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

9/10 I enjoyed this book immensely, more so than the first, which I think is how it should be.

The sequel to Northern Lights, this is the second book in the 'His Dark Materials' Trilogy and introduces the character of Will Parry, a young boy who lives in Oxford (our world) with his ailing and increasingly confused mother and now on the run from a number of 'men in black' who seem to be searching for some letters sent from his missing explorer father, whom Will and his mother has not seen or heard from for years. After a scuffle with these mystery men, when they break into Will's home, one of the agents is accidentally killed and now Will must run for his life and try to find his father in order to help him and his mother. With his mother placed in the care of his old piano teacher Will ventures off and soon stumbles across a window to another world. Cittigazze is the City he stumbles across; but all is not well here, the place is deserted apart from a small, wild band of children who talk of spectres chasing away the adults. It is here he meets Lyra Belacqua, our heroine from the first book, who has traveled through the window from her world through the Northern Lights. Lyra has her Althiometer stolen and must retrieve something call the Subtle Knife in order to get it back. It soon becomes clear her and Will's meeting is not merely coincidence as Will becomes the successor to the previous owner of the Subtle Knife, which was made and resides in the City of Citigazze and is the key to opening an infinite number of windows to an infinite number of other worlds.

Now they must find Will's father in order to put things right in Will's world and help his mother, but Mrs Coulter, who Lyra has already learnt is her real but not naturally maternal mother, has other plans for Lyra and is determined to destroy her. With the help of the witches and now also angels, Will and Lyra set off on this new and very dangerous quest.

"Will heard a hideous crack, and didn't stop to wonder about it. Clutching the writing case, he swung himself down the banister, leaping over the man's body that lay twitching and crumpled at the foot of the flight, seized the tattered tote bag from the table, and was out of the front door and away before the other man could do more than come out of the living room and stare."

I enjoyed this book immensely, more so than the first, which I think is how it should be with a sequel. The character of Lyra continues to develop, with the logical and mature Will at her side, whom Lyra admires and looks up to but would never admit. Lyra at first is almost repulsed by this new character as he comes from a world where you can not see a persons daemon, unlike her own dear Pan. But Pullman assures the reader that although we might not be able to see our daemon in this world, we do indeed have one, which is a lovely bit of fantasy for children (and Adults) to wonder what their own daemon might be. Mrs Coulter continues as the cold hearted anti-heroine who you just love to hate and her own daemon is as spiteful and cruel as ever. The other, by now much loved, characters such as Iorek Byrnison and Lee Scorsby are here, woven into the plots lines as the two main characters of Will and Lyra jump from world to world, giving comfortable and familiar territory in a very fast paced and ever changing story. 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.

Review by

3 positive reader review(s) for The Subtle Knife

61 positive reader review(s) in total for the His Dark Materials series


Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series

Northern Lights

His Dark Materials: Book 1

The Subtle Knife

His Dark Materials: Book 2

The Amber Spyglass

His Dark Materials: Book 3

The Subtle Knife reader reviews

from Russia

A fabulous book, based upon my reading. I prefer The Subtle Knife much more than Northern Lights. It continues the story of Lyra, but adds to it with new characters and adventures.

from Bridgend

A good end to a good series. I must admit I was surprised by the ending! Well worth a read......

from Isle of Man

Northern Lights was good, this is even better! We have all our favourite characters from the first book and are introduced to new one's as we go along, one of whom is Will. This is a wonderful, fast-paced story that follows on nicely from Northern Lights and sets the scene perfectly for The Amber Spyglass. It's best to read Northern Lights first or else you may find certain things not making sense and this may take away from the enjoyment you get from it.

9/10 from 4 reviews

Write a reader review

Your rating out of 10

More reviews of Philip Pullman books

Books you may also enjoy

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L Frank Baum

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Return To Allapatria

Shelley E Parker


Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

Eye Of Osiris

AB Shires

Following reviews

The Gunslinger

Stephen King

The Dragonbone Chair

Tad Williams

The Last Guardian

David Gemmell

Magicians Gambit

David Eddings

Castle Of Wizardry

David Eddings


Garth Nix