book review

So I just read the Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman and…

I really didn’t like it much. So a couple of weeks ago I wrote a review of Northern Lights/Golden compass by Philip Pullman and just finished the second one in the series, the Subtle Knife, so I thought today was a good day to write a review on that one. 

She had asked: What is he? A friend or an enemy? The alethiometer answered: He is a murderer. When she saw the answer, she relaxed at once.

Lyra finds herself in a shimmering, haunted otherworld – Cittàgazze, where soul-eating Spectres 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.

Much like I said in the first one I really struggled with the book. I do know why loads of people love this series, I can imagine if this book speaks to you on any level you’ll love it, and there are bits of it that I do like. But I don’t think I would personally ever recommend this series to anyone unless the book came up in conversation. 

But even with this being said I do want to mention some of the things I like about this book. The world building is really well done, giving you a lot to work on and allowing your imagination to grow. The ideas are done well too, things like the armoured bear and the stuff with sir charles. (Honestly no idea why Sir Charles appealed to me so much but he really did.)

But now for the reasons I didn’t like it. The main issue I have with this series is around the character Lyra and the compass itself. Now before I go on I wanna say that I’m currently up to the beginning of the 3rd book in this series and I have a long way to go so some things may change and some things may be explained more, so if for whatever reason a plot point or event explains some of the things I talk about than I am more than happy to be called out on this. 

Lyra, to me, is in some ways a Mary Sue character. Wikipedia says A Mary Sue is a generic name for any fictional character who is so competent or perfect that this appears absurd, even in the context of the fictional setting. 

I don’t think she’s a Mary Sue through her own doing though, more the pedestal that other characters put her on. There’s a couple of points throughout the book when she’s spoken about in such a way that I just don’t see. Lee Scoresby says ‘I thought I’d be helping Lyra. I ain’t never seen a child like that. If I had a daughter of my own, I would hope she’d be half as strong and brave and good.’ in the chapter called The Shaman and later Ruta Skadi says ‘If I had borne his child, what a witch she would be! A queen of queens.’ and even after that Scoresby mentions wanting her as a daughter again. I know Lyra is of importance to the story and she’s special because she can read the compass but I still don’t think she warrants this praise. 

Now onto the compass itself. This is a deus ex machina that isn’t even written well! Lyra is given this amazing instrument that she could use to solve all their issues in seconds but she just won’t because Will says! I mean I know she wants him to trust her and I understand that’s not totally how the compass works but it still annoys me to no end. 

I was warned the 2nd book isn’t as good as the 1st or 3rd but honestly this isn’t a series I’m enjoying. Maybe this last one will make it all make sense though! Lets see. 

Check out my last blog post here where I went through how I write my blog posts and maybe consider subscribing to my newsletter on the right.

Find your local independent bookshop here

Or on Abebooks here