In this sequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy and La Belle Sauvage, Lyra Silvertongue is a disenfranchised college student, seduced by the writings of a popular author, whose toxic ideas — including one that proposes daemons are mere illusions — have formed a wedge between Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon. Pan believes Lyra’s imagination has been stolen — a fate worse than death, leaving her hollow, lacking the spark and tenacity that bolstered them throughout their various escapades — and so sets off to find it. Which propels Lyra on a journey to locate Pan. And Malcolm Polstead (from La Belle Sauvage) to track Lyra.
If this sounds like a lot, just wait, there’s more. Under the guidance of its sinister new leader, the authoritarian church The Magesterium is beginning to extend its powers. Meanwhile, terrorists are destroying rose crops in the name of an ambiguous Holy Purpose. The whole world is mired in a state of hyper-discontent. The parallels to our own aren’t nuanced or oblique; Philip Pullman seems determined to make the similarities as opaque as possible. Like it’s his mission to state: you think this world is fucked up? Look outside your window.
The Secret Commonwealth is wonderfully ambitious in scope and energy. Pullman’s world is sublimely imagined. It hardly matters that after more than 700 pages we’re left with more questions than answers. We know he’s more than capable of sticking the landing. It’s the long wait until the third instalment that’s the killer.
Author: Phillip Pullman
Publisher: Penguin UK
Publication Date: 03/10/2019