Want personalized picks that fit your family?
Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.
The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials, Book 2
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this brilliantly constructed story, even faster-paced than the first book, keeps readers breathless. There is some intense violence in this fantasy world: The child protagonists are attacked repeatedly and surrounded by soul-sucking ghosts, and the battles over the Knife, in which Will loses fingers, are bloody. Also, Will accidentally kills a man. But, the brilliant writing inspires imagination. Lyra and Will demonstrate loyalty, determination, and responsibility, even if they are not always honest.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Lyra's desperate adventures continue as she passes into a world called Cittàgazze, where she meets a boy named Will, destined to become the Bearer of the Subtle Knife, which can cut anything, even the boundaries between worlds. Meanwhile, the nefarious Mrs. Coulter is out to stop Lyra from fulfilling her destiny, everyone is after the knife, and Lord Asriel is amassing the greatest army ever gathered for an assault on The Authority who is, well, God. And as happened once before, the angels are lining up on both sides.
Is it any good?
Nonstop action and stunning imagination make this a more-than-worthy sequel. In fact, these two elements make this even better than The Golden Compass, its astonishing predecessor. First, this book starts with a bang and never lets up. Second, this book showcases Pullman's incredible imagination. The author writes poetically, and with a scope of vision that goes far beyond that of ordinary fantasy, and which is, at times, astonishingly reckless and even bizarre. Readers not only experience the beauty of his words, but the excitement of seeing just how far he can and will go. The relative simplicity of Pullman's lyricism is what makes this trilogy accessible to bright tweens and teens, while still challenging adults. The ambition and the sheer audacity of this series are breathtaking.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this book compares to the first book. Common Sense marked the first book, The Golden Compass, OK for 10 and older, but said this one is better for 12 and up. Do you agree? Why do series tend to get darker and more violent as they go on?
And speaking of the violence, what did you think of some of the intense stuff here? Like Will losing his fingers? Does the fantasy context make this violence easier to handle?
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love fantasy and magic
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.