Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

The second book in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, The Subtle Knife is even more exciting and suspenseful than the first.  In this installment, Lyra has gone into another world and is determined to find the source of Dust.  She is convinced that when she does, she will know what it is she is meant to do.  Shortly after she arrives, she meets Will, a boy about her age who is from still another world.  He is running from something and desperate for a place to hide. 

An important moment occurs just as Will is introducing himself and Lyra has to explain about daemons.  Will has no idea what Lyra is talking about and says, "I don't know what you mean about demons.  In my world demon means devil, something evil."  I feel this is important because it demonstrates that what we understand may be entirely different from the "reality" in another world.  I raise this point because so many people were bent out of shape about the concept of these books.  The most important thing to remember is that these are works of fiction.  When a reader begins a novel, it is my philosophy that she should suspend all disbelief and be prepared to adopt an entirely new vernacular.  I imagine there were many people who picked up The Golden Compass, read the very first four words, "Lyra and her daemon...", and immediately pictured something evil.  Reading further, we discover that Lyra's daemon is the physical manifestation of her soul, her spirit.  This is nothing evil, but it is a concept that we simply have to accept.  Surely something like this should be no more difficult to believe than Frodo's journey to Mordor or that wardrobes can lead to Narnia. 

One of the main characters, Lord Asriel, is searching for Dust as well.  He is planning to use it in his great rebellion against the Church and perhaps even a war with the "Authority", their God.  It is again important to remember that this is fiction set in another world.  While I can understand how some people might be offended by such a concept, I try to remember that this is fantasy.  Lord Asriel believes that this Authority must be bad because he sees so many of the bad things for which the Church is responsible.  In his world, the Church doesn't do good and serve men, it controls and oppresses them and punishes anyone who dares to question their power, even to the point of death. 

I am loving these books.  It is clear to me that this is a tale of good versus evil, but currently I'm not sure which side is good and which is evil.  I'm not sure the characters themselves know which is which just yet.  This story is so full of suspense that I hated to put it down.  I was constantly on the edge of my seat and rushing to find out what would happen.  I kept telling myself it would be okay, that the main characters would somehow make it out alive and yet I was at times forced to accept that not every main character survives. 

What will happen in the third book?  I cannot wait to read it, but I will have to wait just a bit longer.  It is time for me to begin my book club book or I won't have it finished in time for our meeting.  I do not want to be that girl- we are relentless when someone fails to finish the book.  Our family is headed on a little staycation next week, so I am hoping to get in a lot of good reading time.  I will be back to Mr. Pullmans lovely characters before long.

As always, I welcome your comments!

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