THE SUBTLE KNIFE, Philip Pullman, 326pages, $Prices vary at Amazon
Will Parry has to get his mother to safety. There are men trying to find out whether his father, an explorer lost somewhere in the north pole, has been in contact. With each visit they get more aggressive and Will’s mother is suffering from mental illness. With her at last sheltered secretly and safely with his old piano teacher, Will returns home to search for the green leather case his mother has hidden that contains his fathers letters: He knows the letter case is what they’re looking for.
Frustrated and tired he crawls into bed. When he finally falls asleep, he’s suddenly awakened by the knowledge of where she must have hidden it, and by the sound of someone breaking into the house. He finds the green leather case, and one of the intruders ends up dead at the bottom of the stairs. Will is now a fugitive and his flight leads him to a strange discovery: There’s a disturbance in the air into which a cat disappears. When he
follows, he discovers himself in the abandoned city of Cittagazze. He also discovers a wildcat of a girl named Lyra who just like him is a murderer. They soon discover their destinies are tied together.
Between them they navigate the horrors of this strange world devoid of adults whose souls have been eaten away by the Specters, while high in the Torre degli Angeli, the Tower of Angels, the cause of this world’s deathly ills awaits Will to command it: A knife capable of cutting into parallel worlds.
Just as in “The Golden Compass” before it, Lyra and her new friend must navigate two worlds of greedy and power hungry villains, government officials whose intentions toward them are unclear, and murderous gangs of parentless children and soul eating spirits in order to discover the roles they are to play in a war between God and his angels.
Philip Pullman gives us once again a saga full of richly written characters whose only deficiencies are that their emotional relationships might have been written a little more deeply. Never the less the plot continues its steady heart pounding crescendo begun in the first book, as Lyra is guided by angels and guardian witches so that she may take her place in a new order between Earth and the Heavenly realms.
We love this series of books and highly recommend it to anyone from highly intelligent thirteen year-olds who need a break from tedious school work to adults who need an adventurous break from tedious lives. This is some of the best writing in the genre.