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The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust, Volume 2 By Philip Pullman

Thrust into an unexpected journey imbued with extraordinary events and close calls, The Secret Commonwealth leaves scars both painful and real in the wake of Lyra Silvertongue coming of age.

Cecelia Beckman, Sheaf and Ink

The Story

Lyra is now an adult and she isn’t the curious, strong willed, imaginative young girl we fell in love with in His Dark Materials.  This twenty-one year old Silvertongue is arrogant, shortsighted, rude, and ill prepared for the responsibilities of adulthood.  It’s also not in Lyra’s favor, her obsession with the ever growing popular existential ideology of two well-known authors whose “cold logic” is changing Lyra into a person who is hardly recognizable.

Even her dæmon, Pan, is fed up and subsequently goes on a quest to find Lyra’s imagination.  Lyra’s once stable world, where everything was managed for her and relationship with her dæmon was tolerable, quickly becomes dismantled, forcing her into a reality better suited for someone with a higher tolerance for coping.

And with Pan gone, without her dæmon, Lyra is unable to exist without him.  Dejected by her circumstances, Lyra is driven to find Pan.  Her journey is long (over six hundred pages) filled with the bizarre, terrifying, and brutal moments that add up to a somewhat hopeful ending of this chapter in Lyra’s story.

My Thoughts

I have mixed feelings about this novel.  It was well written and continued with the same favorite characters we’ve grown to love over this series, but there were thick layers to this novel.  One of which was Lyra’s despondency.  Her aloneness throughout most of the novel was depressing.  I began to feel those same unbearable emotions.  That made the reading feel heavier as if I was weighted down by her struggling emotions, sinking farther into the sorrowful abyss that was her agonizing journey, and desperately wanting to reach the surface for air.

Although I had these feelings, I wasn’t fully surprised by this change.  In fact, I felt forewarned by Pullman, because in his Author Note, he stated, “Lyra and Malcom are about to be thrown together once again.  And they are not children.”  This was a major indication that this novel would be different.  That we as readers should not go into this with the same lens as we had for His Dark Materials or The Book of Dust.

One more thing

Something else I couldn’t help but observe was this notion of deep loss throughout the novel; as though Lyra herself had been cut from the fabric that was the tapestry of her life; set adrift in this dark place that lacks in the intimate, the imaginative and the fantastical that we’ve seen cultivated within her childhood.  It’s as though she is experiencing, for the first time, the harsh realities of an unforgiving world.  And the questions that continue to persist, now that this book has ended, are: will Lyra be able to survive and be a satisfied whole individual; will she fulfill her destiny of building the Republic of Heaven; and what further consequences have yet to unfold because of her actions (and Malcolms) from their past.

The Secret Commonwealth still holds the same level of brilliance as Pullman’s other novels.  However, this novel stands out with its serious tone, profound themes and the vast scope of Pullman’s overarching vision of this epic series

Happy Reading  ̴  Cece

RATING: ink blotink blotink blot – Satisfyingly Inked

Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf

Publication Date: October, 2019

Pages: 656

ISBN-10: 0553510665

ISBN-13: 9780553510669

Audience: Young Adult; ages 14 and up

Jacket Art: Chris Wormell

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