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Book Report: The Subtle Knife

Updated on May 30, 2016

The Subtle Knife is the second book of Philip Pullman’s epic His Dark Materials trilogy. Most of the scenes took place in the city of Ci’gazze which is in another world. It took place sometime around 1995-1997. The main characters are Lyra Silvertongue and Will Parry. Their fates are strangely linked and together they must find a powerful and secret object which people from many worlds would kill to possess.

The story began when Will brought his mother to Mrs. Cooper in order for her to stay safe. Two men were after information about the father of Will, a late of the marines and an explorer. He disappeared 10-12 years ago in the North. When these men had come to his house, he had killed one of them. He had found a “window” to another world, in a city called Ci’gazze. He entered this window and found a city somewhat similar to the city of Oxford where he came from and yet different. In one the houses, he decided to spend the night, after finding out that no one was there. And there he met Lyra, a girl from another world and her dæmon, Pantalaimon. She had a device called the alethiometer which told the truth.

Cover art of the first edition of "The Subtle Knife"
Cover art of the first edition of "The Subtle Knife" | Source

Will and Lyra met a girl named Angelica and her younger brother named Paolo. From these two, they found out why no one was there. It is about the spectres and only adults can see them. Lyra was researching about a thing called “dust” and she found out that there were scholars on Will’s world who knew something about it. Will had a mission of his own, and that was to find his father. On the second time they came to Will’s world, Lyra’s alethiometer got stolen by a man called in Will’s world as Sir Charles Latrom and in Lyra’s as Lord Boreal. Sir Charles had asked for something for him to return the alethiometer and that was a weapon called “the subtle knife”. It is found in the Torre degli Angeli, the tower of the angels which is in Ci’gazze.

They went there and found somebody who had stolen the knife from its bearer, Giacomo Paradisi. This thief is known as Tullio, who is the brother of Angelica. They fought and Will won but his little finger and the finger next to it in his left hand were gone. Giacomo healed Will’s wound and told him that he was the bearer of the knife now because of what happened to his fingers, the mark of the bearer. Giacomo taught Will how to use the knife and told him not to give it to anyone for it was his by right.

Will must not give the knife to Sir Charles so they tried to steal the alethiometer and they succeeded. Angelica and Paolo found out that Will had killed their brother Tullio, so the next morning, they lead an army of kids who tried to kill Will and Lyra but Serafina Pekkala and Kaisa rescued them. Because of the knife, Will’s hand was bleeding seriously. The witches had put a spell on it to stop the bleeding but it didn’t work. He thought he was going to die but a man called Stanislaus Grumman put an ointment called bloodmoss on Will’s hand and it stopped the bleeding. Stanislaus Grumman has been killed by a witch called Juta Kamainen because Grumman rejected her love for him.

For some reason, Will knew that the man called Stanislaus Grumman, who had healed his wound, was the man he was looking for, John Parry, his father. For Will to hide from the police, for the murder he committed, he had to stay in the world he was in now but as soon as his father had died, two angels talked to him and told him that he was needed by Lord Asriel because he will create a war with the Authority, God. He accepted this mission but as soon as he returned to their camping place, he found the witches dead and Lyra gone.


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