "our" world.

redban Apr 07, 2015

Truly a classic trilogy. Even better, it can be enjoyed in adolescence and as an adult, so reading it again as an adult now brings nostalgia AND intrigue (still!). Very few fictions deserve such accolades, this one is a masterpiece!

And I agree, this book does get darker with the introduction of Will. The third book evens things out.

fergusonfan Jul 28, 2014

I enjoyed this more than the Golden Compass. It doesn't have quite as many plot twists as the first book. Lyra and Will are the main characters. Lord Asriel is a minor character in this,as is Mrs. Coulter.

formrfarmr2011 Jul 14, 2014

This is the second book in the series; and much darker than the first. The idea of Dust is intriguing, but I did not enjoy this one as much as The Golden Compass.

r
rene1951
Mar 31, 2014

The first volume of this trilogy was made into a movie but not this second volume, nor the third. This volume or, presumably, the third volume would be considered sacriligious by most, (I believe) Christian, possibly also Islamic and Jewish Fundemantalists.

iLoveLibraries0_0 Oct 12, 2012

Another entertaining work of fiction from Philip Pullman.

This book goes much deeper into the author's views on Christianity, and Catholicism (not actually named) more specifically. Depending on what your own beleifs are, you might need to pull yourself out of this book for a moment and take a breather before continueing in certain parts.

narutouzumaki485 Jul 21, 2012

great for summer reading

l
LaurenAHHH
Jul 01, 2012

This is one of those books that are so good, I wish multiple places, characters, and items in it were real. Great story.

f
freeflyer
Apr 30, 2012

This was super great and I loved iy. The story between Lyra and everything around her was amazing and I couldn't get enough of it!

2
22950006703433
Oct 30, 2011

I loved this book! I think it might even have been better than the first. I did miss ioerek because he was a very interesting character. Will really made up for that though.

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b
black_rabbit_165
Aug 10, 2015

black_rabbit_165 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

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freeflyer
Apr 30, 2012

freeflyer thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

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Japanda
Nov 07, 2007

Japanda thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

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mishamurali
Aug 04, 2014

"I found folly everywhere, but there were grains of wisdom in every stream of it.”

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