The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman – 5/5 Stars

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman - Front Cover

‘The currency was called the corona.’

‘Hotels and cafes and warm-lit shops, all silent, all empty.’

‘No. I just found … a way in. Like your world, I suppose. It must be joined on.’

The Subtle Knife (TSK) can be mistaken for an adult book, with its focus on dark matter and interwoven realms that lead to magical worlds filled with dust, spectres, science, and doorways. It therefore has less of a make-believe magical or uplifting feeling that Northern Lights (NL) and children’s fiction typically have. In this way, I think I preferred TSK, for its covering new and interesting ground made it seem even more of a feat in fantasy writing, though it shared the excellent descriptions you’d expect to find in NL.

We’re introduced to Will!

There is another important character, Will, who has a good heart looking after his mother, hiding her from children and adults who antagonise her – the latter for obscure reasons – as he searches for his missing father. Will has survival skills, and it’s through Will that we’re introduced to the story, which gives it a normal everyday feel with a hint that something untoward or peculiar could happen, as you may find with muggles in Harry Potter.

Intriguing characters

There are adults in the realm we know – the one without talking polar bears – I was particularly intrigued by one in particular who reminded me of a well-to-do person in real life who had the trappings of luxury and success … I found the character Sir Charles intriguing as it’s hard for us to know whether to trust him at first and it can be hard for children to know this also, written as it is from children’s point of view.


In many ways, with hot air balloons and secret enemies, you feel you’re reading a cross between Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling, Indiana Jones, and … Philip Pullman. I can’t understand why anybody wouldn’t want to continue reading this novel fantasy series.

Author Website


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