The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

book of dust 2.jpgTitle: The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth

Author: Philip Pullman

Genre: Fantasy/Mystery/Steampunk

Publisher: Penguin Random House/David Fickling Books

Published: 3rd October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages:784

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Master storyteller Philip Pullman continues the incredible journey of Lyra Silvertongue in the second volume of The Book of Dust.

It is twenty years since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life-changing journey.

It is almost ten years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.

Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child . . .
The second volume of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust sees Lyra, now twenty years old, and her daemon Pantalaimon, forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined, and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existed. Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood, now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is right.

Theirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary, and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search for what is lost – a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert, and the mystery of the elusive Dust.
The Secret Commonwealth is truly a book for our times; a powerful adventure and a thought-provoking look at what it is to understand yourself, to grow up and make sense of the world around you. This is storytelling at its very best from one of our greatest writers.

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The long-awaited second volume of The Book of Dust picks up twenty years after La Belle Sauvage and ten years after the events of His Dark Materials, where we left Lyra and Will in their respective Oxfords, in the same botanic gardens as a way to connect. The Magisterium is still a threat in this book, in the shadow of Mrs Coulter and Lord Asriel dying in His Dark Materials, and as readers might recall from The Amber Spyglass, Lyra and Pan discovered they could do something that no other person in their world could – which forms the part of the backbone to this book, and what drives the narrative along with the threat of the Magisterium, daemons and the mystery of Dust, that has been infused throughout each book in the sequence.

Old friends from La Belle Sauvage and His Dark Materials return – Alice, Malcom and Hannah are back, and helping a now adult Lyra as she navigates a world where she is no longer welcome at Jordan College, and where the factions once thought to be defeated rear their ugly heads in new and uneasy ways. As Lyra and Pan, as well as their friends work separately for the same goal, Ma Costa and Farder Coram return to help our Lyra, a heart-warming sequence because it feels as if Lyra has truly found a home as she travels across the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia, seeking a city of lost and haunted daemons. But it is the trials that Lyra and Pan face along the way, the people they meet and the judgement they receive that sharply mirrors our world.

Refugees – ripped from their homes as trade in a special rose threatens their livelihoods are turned away, forced onto boats, and where some people look away, whilst Lyra and others try to help. It mirrors our world in that we have refugees fleeing war, climate crises, and many other things seeking safety in countries that so far, are untouched. The reactions are the same – those who wish to ignore the crises are heard more than those who wish to help. Yet those affected by these issues and other issues related to Dust and daemons that make people turn away in fear are the ones who are the voices heard in this book. There is dissent against the Masters of Jordan when Lyra is thrown out. People are trying to use their power and influence to achieve their means and ends, and we see that the things that occupied Lyra’s mind as a child have changed. Yet Dust still occupies her thoughts, and as the book moves on, nothing will ever be the same.

In true Philip Pullman style, we do not get everything answered. People are not reunited quickly, or perhaps at all,  and as everyone works towards the same goal and location, the end hints at how the third book might open and what we might expect – and I do hope that my feelings about who might meet up at the start of the third book are right, because it is a reunion I had been hoping for since the beginning of this book. Throughout the book, we are reunited with Lyra, Pan and other familiar characters, but perhaps not in the way we might expect.

Throughout the book, revelations that cleverly link back to His Dark Materials and La Belle Sauvage emerge, so I would advise reading these first, starting with His Dark Materials: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass and then La Belle Sauvage before delving into this volume. Even though chronologically, His Dark Materials takes place between La Belle Sauvage and The Secret Commonwealth, the delight is in reading those three first, before the Book of Dust, and making the connections. However, having read them, it might be an interesting experiment to read La Belle Sauvage, followed by the three His Dark Materials books and finishing with (for now) The Secret Commonwealth.

 

I am eagerly looking forward to seeing how this all concludes and where Lyra goes next – and how it changes her just as her experiences in this book and His Dark Materials changed her. An excellent addition to this series and a must read for the fans.

Book Bingo 13 – a book with non-human characters

Book bingo take 2

Book bingo Saturday again – round two, post thirteen of the year for the challenge. To mark off the non-human characters square, I have gone to a book I wrote a quiz for as part of my quiz writer job with Scholastic that fits the category of a book with non-human characters:

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

Book bingo take 2 .jpg

A Home for MollyA Home for Molly is about a young puppy called Molly – who has been left behind at a beachside town by her owners and forgotten. She befriends two girls – Anya and Rachel, ad plays with them on the beach. When it comes time to go home, each girl leaves with her family, thinking that Molly belongs to the other. Molly’s search for a home, and Anya and Rachel try and help her – before their holidays end and they have to go home. Neither wants to leave Molly alone, but who does she belong to – or will she find a new home with Anya or Rachel?Beast world

A home for Molly is a sweet story, with a sweet ending and fits this category quite well. Molly’s perspective of her world is charmingly written, and I felt as small as Molly did when trying to navigate her world. Molly is an adorable character, and though the story is also about Anya and her desire for a dog and to help Molly, it fits into the category of non-human character quite nicely.

Of the many books I have read, this was always the category I knew I wasn’t sure how I would fill. Animals – I had a few ideas here, such as Paddington, Animal Farm, and a few that had peripheral animal characters. Other options would have been aliens, cyborgs or robots – I received one by George Ivanoff called Beast World that also fits into this category – which is a steampunk London ruled by animals in a world where humans are extinct, which is accessed through a portal and is part of a series – which I have also been writing quizzes for and hope to write on the last two books in the series which came out recently.

I chose these two books because animals were front and centre, and main characters the reader sees the story through rather than a peripheral character who are often seen through the lens of the human characters. Whilst these two books are not by Australian Women Writers, there are many others that will be. I’m not sure how I will fill some squares the second time around, but by ticking off what I can first, hopefully I will manage to wokr out the trickier ones.

Booktopia

Other Worlds 2: Beast World by George Ivanoff

Beast worldTitle: Other Worlds 2: Beast World

Author: George Ivanoff

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Steampunk

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 26th February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 203

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Xandra finds a key . . .
It opens a doorway . . .
She and her brother are sucked through . . .

Into a crazy world that looks like steampunk London. Except in this world there are no humans – only animals. Xandra and Lex encounter rhino police, armadillo housekeeping staff, rodent inventors and even a lion on the throne. Here humans are the endangered species!

Will Xandra and Lex survive Beast World?

The Other Worlds series: OTHER WORLDS

Find the key!
Open the doorway!
Enter the Other World! 

OTHER WORLDS is a new adventure series for kids aged 8 and up, with a sci-fi and fantasy flavour. It’s about mysterious keys that open doorways into other worlds. Each book is a stand-alone story with a new set of characters. But, for those who read the entire series, there’s also a thread running through the first three books that gets tied up in Book 4.

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Continuing the Other Worlds series, Xandra and Lex Volodin are on a school excursion when they get sucked into a painting in the museum. Xandra’s wheelchair is left behind – and once in the new world, they encounter a steampunk London – where animals rule, and live, and where humans are relegated to myths alongside unicorns and Basilisks. Here, Xandra must explain her muscular dystrophy, and get help from Nikole Telsa, a coypu, who is an inventor, and Archie, a friendly llama, to foil a plan by a carnivorous tortoise in a world were even tigers are vegetarians. Lady Mimsy is after Queen Victoria – and Lord Grimsby is after her crown – so tigers can rule instead of lions. Whilst Xandra and Lex are in this world, they must work to stop Grimsby and Mimsy before they can go home, and back to their lives in their world.

Book two of the Other Worlds series, also one I wrote a quiz for, is so far my favourite of the series. I loved the steampunk world, and I adored Telsa and Archie – they were adorable, brave and worked with Xandra and Lex nicely. Like Perfect World, Beast World shows diversity and difference, and puts a spin on the way portal worlds are portrayed. This unique and fun story has animals in clothes as Lords and Ladies in a Victorian London setting, and uses the dynamics of the human world in the animal world to illustrate how different people will do anything to attain their goals. a fun story, and I hope other people enjoy it as much as I did.

I loved Xandra because she didn’t let her disability define her, but she still struggled with the constraints of it, especially once through the portal without her wheel chair. The exoskeleton she uses in Beast World gives her a freedom that the chair doesn’t, yet she shows that whatever she uses to get around, she’s just as capable as anyone else – a powerful message to send, and a fabulous character sending it.