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Parents' Guide to

The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust, Book 2

By Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Deeply philosophical fantasy for mature teens and adults.

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Kids say (4 ):

Like Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, this fantasy's mystical travel adventures and deeply philosophical themes combine for a brilliant storytelling experience for both teen and adult. Pullman himself has said he writes for both audiences at once. With Lyra at age 20 as the most important character, there are moments of rebellion and questioning and deep dissatisfaction with early adulthood that teens will relate to. Her loneliness in the world is palpable. When the story shifts to 31-year-old Malcolm, his fellow spies, refugees on boats, and the power-hungry clergy, adult readers will notice echoes of our current struggles in the world and Pullman's astute take on it all. At one point a conniving politician with closer ties to Lyra than she realizes waxes on about how to hide information. "We should delicately and subtly undermine the idea that truth and facts are possible in the first place. Once the people have become doubtful about the truth of anything, all kinds of things will be open to us."

As this book is sandwiched in the middle of the trilogy, its job is to build in conflict that drives the finale, and it does this well on many fronts. By the end of The Secret Commonwealth, the spies are adrift, innocents are arrested, the clergy is gaining power all over Europe, Lyra's enemies are many and waiting to pounce, and we know the significance of the roses and how hard it will be to reach them before the enemy does. Very little is resolved here and, after the last 30 pages, there's more worry for Lyra than ever before. This is one finale that will be very hard to wait for.

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