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 existed.
Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once 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 right.
Theirs 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 Dust.
Since reading the first Book of Dust book, La Belle Savage, I was pulled into Lyra’s world well and truly. I loved every second of the first of this series, a prequel to the Northern Lights series, and knew I’d read the second as soon as possible. At over 700 pages though, it took me a while to build up to it. Thankfully this January I managed to carve out the time in my manic homeschool, working schedule. I am so glad I did though. It was worth every stolen five minutes and was the cause of a number of late nights.
I should probably warn of spoilers for this series for anyone not familiar with it. The Secret Commonwealth takes place 20 years after the events of La Belle Savage. Which works out around 7 or 8 years since the Northern Lights books are set. With that in mind I’d say you have to read all previous books before this one. You can get away with not having read Northern Lights when you read La Belle Savage, but you couldn’t read this without any prior knowledge of the books. Including the Northern Lights. There are a lot of things that happen in that series that impact the way Lyra is in this one.
The Secret Commonwealth, like its predecessor, has a lot of horrible characters in. There are a lot of horrible scenes in it and a lot that will make your blood boil. Lyra isn’t the same girl as she was in the Northern Lights series. You will come across a lot of characters who were in that series, as well as in the first of this, and there will be revelations about characters that you may not see coming. A lot of characters I loved reappeared in this book and it was awesome to see them and see their part in Lyra’s story.
The events of The Secret Commonwealth see Lyra on her own for the majority of the book. She comes across a lot of different types of people and its hard to know who to trust. As well as Lyra’s story you have the events of The Magisterium going on in the background and find out a lot about them through Malcolm and other key characters. All of that stuff fascinated me just as much as Lyra’s story did. Though you could say that was steeped in reality more than hers as hers was quite fantasy based.
Although The Secret Commonwealth is a big book, at 719 pages (paperback version), I loved every page again. It didn’t at any point feel like it was dragging, every page was needed. And I actually read it faster than any of Pullman’s previous books I think… I devoured a lot of it last weekend! I put off reading these books for many years because I thought they would be too ‘hard’ for me, preferring the easy reads. But in all honestly, they aren’t hard at all. Pullman’s writing is so accessible and he’s fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of his work and reading other things he’s written soon.
Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth was published in October 2019 by David Fickling Books. My copy was purchased in my local Waterstones store.