The Secret Commonwealth (2019) by Philip Pullman

Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were great friends—both Oxford writers and scholars. Both important to this day.

Philip Pullman is another Oxford man, one who believes he should be ranked with those great writers.

I wouldn’t go that far.

Certainly Lyra in The Golden Compass (also known as Northern Lights) is one of the great children characters in fiction.

Certainly Pullman’s invention of the daemon is one of the great fantasy inventions.

A film adaptation of Northern Lights, titled The Golden Compass, was released in December 2007 by New Line Cinema, starring Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, along with Daniel CraigNicole KidmanEva GreenSam Elliott and Ian McKellen. Though it was a financial failure, I personally like the film.

That all said, the plot of this other world is simply too scattered.  Seems he started without knowing how it would end.

Secret Commonwealth is 5th in the series, and weakest so far

Super fan Rine Karr posted the best review I’ve read. She was disappointed. The book is too preachy:

Racism, xenophobia, and the refugee crisis. Sexism, violence, and rape. Propaganda, the suppression of free speech, and religious fundamentalism.

Recall Pullman’s His Dark Materials series:

  1. Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass)
  2. The Subtle Knife
  3. The Amber Spyglass

His The Book of Dust series is a prequel and sequels:

  1. La Belle Sauvage (2017)
  2. The Secret Commonwealth (2019)
  3. … TBD

The Secret Commonwealth follows Lyra Silvertongue and Dr Malcolm Polstead, both at Oxford; she as an undergraduate at St Sophia’s college and he at Durham College.

It takes place twenty years after the first volume, La Belle Sauvage and seven years after the conclusion of His Dark Materials.

The setting is a world dominated by the Magisterium (commonly called “the Church”), an international theocracy which actively suppresses heresy. …

The relationship between Lyra and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, has been severely strained …

This is my least favourite of the 5 books, so far.  Too confusing.  Too random. I certainly hope book 6 wraps up Lyra’s endless and seemingly pointless journey in some satisfying way.

 

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Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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