Synopses & Reviews
Published in 40 countries, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy – The Golden Compass
, The Subtle Knife
, and The Amber Spyglass
– has graced the New York Times
, Wall Street Journal
, San Francisco Chronicle
, Book Sense
, and Publishers Weekly
The Golden Compass forms the first part of a story in three volumes. The first volume is set in a world like ours, but different in many ways. The second volume is set partly in the world we know. The third moves between many worlds.
In The Golden Compass, readers meet 11-year-old Lyra Belacqua, a precocious orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England. It quickly becomes clear that Lyra's Oxford is not precisely like our own—nor is her world. In Lyra's world, everyone has a personal dæmon, a lifelong animal familiar. This is a world in which science, theology and magic are closely intertwined.
The Subtle Knife is the second part of the trilogy that began with The Golden Compass. That first book was set in a world like ours, but different. This book begins in our own world.
In The Subtle Knife, readers are introduced to Will Parry, a young boy living in modern-day Oxford, England. Will is only twelve years old, but he bears the responsibilities of an adult. Following the disappearance of his explorer-father, John Parry, during an expedition in the North, Will became parent, provider and protector to his frail, confused mother. And it's in protecting her that he becomes a murderer, too: he accidentally kills a man who breaks into their home to steal valuable letters written by John Parry. After placing his mother in the care of a kind friend, Will takes those letters and sets off to discover the truth about his father.
The Amber Spyglass brings the intrigue of The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife to a heartstopping close, marking the third and final volume as the most powerful of the trilogy. Along with the return of Lyra, Will, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, Dr. Mary Malone, and Iorek Byrnison the armored bear, The Amber Spyglass introduces a host of new characters: the Mulefa, mysterious wheeled creatures with the power to see Dust; Gallivespian Lord Roke, a hand-high spy-master to Lord Asriel; and Metatron, a fierce and mighty angel. And this final volume brings startling revelations, too: the painful price Lyra must pay to walk through the land of the dead, the haunting power of Dr. Malone's amber spyglass, and the names of who will live—and who will die—for love. And all the while, war rages with the Kingdom of Heaven, a brutal battle that—in its shocking outcome—will reveal the secret of Dust.
"Though this second volume almost succumbs to middle book syndrome, Pullman...avoids it, adroitly, by force of theme....Phillip Pullman measures up; his work is devilishly inventive....Put Philip Pullman on the shelf with Ursula K. LeGuin, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander..." Gregory Maguire, The New York Times Book Review
"Nearly as good as its predecessor....Many fantasy writers fail to appeal to a more general audience because they get so caught up in invention that they neglect to create compelling and complicated characters. Pullman strikes an excellent balance between imagination and verisimilitude, and his major characters are as interesting and human as anyone we would meet in a decent realistic novel.....The Golden Compass has a more original structure than this book does, but Pullman is a skillful writer who doesn't rely on stock elements to do his work for him, using them instead in creative and unexpected ways. Indeed the overarching moral and religious pattern, once revealed, is so shockingly subversive that I was amazed and intrigued to find it in a mainstream novel for children." Rachel Pastan, Salon.com
"As in the first book, the stakes are high and the action is rapid and occasionally violent....The Subtle Knife ends with even more of a cliff-hanger than The Golden Compass, and fans will eagerly await book three for the final resolution." School Library Journal
"The powerful second installment....[V]intage Pullman..." Kirkus Reviews
"Just as quick-moving and unputdownable as [The Golden Compass]....The mysteries deepen and the wonders grow even more extravagant." The Washington Post Book World
"These first two volumes of [the] His Dark Materials trilogy are, simply, magnificent. Pullman has the power of a master fantasist. He imbues an age-old classical struggle with a new mythic vision, the depth and realization of which are staggering." Jennifer Fakolt, VOYA
The universe has broken wide, and Lyra's friend lies dead. Desperate for answers and set on revenge, Lyra bursts into a new world in pursuit of his killer. Instead, she finds Will, just twelve years old and already a murderer himself. He's on a quest as fierce as Lyra's, and together they strike out into this sunlit otherworld.
On this journey marked by danger, Will and Lyra forge ahead. But with every step and each new horror, they move closer to the greatest threat of all and the shattering truth of their own destiny.
In this stunning sequel to The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman continues the His Dark Materials trilogy and confirms it as an undoubted and enduring classic.
In Book II of the Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra finds herself in a shimmering, haunted otherworld. New cover art and chapter-opening illustrations by Pullman himself highlight this new paperback edition.
In this stunning sequel to The Golden Compass,
the intrepid Lyra finds herself in a shimmering, haunted otherworld—Cittagazze, where soul-eating Specters stalk the streets and wingbeats of distant angels sound against the sky. But she is not without allies: twelve-year-old Will Parry, fleeing for his life after taking another's, has also stumbled into this strange new realm.
On a perilous journey from world to world, Lyra and Will uncover a deadly secret: an object of extraordinary and devastating power. And with every step, they move closer to an even greater threat--and the shattering truth of their own destiny.
This Yearling paperback edition contains 17 pages of bonus material: the secret letters and notes of Dr. Stanislaus Grumman. It also features chapter-opening artwork by Philip Pullman.
We are releasing an updated trade-paper box set of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy with eye-catching new art from Cliff Nielsen. With glowing special effects, the new trade paperback editions will stand out on the shelves among other YA bestsellers and draw in new Pullman fans.
Published in 50 countries with over 22 million copies sold, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass are renowned for their engrossing storytelling and epic scope. These modern classics are must-reads for every book lover.
His Dark Materials is the story of Lyra and Will, two ordinary children with extraordinary roles to play in a more-than-mortal battle that will impact all the worlds.
“The most magnificent fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings.” --The Oregonian
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
A Newsweek Top 100 Book of All Time
An Entertainment Weekly All-Time Greatest Novel
“The story gallops with ferocious momentum.” --The New York Times Book Review
“Pullman’s imagination soars. . . . A literary rollercoaster ride you won’t want to miss.” --The Boston Globe
“Destined to become a classic.” --Detroit Free Press
“The Subtle Knife is as absorbing and irresistible as The Golden Compass--and even more so, as powerful forces are set in motion. A brilliantly conceived work.” --Lloyd Alexander, author of the Prydain Chronicles, and Newbery Medalist for The High King
About the Author
Philip Pullman has won many distinguished prizes, including the Carnegie Medal for The Golden Compass
(and the reader-voted "Carnegie of Carnegies" for the best children's book of the past seventy years); the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award for The Amber Spyglass
; a Booker Prize long-list nomination (The Amber Spyglass
); Parents' Choice Gold Awards (The Subtle Knife
and The Amber Spyglass
); and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, in honor of his body of work. In 2004, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Philip Pullman is the author of many books for young readers, including two volumes related to the His Dark Materials trilogy: Lyra's Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North. He lives in Oxford, England. To learn more, please visit www.philip-pullman.com and www.hisdarkmaterials.com.
Reading Group Guide
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?