In the Subtle Knife, we pick up Lyra Silvertongue‘s story almost immediately after the events of the first book (see my review here). But (and this is a big butt for me) we are initially introduced to an entirely new character: William Parry.
Will is a very disturbed youngster. After giving his deranged mother away to his piano teacher and killing an intruder, he goes off on a quest to find his father, slipping into another world and into Lyra’s path.
Just that bit alone gave me pause. It was like…are you serious? This kid does all this himself? And he does so with the focus of a psychopath?
Okay. I’ll completely suspend any belief, and continue reading. I mean, I did so for Lyra’s story, why not for Will?
Well…it was easy to drop into Lyra’s world because I felt the author did a wonderful job of world building and immersing us in Lyra’s story. In the first book, we were introduced to her world gradually and since it was new to us, the idea of daemons, magic, and talking animals just passed right on through the bullshit sensors.
But, in The Subtle Knife, I could never cast off the sense that I just couldn’t buy this story. What really got me was how Lyra changed around Will. I won’t go into the feminist issues here, but suffice to say that it got my goat. Then there was this:
‘I can see people behind us,’ she (a witch) said. ‘They’re a long way back, but they’re moving quickly. Shall I go closer and look?’
‘Yes, do,’ said Lyra, ‘but fly low, and hide, and don’t let them see you.’
WTF? The dialogue above is between Lyra and a witch. A centuries old witch. A witch that has tailed and guarded Lyra’s skinny ass for the past few chapters. And now this little girl is telling the witch how to stay safe? I mean, yeah, the witch ends up getting caught by Lyra’s mother, but the exchange just didn’t sit right with me.
And neither does the premise of the book.
In The Subtle Knife, we discover what it is Lyra’s father, Lord Asriel, is up to: he’s out to destroy God.
Wow. I mean, just writing that sent chills up my spine and I, yet again, thought, “About bloody time someone did.” It’s like, yes, kill the god! But…wait…
Why kill God? He hasn’t done anything to anyone. He’s not the bad guy. Mrs. Coulter is bad. The whole religious order folks are bad. Most of the adults are bad, but God? He hasn’t done anything to anyone. The very notion of killing a god kind of admits that there is one, now doesn’t it?
All this, along with demons (ghasts) and angels thrown in the mix, has me just a little worried about where the story is going. And there’s another issue I have with the book, but I don’t want to spoil a piece of crucial information that is revealed at the end. Suffice to say, I didn’t like the direction that this book veers, but I am curious to see how Mr. Pullman resolves all the issues.
I gave this three out of five stars over on GoodReads.