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Compared to The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife is tamer in terms of battle and gory scenes but nevertheless a stunning momentum to unravel the climax of the whole story (which I hope would be magnificently delivered in the third book). It mostly covered the life of young Will and how from mistrust, he has grown to care for Lyra and considered her as his best friend. His boldness and display of maturity even at the face of murder and bizarre happening is no mean feat for a child of 12. And that boundless love for his mother is the one thing that I could never forget about this novel. It was tender and warm, a focal point to maintain heart and humanity for the disastrous ongoings in Philip Pullman’s world.
Meanwhile, Lyra is even more adorable in The Subtle Knife, a beacon of spontaneity and candidness yet remained valiant against all odds. And even better is that we can see a significant difference in Lyra’s personality in this book. She’s slowly maturing, finally realizing that there’s a bigger world out there which needs more attention than the petty things she usually stick her nose with.
In this book, we are given another glimpse of our favorite characters from Lee Scoresby to Serafina Pekkala and the villains we come to hate for their subtleties like Mrs. Coulter for example. Other creepy creatures have also been introduced in the Subtle Knife which I think created a perfect entourage to carry the story of His Dark Materials, the Specters which really scared the hell out of me.
The Subtle Knife’s steampunk is a pure genius. Imagine an ordinary looking knife which can cut through windows in this world to reveal another. This totally blew me off my feet. Worlds connected to the other worlds and the subtle knife’s important role to all of what is happening is simply unbelievable.
The plot of the Subtle Knife is even more unexpected as it gradually provides clear accounts of the nature of Dust, why Lord Asriel was hellbent on going to the beyond, the Church’s desperation in putting a stop to those who wanted to study Dust and why Lyra’s world was spinning out of control. The Subtle Knife touches the most sacred aspect of man’s beginning and it challenges faith itself, mixing fantasy and theology.
While quite satisfied, I have however dislikes about this book. One is that, Philip immediately killed two necessary characters which I think we need to know more about. Second, where was Iorek Byrnison and why is he suddenly missing? Third, where are the gyptians, Lord Faa and Farder Coram? They were very important characters and their fame in this book suddenly plummeted like a crashing airplane.
All in all, The Subtle Knife, as the other reviews say, is a perfect classic in the making.