Book Review: The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman

Title: The Subtle Knife
Author: Phillip Pullman
Rating: 5/5

Summary:  Lyra and Will, her newfound friend, tumble separately into the strange tropical otherworld of Cittàgazze, “the city of magpies,” where adults are curiously absent and children run wild. Here their lives become inextricably entwined when Lyra’s alethiometer gives her a simple command:  find Will’s father. Their search is plagued with obstacles–some familiar and some horribly new and unfathomable–but it eventually brings them closer to Will’s father and to the Subtle Knife, a deadly, magical, ancient tool that cuts windows between worlds. Through it all, Will and Lyra find themselves hurtling toward the center of a fierce battle against a force so awesome that leagues of mortals, witches, beasts, and spirits from every world are uniting in fear and anger against it.

Review:  I was not happy with the ending, but ultimately it was well written and did keep me on the edge of my seat throughout.  Pullman is a master of detail, character, setting, and I am in awe of his immense imagination.  His books can seem somewhat imposing and I can understand why some feel challenged by his books, especially this one.

There is a lot of church dichotomy in this book and it is presented in an “in your face” manner that leaves you little room to actually refute some of the rationale used.  Something that gets confusing throughout the story, and leaves me at a loss when it comes up is if the argument is against “God” or against the “Authority.”   I have friends who refuse to read any of the books in this series because of the constant indictment against God and that tends to offend or make people uncomfortable, and it is truthfully one of the things that most captivates me about the series.  I am spiritual, I would not necessarily say religious, but I do have my religion, but will I let it stop me from reading certain books, absolutely not.  I love the provocative edge that some authors put in their books, and this is one of those books.

I would not necessarily recommend this book for younger children, and I know that Scholastic has published it saying that it is acceptable for children in grades fifth through eighth, I do not think that some of the subject matter will make sense to someone in fifth grade.  True, they could read it for the first time, but for some of the meanings to sink in and allow further comprehension subsequent readings would be required.  I would put my recommendation at children at about a high school level.

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