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“The Secret Commonwealth” by Philip Pullman

secret commonwealth

Overall, I liked this a lot, although not without a few reservations. It is a long book, I think significantly longer than any of the previous books in the world but it does move at a good pace. However, it is almost the least stand-alone of the books since it ends abruptly without any plot resolution. The book picks up about 6-7 years after the end of "The Amber Spyglass", which is a long time for a young person and Lyra has definitely changed a lot in the intervening years, throughout the events of "His Dark Materials" I think she managed to keep a sense of optimism despite all the terrible things happening around her, but here she is much less sure of herself. She is often a less likeable character, but probably a more interesting one. I've always thought the daemons are the most fascinating part of Pullman's world and it feels like we learn a lot more about them here, in particular about how the mental turmoil of their humans might reflect in their relationship. It's also good to see a grown-up Malcolm a couple of decades after the events of "La Belle Sauvage", and although plenty of things have changed over the years he does still feel like the same character.

Although the early portion of the book mostly takes place again in Oxford over the course of the book we do get to see a lot more of the world than we did before. The book does feel quite episodic with a lot of subplots as Lyra and Malcolm journey across Europe, but although the subplots sometimes don't have much to do with each other I think they do fit together thematically. Pullman includes his usual themes of fighting against authoritarianism, and includes some fairly clear (possibly slightly heavy-handed) parallels to current problems in our world, most obviously a refugee crisis caused by turmoil in the Middle East.

The thing I liked least about was a potential romantic relationship, which felt a bit creepy from one character's perspective and I hope doesn't come to anything.

I thought it was a good book, although it's so incomplete that it's a bit difficult to really judge it properly without seeing the conclusion.

Rating : 7 / 10