The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, Volume 2)

Philip Pullman

 
The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, Volume 2)
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The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, Volume 2)

Philip Pullman

It is twenty years since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life-changing journey.

It is almost ten 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 sequence

Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child …

The second volume of 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.

The Secret Commonwealth is truly a book for our times; a powerful adventure and a thought-provoking look at what it is to understand yourself, to grow up and make sense of the world around you. This is storytelling at its very best from one of our greatest writers.

Review

When Philip Pullman first announced that he was releasing three new books set in the world of His Dark Materials, he shared a few tantalising details about what to expect. Most provocatively, he explained that it was Dust that had drawn him back — what he described as ‘that mysterious and troubling substance’. The Secret Commonwealth delivers on this early teaser and fans will find much to debate here, not just about Dust but also about the larger world of the series and in particular, the relationships between humans and dæmons.

I say fans because unlike the first volume of this new trilogy, which was an adventure tale that could be read independently, The Secret Commonwealth is not for newcomers. This is a story concerned with consequences, and especially with the lingering reverberations caused by the events of His Dark Materials (ten years earlier) and of La Belle Sauvage (twenty years earlier). To see how Lyra and Pantalaimon, and Malcolm and Asta, have changed is part of what makes The Secret Commonwealth so enthralling: the kids are all grown up now and with that comes new dangers and responsibilities. This new adult landscape brims with dark threats and while some are immediately apparent, others are hidden under seductive guises. What lies at the heart of this novel is the importance of imagination – its immense value and power.

Like much of Pullman’s other fantasy works, The Secret Commonwealth fizzes simultaneously with ideas and moments of nerve-frying, nail-biting tension. Lyra, Pan and Malcolm are all on journeys in this new story – their travels taking them as far away as Prague and Smyrna – and all the while, there are whispered rumours of a desert city haunted by lone dæmons. The narrative moves between these central characters as well as shadowy figures within the ominous Magisterium, building to an edge-of-your-seat cliff-hanger.


Bronte Coates is the digital content coordinator and the Readings Prizes manager.

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