The second installment in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, The Subtle Knife finds readers dropped into a world much like our own, alongside scrappy youngster Will Parry. But soon, Will finds his way into dangerous parallel universes and joins forces with Lyra from The Golden Compass; together, they track down Will’s missing father and run from enemies both human and supernatural with the aid of the titular subject, a singular knife that opens pathways between different worlds. Both Lyra and Will are children who had to grow up too fast, but it’s their tenacity and hunger for knowledge—whether about their own identities or the truth of consciousness itself—that unites them. Along the way, they enlist the help of witches, scientists and a Texan aeronaut, as Pullman nimbly melds our understanding of both the real and the fantastical in his pivotal middle installment of the trilogy. —Raisa Bruner

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