Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Subtle Knife

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The second entry of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy opens with protagonist Will Parry wanting to meet Mrs. Cooper, whilst seeking his missing father. He meets Lyra Silvertongue, who seeks the elusive Dust, and whose alethiometer warns her that Will is a potential murderer. Meanwhile, the witch Serafina Pekkala, who rescued Lyra and other children from the experimental station at Bolvangar and had flown with her to the isle of Svalbard, goes into hiding near Mrs. Coulter, whom a Cardinal interrogates. Serafina is skilled at things such as harvesting food and tracking animals in nature.

Moreover, Lord Asriel plots a rebellion against the Church, his daughter Lyra plagued by nightmares about Specters, who eat the life out of adults, and making sense of the strange new world she finds herself in. Lyra and Will perform activities such as watching movies in a theater, with the latter taking solace in his father’s writings. In the meantime, the Texan Lee Scoresby meets his old acquaintance and fellow Texan Sam Cansino, and sets off on further adventure. Furthermore, the Latvian queen Ruta Skadi flies with Serafina’s company for several days, and find Lord Asriel constructing a fortress.

Lyra eventually finds her alethiometer stolen, with a gentleman named Sir Charles promising it back in exchange for finding the titular artifact, a knife that can slice through any material. Will becomes master of the weapon, with the antediluvian Giacomo Paradisi informing him of the rules of the armament once he receives it. The traveling Lee Scoresby finds a port at the mouth of the Yenisei River in chaos, and hears that Lord Asriel was not the first person to travel between alternate worlds. He meets a shaman named Grumman who allegedly has supernatural powers, and sets off again.

Lyra and Will continue with their journey with the subtle knife in possession, with Specters fearing the armament. Meanwhile, the scientist Dr. Mary Malone informs her colleague Dr. Oliver Payne of children from another world, and consults the computer Cave with questions about the Dust. Witches see to the wounds Will received when obtaining the knife, promising to guide him to his father and rebelling against the Authority that fears the Dust. Lee continues to outrun his adversaries as well as a storm, with a gunfight erupting between him and his antagonists.

The second installment ends with the foreshadowing of war, and is overall an enjoyable sequel, with less sociopolitical commentary than its precursor. The intelligent animal dæmons in particular are a nice touch to the story and sure to appeal to those involved in the furry fandom, with Lyra’s shapeshifting Pantalaimon returning to the secondary entry. Granted, the Dust repeatedly referenced throughout the story is somewhat enigmatic, which was probably the author’s intention, but those who enjoyed the first book will most likely enjoy its successor, which is a fast-paced read that’s not too long.

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