The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials: His Dark Materials by PHILIP PULLMANThe Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials: His Dark Materials by PHILIP PULLMAN

The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials: His Dark Materials


Paperback | May 22, 2001

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The spellbinding sequel to The Golden Compass, the modern fantasy classic that Entertainment Weekly named an "All-Time Greatest Novel" and Newsweek hailed as a "Top 100 Book of All Time," continues the epic adventure, catapulting readers between worlds, and toward a devastating discovery.

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
Published in 40 Countries

“Just as quick-moving and unputdownable as The Golden Compass. . . . The mysteries deepen and the wonders grow even more extravagant.” —The Washington Post

“Pullman’s imagination soars . . . A literary rollercoaster ride you won’t want to miss.”—The Boston Globe

“The story gallops with ferocious momentum . . . Devilishly inventive.” —The New York Times Book Review
PHILIP PULLMAN is one of the most acclaimed writers working today. He is best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass), which has been named one of the top 100 novels of all time by Newsweek and one of the all-time greatest novels by Entertainment Weekly. He has also won many d...
Title:The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials: His Dark MaterialsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 7.63 × 5.2 × 0.91 inPublished:May 22, 2001Publisher:Random House Children's BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:044041833X

ISBN - 13:9780440418337

Appropriate for ages: 9 - 12

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from I love this series, but slowest book This is my least favourite book in this series, but I still think this is a great series and worth reading if you enjoy YA/fantasy and world-building
Date published: 2018-02-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Needs more Lyra I found this to be more of a page-turner than the first one, but it also had less substance. I was also really disappointed with the way Lyra was just sidelined - and even spent a good deal of the story unconscious!
Date published: 2018-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I enjoyed this as much as an adult as I did a teen. It is well written and thought out, the detail and thought put into the book is stunning. I
Date published: 2018-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth Reading Again I'm reading this again having just finished The Book of Dust. Had forgotten how great the writing is and the creation of alternate/parallel universes. Pullman writes a gripping, tension-filled story.
Date published: 2018-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love this series The second book of the series does not disappoint. Fantastic.
Date published: 2017-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Only better with time I re-read this in anticipation of The Book of Dust, and it's just as good as I remember. These books grew with me; they were fun to read as a child, and meaningful and inspiring now. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-10-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not as good I read these books about 7 years ago and now I have listened to them again because I remembered that I enjoyed them and wanted to relive the experience. I did enjoy this second book although not as much as the first one. Will and Lyra were good characters and their adventures were interesting, however this book was much slower and I didn't feel as connected to it as I remember.
Date published: 2017-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Can't wait to read it again This is definitely a book that you'll want to re-read! An excellent sequel, and I can honestly say that its enjoyable to read as an adult as well!
Date published: 2017-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Subtle Knife Lyra is a great main character and this is an excellent sequel.
Date published: 2017-09-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from So good This series was fantastic! So insightful but fun at the same time! I highly recommend for all ages!
Date published: 2017-05-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another great book in the trilogy This addition to the story was great with many twists and turns in the plot that I did not see coming
Date published: 2017-04-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great followup I didn't enjoy this as much as I liked the first in the series, but It was still very enjoyable.
Date published: 2017-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really good! This was such a good book! #plumreview
Date published: 2017-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fabulous sequel Great sequel and a wonderful entry to the series. The writing is great.
Date published: 2016-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from another great one Book 2 of this series, could be read separately... another original and well written story, love it very much!
Date published: 2016-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Will This is a very solid second book, and it carries the momentum of the first very well despite featuring a different main character for the first part of the book. Will Parry is even more likeable than Lyra and readers will easily sympathize with him. Exciting and lots of fun.
Date published: 2016-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Subtle Knife Can't wait to start next book
Date published: 2014-05-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The weakest of the three I don't see the reason to have regular earth mixed on this story. it's a bridge chapter.
Date published: 2013-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Subtle Knife I finished this book and now I have to go and get the next book and I can't wait. There was some sadness in the last chapter and I sure was not expecting it even though I probably should have been prepared for something like this. The characters are so believable and some of them you get so angry at. The main characters will be a part of me until the series is finished. Usually after I finish a novel the story replays over and over until I start a new book.
Date published: 2013-02-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from cool story I really enjoyed the finish to this series. You need to take your time to understand everything that is going on in the story.
Date published: 2010-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fav out of the series i sya i liked this one the best it had a great story always had action and it had that je n'sais pas (if thats spelled correctly lol) i definately reccomend reading this even if you didn't like teh first one it is much rewarding and a great story :D
Date published: 2009-02-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from better than the first in the series This is the second book in His Dark Materials series. Lyra has found several new worlds and teams up with Will Parry. Lyra, at first finds herself in a world where adults are set upon by specters and rendered almost comatose. It is a haunting world in which the children are left to fend for themselves. She encounters Will who is in search of his father and has stumbled upon this world through a rift. He had had to leave his old world because he had murdered some men in search of his father's letters. Lyra and Will go from world to world searching. Lyra is intrigued by Will's world and seeks some help from a physicist there. While there she incurs the interest of a evil man who steals her truth compass. In the meantime Will has found an even better tool in the form of a knife that will cut anything. This second book is even better than the first. There is lots of adventure, witches, angels, sorcery and good and evil. I loved how Lyra and Will connected and their relationship. I feel that Pullman moderated the whininess of Lyra and made her more likable.
Date published: 2008-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rich Fantasy The only fault I can find with The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman, is its readership classification (ages 10-12). A children's novel this isn't. Plainly the marketing team didn't know what to do with a novel that put forward a child as the main character, erroneously assumed that Pullman's very complex and ancient concepts were the stuff of children's literature. Beautifully written, well-developed characters, and tight plot, The Subtle Knife expands upon the concepts briefly hinted in The Golden Compass, that is, the concept of Original Sin and a repeat of the ancient battle between the bene elim (the angels known as The Watchers) and The Creator. In my opinion this is some of the richest fantasy to have been published in decades, and is destined to become a classic alongside Milton's Paradise Lost and Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. By all means let your children read this. Most of all, read it yourself.
Date published: 2008-08-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from take a chance on it So much better then the first one ... it clears up a lot of curiosities. After the Golden Compass I wasn't going to bother - I didn't get the big deal ... but I got the audio book and I really enjoyed it ... I'm very glad that I took the chance on this one. And it's a quick one too ... you don't have to worry about wasting time on a disagreeable book. I think I'll recommend this to a lot of people now, knowing not to stop at the first one.
Date published: 2008-07-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great This would be a 4 and half. Excellent progression of the plot(s). Other worlds, unworldly bodies, magical items. A great mystery I am waiting to unravel. Much better and quicker paced than Book 1. Looking very forward to Book 3.
Date published: 2008-07-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not too good The strangest thing about Phillip Pullman's The Subtle Knife is that it doesn't feel like the second book in a series, making me wonder whether Pullman first wrote this in conjunction with The Amber Spyglass, then wrote The Golden Compass as a prequel, which then became the first book in the series once they were published. Not that it matters. What matters is that The Subtle Knife is too fast, too plot driven, and too much "a set-up" book to be an effective second book in the trilogy. Second books are generally strong because they give the reader a chance to breathe and get to know the characters. Not so in The Subtle Knife. Instead, Pullman introduces new characters, and not just peripheral characters, but Will, a character who seems to be the primary protagonist of His Dark Materials, and Mary, who is more than just peripheral. Meanwhile, characters who seemed important in The Golden Compass, Azriel, Iorek and even Lyra are either supporting cast or merely spoken of. Perhaps this would work if the series was longer, if Pullman took more time with his stories, gave us greater detail, but he doesn't. Everything is fast, too fast, and the characters suffer, making it difficult to care about what is happening. The Subtle Knife is definitely a let down after Pullman's quite good The Golden Compass, and I have little hope for The Amber Spyglass, but I will know soon enough since I feel compelled to finish the series. One sidebar: for those who insist on calling this series "atheist," you may want to understand what atheism is. This series is anti-god, but that means the book MUST NOT be atheist. To be anti-god a story must posit a god, and by assuming the presence of a god (or god-like force) a book cannot be atheist. So there you go.
Date published: 2008-07-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Subtle Knife This is the second book in the Dark Materials trilogy and it out ranks the first by so much. Adding a new character, Will, to help Lyra on her quest, brought new adventures to the book. Will and Lyra make a great team and I can't wait to read the third book.
Date published: 2008-03-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from What Happened to the Protagonist? The last book was all about Lyra and a what a special and tenacious girl she is. This book, the supposedly brave girl turns into a whimpering little dependent. I didn't like that change, so here's to hoping the third book will rectify all that and tie it all up nicely.
Date published: 2008-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What they are, Spirit. What they do, Angel. - The Subtle Knife is quite a bit smaller than The Golden Compass, both of which are dwarfed by The Amber Spyglass. The second installment in the trilogy starts swift with the introduction of Will Parry, a surprisingly interesting young man. He is twelve, and runs the household that he and his mother occupy while they struggle to avoid the mysterious men who continue to inquire about his missing father. Far too old for his body and still very much a child, Will leaves his mother with an aquaintance and leaves her to fend the nosy men off for himself. While searching for a hiding place he finds a window that takes him into a quiet world where he can finally hide. The world of Cittagazze, where the difference between child and adult hangs still in the story. The Subtle Knife takes place mostly in the world you and I live in, while Cittagazze remains a favorite for Will and Lyra. While fantasy writers will often spend whole series on their worlds of choice, Pullman has taken the liberty to give us many. He offers them to us on a platter of serious potential, referencing theories on Dark Matter and Angels. Unfortunately, I can’t discuss much more without ruining the story (or at least what happens in The Golden Compass). Pullman’s dialogue is meaningful, his emotion is clear and poignant. His characters are all very dynamic and interesting, and they all offer their own meaning to the story. Of course Iorek Byrnison (the armoured bear) was sorely absent, but that was forgiveable. His writing is simply phenomenal. But of course, due to the fact that The Subtle Knife is the second in a trilogy, it isn’t quite as strong as the first or the third promises to be...
Date published: 2007-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A new Beginning I loved the first..but the sequel rocks! Best sequel I've read. You cannot stand not to read the last which is great. The first could easily bean a great book standing alone ending a cliffhanger but leaves you satisfied. But now it's a new beginning......
Date published: 2007-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AWESOME!!!!!!!!!8-) this book is suspensful, awesome, and just SOOOOO GREAT i cant even describe it, when u read one book ur hooked on all of them!
Date published: 2006-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great book by Pullman! This is one of the best series I have ever read. I absolutely love the idea of different worlds. This is the first time I have read a multidimensional book that didn't come across as science fiction. The characters are loveable and the reader will find themselves up all night trying to find out what will happen next to Lara and Will.
Date published: 2006-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LUVED IT! LOVED IT! LOOOOOOOOOOOVED IT!!!!!! Steps into the bounderies of fantasy! LOVED IT!Lyra is my favorite character cuz she is SO determined and willing to go the extra step for people she loves. She is SO brave! I wish we had daemons! Lot's of people like books about everyday life, i personally think that life can get pretty boring soemtimes and reading books about fantacy can make life a little more interesting. I recommend this books to teens who think they need to get away from teachers, parents, and usual teenage problems. -Ana
Date published: 2006-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phenomenal! The Subtle Knife is a wonderful sequel for The Golden Compass and a great prequel for The Amber Spyglass. It starts off right from the end of The Golden Compass, so it would be a good idea to read the first book first. The Subtle Knife starts off quickly, never gets boring, and is jam packed with action, danger, and excitement! A great read for all us young readers.
Date published: 2006-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is the best book! This is the best book ever! I highly recomend it!
Date published: 2003-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love it! Hey every one, i totally recommend reading this book, but u might want to pick up the golden compass first as this book is the sequel to that book. There is a lot of weird fantasy stuff going on that has to do with particles and i didn't really get it at first even reading the first book of the series where it explains everything too u. So u wouldn't understand the second book with out reading the first one! but this book is seriously amazing and it keeps u in suspense the whole time! If you are into fantasy rpg's such as the realm , Dark ages of Camelot or everquest (especilly everquest) i think you would enjoy it. Well i hope u read it! Dev
Date published: 2002-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from really good this is like the coolest book i started reading it on thursday and by friday i finished. it it's one of those books you just cant put down, then of caurse when you are done you haveta read the next book ''THE AMBER SPYGLASS''
Date published: 2002-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! This story was absolutely brilliant! Lots of suspense and humour makes this story positively amazing!
Date published: 2002-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW!!!!! dear reader, I loved this book as much as I loved The Golden Compass. It would not let me stop reading it!!! Amanda
Date published: 2002-02-25

Read from the Book

Will tugged at his mother's hand and said, "Come on, come on  ..."But his mother hung back. She was still afraid. Will looked up and down the narrow street in the evening light, along the little terrace of houses, each behind its tiny garden and its box hedge, with the sun glaring off the windows of one side and leaving the other in shadow. There wasn't much time. People would be having their meal about now, and soon there would be other children around, to stare and comment and notice. It was dangerous to wait, but all he could do was persuade her, as usual."Mum, let's go in and see Mrs. Cooper," he said. "Look, we're nearly there.""Mrs. Cooper?" she said doubtfully.But he was already ringing the bell. He had to put down the bag to do it, because his other hand still held his mother's. It might have bothered him at twelve years of age to be seen holding his mother's hand, but he knew what would happen to her if he didn't.The door opened, and there was the stooped elderly figure of the piano teacher, with the scent of lavender water about her as he remembered."Who's that? Is that William?" the old lady said. "I haven't seen you for over a year. What do you want, dear?""I want to come in, please, and bring my mother," he said firmly.Mrs. Cooper looked at the woman with the untidy hair and the distracted half-smile, and at the boy with the fierce, unhappy glare in his eyes, the tight-set lips, the jutting jaw. And then she saw that Mrs. Parry, Will's mother, had put makeup on one eye but not on the other. And she hadn't noticed. And neither had Will. Something was wrong."Well ..." she said, and stepped aside to make room in the narrow hall.Will looked up and down the road before closing the door, and Mrs. Cooper saw how tightly Mrs. Parry was clinging to her son's hand, and how tenderly he guided her into the sitting room where the piano was (of course, that was the only room he knew); and she noticed that Mrs. Parry's clothes smelled slightly musty, as if they'd been too long in the washing machine before drying; and how similar the two of them looked as they sat on the sofa with the evening sun full on their faces, their broad cheekbones, their wide eyes, their straight black brows."What is it, William?" the old lady said. "What's the matter?""My mother needs somewhere to stay for a few days," he said. "It's too difficult to look after her at home just now. I don't mean she's ill. She's just kind of confused and muddled, and she gets a bit worried. She won't be hard to look after. She just needs someone to be kind to her, and I think you could do that quite easily, probably."The woman was looking at her son without seeming to understand, and Mrs. Cooper saw a bruise on her cheek. Will hadn't taken his eyes off Mrs. Cooper, and his expression was desperate."She won't be expensive," he went on. "I've brought some packets of food, enough to last, I should think. You could have some of it too. She won't mind sharing.""But ...I don't know if I should ...Doesn't she need a doctor?""No! She's not ill.""But there must be someone who can ...I mean, isn't there a neighbor or someone in the family--""We haven't got any family. Only us. And the neighbors are too busy.""What about the social services? I don't mean to put you off, dear, but--""No! No. She just needs a bit of help. I can't do it myself for a little while, but I won't be long. I'm going to ...I've got things to do. But I'll be back soon, and I'll take her home again, I promise. You won't have to do it for long."The mother was looking at her son with such trust, and he turned and smiled at her with such love and reassurance, that Mrs. Cooper couldn't say no."Well," she said, turning to Mrs. Parry, "I'm sure it won't matter for a day or so. You can have my daughter's room, dear. She's in Australia. She won't be needing it again.""Thank you," said Will, and stood up as if he were in a hurry to leave."But where are you going to be?" said Mrs. Cooper."I'm going to be staying with a friend," he said. "I'll phone up as often as I can. I've got your number. It'll be all right."His mother was looking at him, bewildered. He bent over and kissed her clumsily."Don't worry," he said. "Mrs. Cooper will look after you better than me, honest. And I'll phone up and talk to you tomorrow."They hugged tightly, and then Will kissed her again and gently unfastened her arms from his neck before going to the front door. Mrs. Cooper could see he was upset, because his eyes were glistening, but he turned, remembering his manners, and held out his hand."Good-bye," he said, "and thank you very much.""William," she said, "I wish you'd tell me what the matter is--""It's a bit complicated," he said, "but she won't be any trouble, honestly."That wasn't what she meant, and both of them knew it; but somehow Will was in charge of this business, whatever it was. The old lady thought she'd never seen a child so implacable.He turned away, already thinking about the empty house.The close where Will and his mother lived was a loop of road in a modern estate with a dozen identical houses, of which theirs was by far the shabbiest. The front garden was just a patch of weedy grass; his mother had planted some shrubs earlier in the year, but they'd shriveled and died for lack of watering. As Will came around the corner, his cat, Moxie, rose up from her favorite spot under the still-living hydrangea and stretched before greeting him with a soft meow and butting her head against his leg.He picked her up and whispered, "Have they come back, Moxie? Have you seen them?"The house was silent. In the last of the evening light the man across the road was washing his car, but he took no notice of Will, and Will didn't look at him. The less notice people took, the better.Holding Moxie against his chest, he unlocked the door and went in quickly. Then he listened very carefully before putting her down. There was nothing to hear; the house was empty.He opened a tin for Moxie and left her to eat in the kitchen. How long before the men came back? There was no way of telling, so he'd better move quickly. He went upstairs and began to search.He was looking for a battered green leather writing case. There are a surprising number of places to hide something that size even in any ordinary modern house; you don't need secret panels and extensive cellars in order to make something hard to find. Will searched his mother's bedroom first, ashamed to be looking through the drawers where she kept her underclothes, and then he worked systematically through the rest of the rooms upstairs, even his own. Moxie came to see what he was doing and sat and cleaned herself nearby, for company.But he didn't find it.By that time it was dark, and he was hungry. He made himself baked beans on toast and sat at the kitchen table wondering about the best order to look through the downstairs rooms.As he was finishing his meal, the phone rang.He sat absolutely still, his heart thumping. He counted: twenty-six rings, and then it stopped. He put his plate in the sink and started to search again.Four hours later he still hadn't found the green leather case. It was half past one, and he was exhausted. He lay on his bed fully clothed and fell asleep at once, his dreams tense and crowded, his mother's unhappy, frightened face always there just out of reach.And almost at once, it seemed (though he'd been asleep for nearly three hours), he woke up knowing two things simultaneously.First, he knew where the case was. And second, he knew that the men were downstairs, opening the kitchen door.He lifted Moxie out of the way and softly hushed her sleepy protest. Then he swung his legs over the side of the bed and put on his shoes, straining every nerve to hear the sounds from downstairs. They were very quiet sounds: a chair being lifted and replaced, a short whisper, the creak of a floorboard.Moving more silently than the men were, he left his bedroom and tiptoed to the spare room at the top of the stairs. It wasn't quite pitch-dark, and in the ghostly gray predawn light he could see the old treadle sewing machine. He'd been through the room thoroughly only hours before, but he'd forgotten the compartment at the side of the sewing machine, where all the patterns and bobbins were kept.He felt for it delicately, listening all the while. The men were moving about downstairs, and Will could see a dim flicker of light that might have been a flashlight at the edge of the door.Then he found the catch of the compartment and clicked it open, and there, just as he'd known it would be, was the leather writing case.And now what could he do? He crouched in the dimness, heart pounding, listening hard.The two men were in the hall downstairs. He heard one of them say quietly, "Come on. I can hear the milkman down the road.""It's not here, though," said the other voice. "We'll have to look upstairs.""Go on, then. Don't hang about."Will braced himself as he heard the quiet creak of the top step. The man was making no noise at all, but he couldn't help the creak if he wasn't expecting it. Then there was a pause. A very thin beam of flashlight swept along the floor outside. Will saw it through the crack.Then the door began to move. Will waited till the man was framed in the open doorway, and then exploded up out of the dark and crashed into the intruder's belly.But neither of them saw the cat.As the man had reached the top step, Moxie had come silently out of the bedroom and stood with raised tail just behind the man's legs, ready to rub herself against them. The man, who was trained and fit and hard, could have dealt with Will, but the cat was in the way, and as the man tried to move back, he tripped over her. With a sharp gasp he fell backward down the stairs and crashed his head brutally against the hall table.Will heard a hideous crack, and didn't stop to wonder about it. Clutching the writing case, he swung himself down the banister, leaping over the man's body that lay twitching and crumpled at the foot of the flight, seized the tattered tote bag from the table, and was out of the front door and away before the other man could do more than come out of the living room and stare.Even in his fear and haste Will wondered why the other man didn't shout after him, or chase him. They'd be after him soon, though, with their cars and their cell phones. The only thing to do was run.He saw the milkman turning into the close, the lights of his electric cart pallid in the dawn glimmer that was already filling the sky. Will jumped over the fence into the next-door garden, down the passage beside the house, over the next garden wall, across a dew-wet lawn, through the hedge, and into the tangle of shrubs and trees between the housing estate and the main road. There he crawled under a bush and lay panting and trembling. It was too early to be out on the road: wait till later, when the rush hour started.He couldn't get out of his mind the crack as the man's head struck the table, and the way his neck was bent so far and in such a wrong way, and the dreadful twitching of his limbs. The man was dead. He'd killed him.He couldn't get it out of his mind, but he had to. There was quite enough to think about. His mother: would she really be safe where she was? Mrs. Cooper wouldn't tell, would she? Even if Will didn't turn up as he'd said he would? Because he couldn't, now that he'd killed someone.And Moxie. Who'd feed Moxie? Would Moxie worry about where they were? Would she try to follow them?It was getting lighter by the minute. It was light enough already to check through the things in the tote bag: his mother's purse, the latest letter from the lawyer, the road map of southern England, chocolate bars, toothpaste, spare socks and pants. And the green leather writing case.Everything was there. Everything was going according to plan, really.Except that he'd killed someone.Will had first realized his mother was different from other people, and that he had to look after her, when he was seven. They were in a supermarket, and they were playing a game: they were allowed to put an item in the cart only when no one was looking. It was Will's job to look all around and whisper "Now," and she would snatch a tin or a packet from the shelf and put it silently into the cart. When things were in there they were safe, because they became invisible.It was a good game, and it went on for a long time, because this was a Saturday morning and the shop was full, but they were good at it and worked well together. They trusted each other. Will loved his mother very much and often told her so, and she told him the same.So when they reached the checkout Will was excited and happy because they'd nearly won. And when his mother couldn't find her purse, that was part of the game too, even when she said the enemies must have stolen it; but Will was getting tired by this time, and hungry too, and Mummy wasn't so happy anymore. She was really frightened, and they went around and around putting things back on the shelves, but this time they had to be extra careful because the enemies were tracking them down by means of her credit card numbers, which they knew because they had her purse....And Will got more and more frightened himself. He realized how clever his mother had been to make this real danger into a game so that he wouldn't be alarmed, and how, now that he knew the truth, he had to pretend not to be frightened, so as to reassure her.So the little boy pretended it was a game still, so she didn't have to worry that he was frightened, and they went home without any shopping, but safe from the enemies; and then Will found the purse on the hall table anyway. On Monday they went to the bank and closed her account, and opened another somewhere else, just to be sure. Thus the danger passed.But sometime during the next few months, Will realized slowly and unwillingly that those enemies of his mother's were not in the world out there, but in her mind. That made them no less real, no less frightening and dangerous; it just meant he had to protect her even more carefully. And from the moment in the supermarket when he had realized he must pretend in order not to worry his mother, part of Will's mind was always alert to her anxieties. He loved her so much he would have died to protect her.As for Will's father, he had vanished long before Will was able to remember him. Will was passionately curious about his father, "Was he a rich man?""Where did he go?""Why did he go?""Is he dead?""Will he come back?""What was he like?"The last question was the only one she could help him with. John Parry had been a handsome man, a brave and clever officer in the Royal Marines, who had left the army to become an explorer and lead expeditions to remote parts of the world. Will thrilled to hear about this. No father could be more exciting than an explorer. From then on, in all his games he had an invisible companion: he and his father were together hacking through the jungle, shading their eyes to gaze out across stormy seas from the deck of their schooner, holding up a torch to decipher mysterious inscriptions in a bat-infested cave. ...They were the best of friends, they saved each other's life countless times, they laughed and talked together over campfires long into the night.But the older he got, the more Will began to wonder. Why were there no pictures of his father in this part of the world or that, riding with frost-bearded men on Arctic sledges or examining creeper-covered ruins in the jungle? Had nothing survived of the trophies and curiosities he must have brought home? Was nothing written about him in a book?His mother didn't know. But one thing she had said stuck in his mind.She said, "One day, you'll follow in your father's footsteps. You're going to be a great man too. You'll take up his mantle."And though Will didn't know what that meant, he understood the sense of it, and felt uplifted with pride and purpose. All his games were going to come true. His father was alive, lost somewhere in the wild, and he was going to rescue him and take up his mantle. ...It was worth living a difficult life, if you had a great aim like that.So he kept his mother's trouble secret. There were times when she was calmer and clearer than others, and he took care to learn from her then how to shop and cook and keep the house clean, so that he could do it when she was confused and frightened. And he learned how to conceal himself, too, how to remain unnoticed at school, how not to attract attention from the neighbors, even when his mother was in such a state of fear and madness that she could barely speak. What Will himself feared more than anything was that the authorities would find out about her, and take her away, and put him in a home among strangers. Any difficulty was better than that. Because there came times when the darkness cleared from her mind, and she was happy again, and she laughed at her fears and blessed him for looking after her so well; and she was so full of love and sweetness then that he could think of no better companion, and wanted nothing more than to live with her alone forever.But then the men came.They weren't police, and they weren't social services, and they weren't criminals--at least as far as Will could judge. They wouldn't tell him what they wanted, in spite of his efforts to keep them away; they'd speak only to his mother. And her state was fragile just then.But he listened outside the door, and heard them ask about his father, and felt his breath come more quickly.The men wanted to know where John Parry had gone, and whether he'd sent anything back to her, and when she'd last heard from him, and whether he'd had contact with any foreign embassies. Will heard his mother getting more and more distressed, and finally he ran into the room and told them to go.He looked so fierce that neither of the men laughed, though he was so young. They could easily have knocked him down, or held him off the floor with one hand, but he was fearless, and his anger was hot and deadly.So they left. Naturally, this episode strengthened Will's conviction: his father was in trouble somewhere, and only he could help. His games weren't childish anymore, and he didn't play so openly. It was coming true, and he had to be worthy of it.And not long afterward the men came back, insisting that Will's mother had something to tell them. They came when Will was at school, and one of them kept her talking downstairs while the other searched the bedrooms. She didn't realize what they were doing. But Will came home early and found them, and once again he blazed at them, and once again they left.They seemed to know that he wouldn't go to the police, for fear of losing his mother to the authorities, and they got more and more persistent. Finally they broke into the house when Will had gone to fetch his mother home from the park. It was getting worse for her now, and she believed that she had to touch every separate slat in every separate bench beside the pond. Will would help her, to get it done quicker. When they got home that day they saw the back of the men's car disappearing out of the close, and he got inside to find that they'd been through the house and searched most of the drawers and cupboards.He knew what they were after. The green leather case was his mother's most precious possession; he would never dream of looking through it, and he didn't even know where she kept it. But he knew it contained letters, and he knew she read them sometimes, and cried, and it was then that she talked about his father. So Will supposed that this was what the men were after, and knew he had to do something about it.He decided first to find somewhere safe for his mother to stay. He thought and thought, but he had no friends to ask, and the neighbors were already suspicious, and the only person he thought he could trust was Mrs. Cooper. Once his mother was safely there, he was going to find the green leather case and look at what was in it, and then he was going to go to Oxford, where he'd find the answer to some of his questions. But the men came too soon.And now he'd killed one of them.So the police would be after him too.Well, he was good at not being noticed. He'd have to not be noticed  harder than he'd ever done in his life before, and keep it up as long as he could, till either he found his father or they found him. And if they found him first, he didn't care how many more of them he killed.Later that day, toward midnight in fact, Will was walking out of the city of Oxford, forty miles away. He was tired to his very bones. He had hitchhiked, and ridden on two buses, and walked, and reached Oxford at six in the evening, too late to do what he needed to do. He'd eaten at a Burger King and gone to a cinema to hide (though what the film was, he forgot even as he was watching it), and now he was walking along an endless road through the suburbs, heading north.No one had noticed him so far. But he was aware that he'd better find somewhere to sleep before long, because the later it got, the more noticeable he'd be. The trouble was that there was nowhere to hide in the gardens of the comfortable houses along this road, and there was still no sign of open country.He came to a large traffic circle where the road going north crossed the Oxford ring road going east and west. At this time of night there was very little traffic, and the road where he stood was quiet, with comfortable houses set back behind a wide expanse of grass on either side. Planted along the grass at the road's edge were two lines of hornbeam trees, odd-looking things with perfectly symmetrical close-leafed crowns, more like children's drawings than like real trees. The streetlights made the scene look artificial, like a stage set. Will was stupefied with exhaustion, and he might have gone on to the north, or he might have laid his head on the grass under one of those trees and slept; but as he stood trying to clear his head, he saw a cat.She was a tabby, like Moxie. She padded out of a garden on the Oxford side of the road, where Will was standing. Will put down his tote bag and held out his hand, and the cat came up to rub her head against his knuckles, just as Moxie did. Of course, every cat behaved like that, but all the same Will felt such a longing for home that tears scalded his eyes.Eventually the cat turned away. This was night, and there was a territory to patrol, there were mice to hunt. She padded across the road and toward the bushes just beyond the hornbeam trees, and there she stopped.Will, still watching, saw the cat behave curiously.She reached out a paw to pat something in the air in front of her, something quite invisible to Will. Then she leaped backward, back arched and fur on end, tail held out stiffly. Will knew cat behavior. He watched more alertly as the cat approached the spot again, just an empty patch of grass between the hornbeams and the bushes of a garden hedge, and patted the air once more.Again she leaped back, but less far and with less alarm this time. After another few seconds of sniffing, touching, and whisker twitching, curiosity overcame wariness.The cat stepped forward and vanished.Will blinked. Then he stood still, close to the trunk of the nearest tree, as a truck came around the circle and swept its lights over him. When it had gone past, he crossed the road, keeping his eyes on the spot where the cat had been investigating. It wasn't easy, because there was nothing to fix on, but when he came to the place and cast about to look closely, he saw it.At least, he saw it from some angles. It looked as if someone had cut a patch out of the air, about two yards from the edge of the road, a patch roughly square in shape and less than a yard across. If you were level with the patch so that it was edge-on, it was nearly invisible, and it was completely invisible from behind. You could see it only from the side nearest the road, and you couldn't see it easily even from there, because all you could see through it was exactly the same kind of thing that lay in front of it on this side: a patch of grass lit by a streetlight.But Will knew without the slightest doubt that that patch of grass on the other side was in a different world.He couldn't possibly have said why. He knew it at once, as strongly as he knew that fire burned and kindness was good. He was looking at something profoundly alien.And for that reason alone, it enticed him to stoop and look further. What he saw made his head swim and his heart thump harder, but he didn't hesitate: he pushed his tote bag through, and then scrambled through himself, through the hole in the fabric of this world and into another.He found himself standing under a row of trees. But not hornbeam trees: these were tall palms, and they were growing, like the trees in Oxford, in a row along the grass. But this was the center of a broad boulevard, and at the side of the boulevard was a line of cafés and small shops, all brightly lit, all open, and all utterly silent and empty beneath a sky thick with stars. The hot night was laden with the scent of flowers and with the salt smell of the sea.Will looked around carefully. Behind him the full moon shone down over a distant prospect of great green hills, and on the slopes at the foot of the hills there were houses with rich gardens, and an open parkland with groves of trees and the white gleam of a classical temple.Just beside him was that bare patch in the air, as hard to see from this side as from the other, but definitely there. He bent to look through and saw the road in Oxford, his own world. He turned away with a shudder: whatever this new world was, it had to be better than what he'd just left. With a dawning lightheadedness, the feeling that he was dreaming but awake at the same time, he stood up and looked around for the cat, his guide.She was nowhere in sight. No doubt she was already exploring those narrow streets and gardens beyond the cafés whose lights were so inviting. Will lifted up his tattered tote bag and walked slowly across the road toward them, moving very carefully in case it all disappeared.The air of the place had something Mediterranean or maybe Caribbean about it. Will had never been out of England, so he couldn't compare it with anywhere he knew, but it was the kind of place where people came out late at night to eat and drink, to dance and enjoy music. Except that there was no one here, and the silence was immense.On the first corner he reached there stood a café, with little green tables on the pavement and a zinc-topped bar and an espresso machine. On some of the tables glasses stood half-empty; in one ashtray a cigarette had burned down to the butt; a plate of risotto stood next to a basket of stale rolls as hard as cardboard.He took a bottle of lemonade from the cooler behind the bar and then thought for a moment before dropping a pound coin in the till. As soon as he'd shut the till, he opened it again, realizing that the money in there might say what this place was called. The currency was called the corona, but he couldn't tell any more than that.He put the money back and opened the bottle on the opener fixed to the counter before leaving the café and wandering down the street going away from the boulevard. Little grocery shops and bakeries stood between jewelers and florists and bead-curtained doors opening into private houses, where wrought-iron balconies thick with flowers overhung the narrow pavement, and where the silence, being enclosed, was even more profound.The streets were leading downward, and before very long they opened out onto a broad avenue where more palm trees reached high into the air, the underside of their leaves glowing in the streetlights.On the other side of the avenue was the sea.Will found himself facing a harbor enclosed from the left by a stone breakwater and from the right by a headland on which a large building with stone columns and wide steps and ornate balconies stood floodlit among flowering trees and bushes. In the harbor one or two rowboats lay still at anchor, and beyond the breakwater the starlight glittered on a calm sea.By now Will's exhaustion had been wiped out. He was wide awake and possessed by wonder. From time to time, on his way through the narrow streets, he'd put out a hand to touch a wall or a doorway or the flowers in a window box, and found them solid and convincing. Now he wanted to touch the whole landscape in front of him, because it was too wide to take in through his eyes alone. He stood still, breathing deeply, almost afraid.He discovered that he was still holding the bottle he'd taken from the café. He drank from it, and it tasted like what it was, ice-cold lemonade; and welcome, too, because the night air was hot.He wandered along to the right, past hotels with awnings over brightly lit entrances and bougainvillea flowering beside them, until he came to the gardens on the little headland. The building in the trees with its ornate facade lit by floodlights might have been an opera house. There were paths leading here and there among the lamp-hung oleander trees, but not a sound of life could be heard: no night birds singing, no insects, nothing but Will's own footsteps.The only sound he could hear came from the regular, quiet breaking of delicate waves from the beach beyond the palm trees at the edge of the garden. Will made his way there. The tide was halfway in, or halfway out, and a row of pedal boats was drawn up on the soft white sand above the high-water line. Every few seconds a tiny wave folded itself over at the sea's edge before sliding back neatly under the next. Fifty yards or so out on the calm water was a diving platform.Will sat on the side of one of the pedal boa

Bookclub Guide

***COMING SOON! A NEW HBO SERIES, HIS DARK MATERIALS, BASED ON PULLMAN’S BOOKS***The spellbinding sequel to The Golden Compass, the modern fantasy classic that Entertainment Weekly named an "All-Time Greatest Novel" and Newsweek hailed as a "Top 100 Book of All Time," continues the epic adventure, catapulting readers between worlds, and toward a devastating discovery.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 BestsellerPublished in 40 Countries“Just as quick-moving and unputdownable as The Golden Compass. . . . The mysteries deepen and the wonders grow even more extravagant.” —The Washington Post“Pullman’s imagination soars . . . A literary rollercoaster ride you won’t want to miss.”—The Boston Globe “The story gallops with ferocious momentum . . . Devilishly inventive.” —The New York Times Book Review1. What is wrong with Will's mother? Are her concerns real, imagined, or both? Why and how does Will protect her?2. What does it mean when Lyra assumes Will's daemon is "inside"? Do the people in Will's world, our world, have daemons at all?3. Why does Will's being a murderer enable Lyra to trust him? What characters do Serafina Pekkala and Lee Scoresby decide to trust, and is their trust warranted? In what other ways does trust play an important role in this novel?4. How has Will learned to make himself unnoticed by others? Relate this to the witches' ability to make themselves invisible.5. How do the Shadows that communicate with Lyra through the computer relate to dark matter and/or Dust? If Lyra can understand the Shadows as she understands the alethiometer, then is the computer also acting as a truth-giving device? What is the real origin of the Shadows' messages?6. On page 188, Giacomo Paradisi tells Will the rules for bearing the subtle knife. Why do you think Will must "never open without closing"? What did Paradisi mean by "a base purpose"? Compare these formal guidelines to the instinctive rules Lyra obeys when using the alethiometer.7. Why is it significant that the possessors of the alethiometer and the subtle knife are children? What is the difference between innocence and experience? What has happened to Mrs. Coulter's solders who have undergone intercision?8. Lord Asriel is mentioned several times throughout the story, yet we never directly see him. He is planning a war that he cannot win without an object that he does not know exists. What does Lord Asriel symbolize in The Subtle Knife?9. What did the "Cave" mean when it told Dr. Malone that she must be "the serpent"? Where do you think she is at the end of the story? Where is Lyra?10. In what way can a knife that divides pathways between worlds and can sever bone, rock, and steel be called "subtle"?11. DISCUSSION TOPICS IF YOU HAVE READ THE GOLDEN COMPASS AND THE SUBTLE KNIFEIn Book One, Lyra is clearly a leader. In Book Two, she seems to have become a follower, a servant to Will's cause. Who is more powerful, Will or Lyra? Whose cause is more important? Is it the same cause?12. Is the "psychic death" caused by severing the same as that caused by the Specters? Compare Tony Makarios and the servants at Bolvangar (Book One) to Tullio's actions after Will takes the subtle knife and the final thoughts of Lena Feldt (Book Two). Relate these to the "natural" deaths suffered by Lee Scoresby and John Parry.13. Armored bears, witches, severed children and adults, cliff-ghasts, Spectres, and angels are beings with spiritual qualities different from humans. Why does the authorintroduce so many creatures with alternative soul-states?14. By the end of The Subtle Knife, we have learned that both Will's father, John Parry/Stanislaus Grumman, and Lyra's father, Lord Asriel, are powerful men who have traveled between worlds. Yet one is called a shaman while the other is preparing to be a general. What is the relationship between these two men? Compare it to the relationship between Will and Lyra.15. The Golden Compass takes place in a "closed" world where Lyra finds guidance through her newly-found alethiometer. In The Subtle Knife, boundaries between worlds have been broken, Lyra loses her alethiometer, and Will becomes the reluctant bearer of the knife. Explore the many parallels and opposites established between The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife. How is the dualistic imagery of Lyra's and Will's worlds counterpointed by Cittaágazze?16. Citing a passage from John Miltons Paradise Lost, Philip Pullman has named his trilogy "His Dark Materials." How might this citation, and the novels' emerging themes, relate to the following quote:"The prince of darkness is a gentleman." - William Shakespeare (King Lear)

From Our Editors

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?

Editorial Reviews

"More than fulfilling the promise of The Golden Compass, this second volume starts off at a heart-thumping pace and never slows down....The grandly exuberant storytelling is sure to enthrall."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)"The intricacy of the plot is staggering...There is no doubt that the work is stunningly ambitious, original, and fascinating."--The Horn Book (starred review)"The character development as well as the relentless pace...make this a resoundingly successful will leave readers desperate for the next installment."--Booklist (starred review)