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E a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is rightTheirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford across Europe and into Asia in search for what is lost a city haunted by daemons a secret at the heart of a desert and the mystery of the elusive Dus. What a fascinating mess that was The opening feels a lot like a Golden Compass replay with Lyra back in Oxford and a student now herself Except instead of missing children the mystery we re meant to be exercised about this time issomething to do with roses in the Middle East Which you might think would feel remote and abstract but oh boy you d be amazed how many people Lyra knows suddenly have an intense personal interest in the subject and a reason to talk to her about it In the meantime she s been bickering with Pan who is convinced that she s somehow had her imagination stolen away by two modish authors she s been reading One of them is a philosopher a sort of nightmarish Jordan PetersonSlavoj Zizek crossbreed who mingles with the powers that be while inculcating post truth notions in the young The other is an ultra rationalist who s using the terrible power of something which sounds a lot like our own world s nouveau roman to convince people that daemons are only a figment of their imagination Now this is interesting on two levels One is that given Pullman s own avowed atheism we might easily have taken him for just such a figure himself And that reassessment of what he s previously said that I don t mind at all One of the things which made Terry Pratchett s later work so invigorating was his willingness to go back re examine his own earlier conclusions on religion see where nuance was wanting and correct himself Similarly it makes perfect sense for Pullman to clarify that when he was inveighing against organised religion that didn t mean he wanted to shut down the possibility of dreams and stories and the notion of something than the merely mechanistic No the problem comes from the other aspect which is that anything that looks like our world s rationalism existing in Pullman s world is not rationalism at all it s insanity There are daemons and witches and talking bloody polar bears and those are just the widely known facts Lyra herself has been to other realities and the Land of the Dead met angels the whole shebang and not been treated as insane when she came back from it There s no reason for anyone to buy into this philosophy and there s even less for her And it doesn t help that when we briefly meet the chap seemingly tormented by his own Alsatian daemon the pair of them come across like Jim and Wilson in Friday Night DinnerIn any case for all Pan s fears Lyra doesn t seem appreciably less imaginative just a little beaten down by life as well one might be Not just because growing up was always to some extent baked into the series metaphysics as a limiting process but because the events of His Dark Materials don t seem to have had any impact on the world if anything it s slightly worse risking that horrible Force Awakens effect of making the original trilogy s struggles and sacrifices seem entirely pointless You can understand Lyra not wanting to charge down the high street like Nietzsche s madman telling everyone that the Authority is dead but the way she doesn t even allude to it in private and occult conversations and only once or twice mentions the Republic of Heaven inwardly contributes further to that sense of a reluctance fully to build on the earlier achievement Might this itself represent that lack of imagination Well maybe but often characters particularly but by no means solely Lyra seem only to suffer from a lack of common sense as often happens when a writer needs to keep a plot moving and doesn t much care how they do so I first bridled early on when Lyra despite all of her past experiences with the authorities tries to report the story s inciting incident to the police Still local force everyday matterwell OK maybe But it keeps happening reaching a nadir when despite knowing the Magisterium is stirring and against her she wanders into the very heart of it not for a vital secret mission or anything just for something to do while she waits for a transport connectionThis was not the only time I found myself puzzled by a veteran writer making what seemed like rookie mistakes The most general of which is the book really doesn t need to be as long as it is Far too often A will tell B something which B subseuently tells C and while that does need to happen on some level we really don t need it in full pretty much every time Very occasionally there s an important detail omitted or distorted in the retelling but they re only easier to miss for being hidden in so much repetition This helps contribute to a wider sense that it s unclear for what audience The Secret Commonwealth is intended They re seuels to beloved children s books certainly but from fairly early on the F word is getting dropped in here and there never to any great purpose or in a way where its substitution would appreciably weaken the scene The most constructive guess I can make is that it s by way of an early warning to parents who maybe grew up on the earlier books that they shouldn t let their kids read this one yet a warning mainly justified by one genuinely traumatic scene near the end Other than that it s mainly gentle hints that Lyra has indeed now done the sex not least with one of the supporting characters the unfortunately named Dick Orchard and one really awkward section where a character who first knew Lyra as a literal baby realises they now have a massive crush on her And while there are some lovely tense scenes scattered among the padding and the disconnects one of them entirely blows its admittedly already foreshadowed big reveal by having it right there in the chapter titleThe themes remain much as one would expect despite the aforementioned insistence that it s important to believe the world is than brute matter Pullman has no time than he ever did for religion as authority and that s married now to an eual if not greater suspicion of over mighty corporations which again I m not wholly convinced fits the world but there we are And alongside the topical fury at post truth casuistry and governments with no respect for the rule of law and a really heavy handed line about second hand water cannons there s a pained awareness of how it feels like the forces of good are always fighting with one hand behind their back while evil can operate unconstrained Again when you consider the forces of good could maybe ask for a hand from the armoured bears and flying witches and so forth this doesn t really make sense in the context but hey Pullman clearly enjoyed writing it Probably the most affecting of the contemporary nods is the refugee crisis occasioned by the knock off Da esh who are tied up with the whole rose business remember that But even here Pullman lets himself down with another of those rookie mistakes An important running element in the plot is how strange and unsettling it is for Lyra not to always be tied to her daemon as most people are But it seems to vary how easily other people and daemons can tell this is the case rather than eg her having a small daemon which is curled up in her pocket thank you very much And its oddness is undermined by Pullman often neglecting to detail what the daemons of other characters are doing or saying or simply their presence something which feels most glaring in the scene where a refugee boat is wrecked and hearing any detail of what the stricken passengers daemons are doing would have really served to make fresh what has now somehow become almost an everyday and overfamiliar horrorThen just when I thought it was going to do that most annoying thing volume 2 of a trilogy can do and simply end there s a glimpse of resolution and a cliffhanger which ensured that whatever my many complaints I will definitely be back for the conclusion despite it all despite even that baffling section where everyone suddenly starts talking about stewing eels which really felt like it must at least be set up for something and then wasn t at allI ll say this for it though the dustjacket is fine but the book underneath is genuinely beautifulI always preferred that title to Northern Lights it just fits so much better with The Subtle Knife and The Amber SpyglassJust when I was starting to get over that the narrative introduces a chap called van DongenWho are really blatantly a false flag operation and this isn t a spoiler because it never uite gets confirmed in this volume A fictional trope which has been making me deeply uneasy ever since lunatics and edgelords started treating it as an everyday truth

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The Secret Commonwealth

It is twenty years since the events of La Belle Sauvage The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacua begin her life changing journeyIt is seven years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life Will Parry on a park bench in Oxford's Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground breaking bestselling His Dark Materials seuenceNow in The Secret Commonwealth we. Hey this review has spoilers soI was really wanting to love this book and His Dark Materials is basically still my favourite series ever I don t really know where to begin so I m just going to make dot points I m pretty disappointed Why did chapter 31 even need to exist why is it necessary to the plot to have the attempted rape of the main female character The parts at the end are filled with unintentional irony She says she shouldn t have to expect that like Pullman is a massive feminist for point out that fact but if he was an actual feminist he would never have put this chapter in the book to start off with What purpose did it serve Why even mention that Malcolm was attracted to Lyra when she was like 14 or 15 when he was her teacher and 11 years older than her at the time Could there have been a way better way to dismiss cold logic in the face of blind acceptance of the church than a convoluted plot about philosophersauthors That I find it unrealistic that Pan and Lyra would ever fight about It seems strange the way the events of His Dark Materials are referred to like they happened 50 years ago instead of only like 7 or 8 There s no way you forget stuff that fast Pullman trying to make an allegory of the rose oil causing conflict oil disputes and the ultimate controlling of this by the West feels like way too much with everything else happening in this story and also Poorly done Same goes for the refugee crisis the entire chapter about Malcolm at that rallytown meeting etc We already had the Adam and Eve story played out again with Will and Lyra why do we need this to happen again just with a storypoem belonging to another culture You ve got this ancient story from this culture and then suddenly of course it s about our two main white characters who are special Where was the plot What was the point Was the purpose of this book solely to set everything up for the 3rd book What was the true purpose of this story That as a woman I shouldn t travel to the middle east because most of the people there are clearly poor impoverished and cruel abusers The world felt too much like our world Like Will s world And not in a suddenly the world is darker because Lyra isn t a child any which would make sense It felt too Modern I can only imagine how jarring this book would feel reading straight on from The Amber Spyglassthe rest of the trilogy I feel like finding Philip Pullman and shaking him and asking What were you actually trying to do here Is this a spy book Is this a fantasy book Is it about terrorism Is it about religion Is it about human relationships The slave trade Alechmists Animal abuse The oppression of women Refugees Clearly it s about all of these things but for God s sake please just pick like 3 It s like he made a list of every single possible world issue he was interested inmad about and shoved it all into one single novel before anyone could edit his list Alice is the best character in this book I miss Will

Philip Pullman î 0 Review

Meet Lyra Silvertongue And she is no longer a child The second volume of Sir Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust sees Lyra now twenty years old and her daemon Pantalaimon forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existedPulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; onc. Northern Lights is uite possibly my favourite book of all time and I actually really liked La Belle Sauvage despite the mixed reviews it got so I was pretty confident that I d love The Secret Commonwealth Grown up Lyra I pre ordered it and started reading it the minute it landed in my Kindle And I really didn t like itJudging from the reviews on here I m in the minority and I m not mad about that I love the world of His Dark Materials and I will always admire Pullman as one of my all time favourite writers so the people enjoy this book the better But I was absolutely astonished by how lifeless this book was I was amazed at the transformation of Lyra from my all time favourite heroine into a flat dislikable character On some level I get it It s actually very relatable Lyra s character arc explores difficult themes of growing up into a person you don t like of realizing that your child self would be horrified and disappointed by the person you ve become of being uite literally at war with oneself which is a struggle that many of us go through when we enter our early twenties It definitely resonated with me But this is LYRA I don t want this to be her arc I want eleven year old Lyra back with her fire and grit and wild lies Malcom is another character that I felt got flattened and suished by this book I loved kid Malcom in La Belle Sauvage He was brilliant and curious and wise beyond his years Adult Malcom though I barely have any adjectives to describe Not to mention the view spoilerabsolutely bizarre and out of nowhere subplot of him being IN LOVE WITH LYRA after having known her since she was a baby I mean eleven years isn t a crazy age gap but still it s just really weird and felt really forced and inorganic hide spoiler


10 thoughts on “The Secret Commonwealth

  1. says:

    I can't believe I'm giving this book 2 starsHis Dark Materials shattered my heart as a kid I've been dreaming of a book about adult Lyra ever since but this was one of the biggest disappointment of 2020 alreadyIt took me 3 months to

  2. says:

    Hey this review has spoilers soI was really wanting to love this book and His Dark Materials is basically still my favourite

  3. says:

    Why the hell are people rating this book one star when it's not even out yet and there's no way they could possibly have read it?? It makes me so mad ¬¬

  4. says:

    Northern Lights is uite possibly my favourite book of all time and I actually really liked La Belle Sauvage despite the mixed review

  5. says:

    The Secret Commonwealth continues Lyra's story many years after the conclusion of His Dark Materials with a young woman adrift from her deamon and starting to understand who she really is in the world It's a story about acceptance

  6. says:

    lyra silvertongue as a twenty year old lyra silvertongue as a twenty year old lyra silvertongue as a twenty year old LYRA SILVERTONGUE AS A TWENTY YEAR OLD am actually losin me shit one of the reasons why la belle sauvage wasn't as good as hdm was because lyra wasn't in it well i mean she was but she was 8 month

  7. says:

    I don't prioritize books by white cis male authors but I'm still interested in the adventures of Lyra now a twenty year old college student so figured I'd make an exception And then I got to page 187 and said oh no Oh gross OUT LOUD This is

  8. says:

    As a huge fan of Philip Pullman I take no pleasure in reporting that The Secret Commonwealth is a massive disappointment This novel which begi

  9. says:

    What a fascinating mess that was The opening feels a lot like a Golden Compass replay with Lyra back in Oxford and a student now hers

  10. says:

    Oh the disappointmentWhile I appreciate good representation and diversity in the stories that I read I acknowledge that even in 2019 not all books can be up to my own standards So if a book is well written has a