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4.7 out of 5 stars291
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 7 December 2005
I'm normally reluctant to give 5 stars as overusage makes truly classic books difficult to differentiate, particularly when the book is part of an all-too-common trilogy. However I had no qualms about doing it here.
The Subtle Knife develops the main character Lyra from her adventures and early path to maturity in the Northern Lights and introduces her key comrade Will, as they battle together against and with forces they do not understand.
The story line is tight, well structured and flows at a remarkable pace. The way in which Pullman brings modern theories of Physics into an adventure story is quite an achievement.
A wonderful read.
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on 7 February 2003
When the three parts of a trilogy form such a unity as in His Dark Materials it is perhaps a bit rash to compare them too closely but, like Star Wars, the middle is the best. Although perhaps lacking some of the darkness and sheer imaginative verve of the Amber Spyglass The Subtle Knife still delivers more overall. This is the most sinister book of the three and the most satisfying. The canvass is much more expansive then the Northern Lights but does not yet lose it self somewhat in the infinite splendour of the last book.
This is also our first introduction to Will, who provides an excellent foil for Lyra and is a wholly darker and more complex character. It is through Will and his discovery of the eponymous knife that the plot takes shape and that all the ideas of the whole trilogy finally come to be hung. The fact that Pullman's big ideas are still subsumed and mysterious also sets this book above its successor. The section in the Torre degli Angeli is the most gloriously sinister of the trilogy. The hatred of the children Paulo and Angelica, though almost incidental to the plot, gives a real bite to the central section of the book that is more disturbing then the metaphysical terrors of the Amber Spyglass.
Like Empire Strikes Back though the end is necessarily weak. I was lucky enough to have the next volume to hand and so could just plough straight on. Otherwise this leaves you hanging in mid air with many loose threads still flapping around. That said there is a denouement of sorts when Will finally meets his father, again just like Empire, but that doesn't go all together as expected.
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on 9 June 2001
Let's just get this clear - I will read anything. I am never not in the middle of reading a book. Whenever I know I'm nearly at the end of one book, I go out and buy another. I can't stand not having a book to read. Let's get another thing clear - I'm only thirteen, so adults reading this might not want to read my opinion - that's fine by me. Ok.
I have all the Harry Potter books, and my friend recommended Northern Lights to me because she said it was like a girl power equivalent to Harry Potter. I thought that sounded pretty cool, so I gave it a go. I realised that it is nothing like Harry Potter at all! Harry Potter is a *normal* boy in *our* world doing *normal* stuff with a twist of magic. The "His Dark Materials" trilogy is set mainly in *fantasy* worlds, but I suppose that you could say Lyra is kind of normal. Apart from the fact that she has a little Daemon called Pantalaimon. In fact, to her a daemon is normal - apparently seeing somebody without a daemon is like seeing somebody without a head - that's the kind of thing that makes this trilogy good.
This particular book is better than Northern Lights, in my opinion. There's a boy and a girl (Lyra and Will). They both come from different worlds - but they're kind of like parallel universes - there is an Oxford in Lyra's world, but it has certain features that are different, such as the aforementioned daemons and a certain Jordan College, which is not at the *real* Oxford Uni. Then there's ANOTHER world which is totally different. Things called spectres haunt and drown the souls of the adults, but the kids are unaffected. How creepy? And you can hear angels - and there are witches... It's all very creepy, which is v. cool.
I would recommend this to anybody who enjoyed Harry Potter, but thinks they are growing out of him. There are some really clever twists, and it deals with emotions and tragedy a lot more than Harry Potter does. I don't know why Philip Pullman isn't getting the coverage that J. K. Rowling is. In my opinion he's a much much better writer. It amazes me how he can know exactly how a little girl actually feels - and the books are so imaginative, you'd think he comes from Lyra's world!
And one more thing - look out for some seriously wicked names - Lyra Belacqua (or Silvertongue as she has now been christened) is a lot more exciting than Harry Potter, or Cornelius Fudge.
Ok, I hope you read it, cos I can't begin to tell you how good it is - you really need to see it to believe it!
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on 19 October 2006
First of all, I'd like to say -- I ADORE Philip Pullman!! He is one of the best authors, especially when it comes to children's books....

Lyra has crossed the bridge leading to another world. She comes to Citagazze, a strange place where 'Specters' keep the adult inhabitants in constant fear of having the pleasure of life and your soul "eaten"

It is also about Will, with his scared beloved mother, and about his father, who has disappeared. Strange men searches for a map Will knows about, but hasn't found yet (it is hidden in his house) But when he does, he must flee. He meets Lyra in Citagazze, and they become companions.

In this new adventure about Lyra, and about Will, and about Dust, many new -- and old -- characters are involved. It is about Lord Asriel's war against The Athority - God - and about Mrs Coulter's many sides. But mostly, about Lyra and her adventures. I promise, this book, the whole trilogy, is many times WORTH its awards. Undoubtadly, this is the best book ever written suited for children.
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on 22 September 2001
When I finished the prequel to this book, I knew that I must get this. I hoped that this would be as good as "Northern Lights". I was not let down. The end of Northern Lights finished at a real cliff-hanger... The book begins with an unknown character to us, Will taking his mother to see a neibour. Will as you will notice lives in a very different world to Lyra's. One that I think we will all be familyar with. Soon Will climbs trough a magic window and is taken to a different world... Soon he meets up with Lyra Silvertounge a girl with a destiny. Lyra is amazed when she steps into the Oxford that she doesnt know, and is amazed by all the cars and lorrys. They are soon launched into a thrilling quest against good and evil, and discover the mystery of the legendery subtle life. Like its prequel this ends at a real cliff hanger, but to find out what that cliff hanger is..... You will have to read the book yourself. This is why I award this astonishing book 5 stars.
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on 6 March 2009
I really enjoyed Northern lights and couldn't see how Pullman would be able to make the sequel much better, but I'm glad to say he did. I thought The Subtle Knife was far better.

Unlike some reviewers I really enjoyed the fact that the novel focuses on Will, and other characters, rather than just solely Lyra. Although I like Lyra I don't think she's enough of a character to hold a whole series on her own so I really enjoyed this aspect of it.

One of the things that irritated me slightly in Northern Lights was Lyra's ability to solve everything immediately and not to get anything wrong. This is somewhat rectified in The Subtle Knife where both Will and Lyra make mistakes, making them far more rounded, and less irritating characters I thought!

I loved the idea of being able to enter and leave other worlds and I can't wait to read The Amber Spyglass to see how Pullman develops this idea further. The idea that characters in one world can be different characters in another was also intriguing, and adds to the level of unsureness (is that a word?) that is throughout the series.

I'd recommend this series to teenagers and maybe more mature, but younger, children- although start with Northern Lights first as otherwise you'll be totally confused!
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on 2 September 2001
Phillp Pullmans the Subtle Knife is an excellent sequel to his first book Northern Lights.
I found it very easy to get into and interesting right from the start. In this book another few characters are introduced such as Will who comes from our world and John Parry also from our world. It also enters another world where the people are haunted by strange things- a bit like ghost.
I found the ending rather disappointing because not all of the mysteries were explained but I suppose that is what makes you long for the next book which I am going to read as soon as Amazon send it to me!
I would recommend this book for children aged 11-14 because some of the concepts are pretty hard to grasp. Such as the idea of the spectres who haunt people and feed on "demons". To us this sounds very weird and sinister but demons in this book are not evil in any way but completely different beings to our understandings of demons.
So as you can see-in the world of this book many things are different to our world so younger children may not be able to understand it as well as 12-14 year olds.
Thanks and get the book-its really great!
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on 27 August 2000
I picked up Northern Lights (the first book of the trilogy) in a book shop about 7 or 8 months ago, and ever since then I have been hooked. I went on to read thism the Subtle Knife, and have been impatiantly awaiting the arrival of the Amber Spyglass for, oh it seems like years. The books are Harry Potter for older readers, with all of the mystery and adventure of JK Rowling - and a lot more of the same, as well as deceit, wickedness and a plot with no tangles in it - you never get caught up. I am fighting against myself over whether to buy the new book in hardback, so i can read it as quickly as possible, or whether to wait and have all three in a matching set. Arrggghh...decisions! I lent the first two books to loads of my friends and everyone I know loved them! So many people have read and re-read them that they are decidedly tattered and dog-eared - but i still can't stop reading them! Admittedly, Northern Lights is better than the Subtle Knife, because of the pure fantasy (whereas Subtle Knife is set partly in our own world, and partly in Lyra's and Cittagazze, Northern Lights is set entirely in Lyra's world - a distrted mirror view of our own) but both books leave you wanting more. Probably the best books for anyone of any agte from about 13.
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on 14 February 2007
I can say without any doubt, that Northern Lights, together with the other two books in the trilogy (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass)are the best books I have ever read. (And I have read quite a lot!)

Each day, I couldn't wait to get on the tube and read the continuing adventure of Lyra et al.

It is enchanting from start to finish. And for my mind makes anything else you read afterwards seem highly inferior.

You are taken completely out of yourself. Yet you are also able to ponder the wider meanings of it all. And with so many twists and turns, Pullman as a writer is always several steps ahead of where you think things are going.

From the moment I finished the last page of the last book in the trilogy, (yesterday) I wanted to pick up Northern lights and read them all again. I cannot imagine anyone not liking these books. Even for those who have not read fantasy novels before. They are original, profound, gripping and simply breathtaking in places.

Frankly I envy anyone reading this trilogy for the first time!
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on 5 January 2001
Those of you who have read Phillip Pullman's triumph 'Northern Lights' will not be disappointed with it's sequel'The Subtle Knife'.
Following on from where we left off, Lyra Silvertongue is now joined by Will, a young boy from our world. Together they enter an altogether new dimension, Cittagazze, only to find evil there in the form of the Spectres.... Once in posession of the Subtle Knife and with the witches to guide them, they realise that the fate of worlds is in their hands. Lyra's thirst for knowledge of 'Dust' and Will's quest to find his long lost father will soon have you gripped.
We also see the return of Pantalaimon, Lee Scoresby, Mrs Coulter and Lord Asriel alongside new and exciting characters!
Phillip Pullman's writing is complex and entralling, this novel had me continually guessing what could possibly happen next! Pullman paints landscapes with beautiful colours, rich in detail and shows immense imagination. His characters are fully rounded with complete personalities that never falter.
Now Lyra and Will have realised that they hold destiny in their hands... This trilogy is concluded with 'The Amber Spyglass' in spectacular fashion!
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