The Book of Dust 2: The Secret Commonwealth

Publisher: Penguin Books

Review

Just like the first book in The Book of Dust series, The Secret Commonwealth is a deeper, darker beast than the previous His Dark Materials trilogy.

In The Secret Commonwealth, the inimitable hero Lyra – who was just a baby in Le Belle Sauvage – is 20 years old. This book is for readers who, like Lyra, have grown up with her. 

Lyra seems an altogether different person now – tainted by time and her earlier traumas. For a start, she and her animal daemon, Pan, are at each other's throats.

Soon, a dramatic crime mystery unravels involving rose oil, the curious Dust and a pursuit across countries as the Magisterium hunt down all who oppose them and know too much.

Along the way, the book comments on topics as diverse and weighty as fundamentalism, the refugee crisis and the worship of reason at the cost of imagination. Although younger readers will be seduced by the magic and adventure, the book includes other difficult issues, too, more suited to older teens – there is both reference to rape and an attempted sexual assault, for example. There is also fairly regular swearing and violence.

Although this middle book definitely sets up the action for the third, there are some brilliant and excitingly tense set pieces to keep you breathless and with a knot in your stomach. All fans of Lyra and her parallel world will be utterly absorbed and desperate to know what happens next.

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