The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

This post contains one spoiler.

Since His Dark Materials is one of my favourite series and I liked La Belle Sauvage, I was eagerly anticipating this novel.

I was tingly and excited when reading most of this book. It had suspense and lots of action. Like La Belle Sauvage and the Amber Spyglass, this novel was much more adult and complex, but I was irked with a few things by the end of it.

This is a long novel which is fine but I mistakenly thought events would be solved by the end of it. This book ends in a cliff hanger! I realized that things would not resolve satisfactorily in the last 150 pages of this 600+ page book. I still needed to finish it and Pullman is a good writer.

I did find the book a bit bloated a times. I love Pullman’s imagination and story telling style. He reintroduces us to some characters and introduces new ones. There are a lot of characters in this novel and at least five characters whose parallel journeys were being tracked. It almost felt like padding. This happened in His Dark Materials trilogy too and things resolved satisfactorily in the last third of The Amber Spyglass. Now I feel like I did as a kid reading The Subtle Knife for the first time and having to wait for the third book. However, that wait was must shorter because I think I read those books relatively close together.

I also have a gripe with Pullman setting up a romance between Malcolm and Lyra. It actually repulsed me. I love both characters but Malcolm knew Lyra as a baby and the whole thing feels incestuous. What’s worse is that Pullman tries justifying it by having more than one woman in the book noting and accepting Malcom’s love for Lyra and one even acknowledges that they are adults now. Lyra is only twenty in this book and that does not make her adult enough to engage in a man who is 31 years old and has known her since she was a baby. It’s frankly a bit creepy and this is one of the rare times I’ve been disappointed with Pullman.

I miss the character of Will. I do like Malcolm and Lyra as characters. I would have accepted the pairing if they were both ten years older. Lyra being twenty and Malcolm finding her attractive as a teenager is just too much.

The novel has many moments of violence and creepiness. It is also notably very political. I do not mind except I can not fully evaluate this book because there is no ending to the journey. There were too many characters and events building to something I can not see yet.

I still give this a solid 4 stars. It would have been higher if this book had an actual ending and omitted the budding romance.

Read November 19, 2019.

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