My rating: ***
I found this book a bit disappointing after the first one. It has taken me a while to analyse why. I think it is a combination of a number of things.
First of all I’m not quite convinced by Pullman’s cosmology. Somehow it isn’t big enough – there is not enough to it to really give me a sense of large spaces and ambiguous complexity. The cosmology works much better in the first book where it is highly organised. It is less convincing as it starts to change and break down in The Subtle Knife. Even though we have three worlds in this book – including our own world the cosmos feels much smaller than in the first.
Secondly, it appears that Lyra after having initially been the heroine is now in fact just there to help the hero. This was something I found really disappointing about the film The Matrix for example. In the film Trinity is set up as a remarkable and admirable figure and then all she becomes is a helper for the central male hero. Lyra becomes a far less interesting and likeable character in this second novel with a strong emphasis on her uncivilised character traits.
The central character Will also reminds me of that other Will in Susan Hill’s The Dark is Rising a traumatised and rather distant character, old beyond his years with the weight of the universe and destiny on his shoulders. I continue not to be a fan on ‘chosen one’ kind of thematics.