Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Subtle Knife


Book Title: The Subtle Knife
Author: Philip Pullman
Series: His Dark Materials #2
Date Started: October 23rd 2017
Date Completed: November 1st 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Science Fiction
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Four Star
Final Rating: Four stars

When I reread Northern Lights I was a little disappointed that it didn't quite live up to what I remembered as a child. Honestly, I can't actually remember if I ever read the whole series as books - I listened to the radio plays several times over - but I do remember that The Subtle Knife was always my favourite.

The further you go into this series, the more you realise how intimately everything is planned and laid in place. Every detail is part of that plan. It's one massive story split into three parts; arguably each book can't stand totally alone on its own because everything's tied so closely together. Judge that as you will, but I think the feat of proper focus and vision across what must be around 1,000 pages to tell one story is amazing. Pullman knows exactly what he's doing every step of the way, and as the reader you can feel that and let yourself fall in and enjoy the ride.

The Subtle Knife itself actually takes place over a short period of time, but a lot happens in it. These books are a lot slower burning than I remember. I can see why a lot of my peers didn't get hooked on these when they were younger. As magical as they are at that age, it does take its time for things to happen and that can turn some readers off. But I think, in the grand scheme of things, it's all the better for it. We needed the build-up of the first book to understand the gravity of the situation the characters are now in. Jumping between the worlds and that exploration is so much more exciting now that we've experienced being in only a single world: we're stepping out of that comfort zone with Lyra and it makes it all the more exciting.

I like Will a lot. As Much as I love Lyra she can be a brat sometimes. That little annoying twinge I found with her when rereading Northern Lights is definitely a big part of her character, but Will balances her out. He doesn't change her, but he brings out a more patient side. And she likewise pushes him to do bolder things than if he was alone. They work very well as a pair, and the story is better off for it.

It's not quite as magical as I remember, but still very very good. I pick up on a lot more of the intelligence underneath the symbolism and plot these days, and while I appreciate it I think it's funny how the story points were the only thing that really filtered down to me when I was younger. But that is, of course, what makes a brilliant children's book, and why His Dark Materials is such an important series of books. It challenges a lot of things without readers even noticing, and promotes freedom, intelligence and bravery under harmful authority. They're good books to be modern classics.

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