[2022-05-02] “The Secret Commonwealth”

I wish I had not read “The Secret Commonwealth” by Philip Pullman, the second book in “The Book Of Dust” trilogy of books. Well, I wish I had not read it now and had waited for the final book to be published. This is because this book ends on a cliff-hanger and I do not know when the final book will be published. That is quite frustrating.

The problem is that after having read “La Belle Sauvage”, the first book in this new trilogy, late last year, I just could not wait very long to read the second book. This trilogy of books is set in the same universe as the “His Dark Materials trilogy of books. This second book describes events about twenty years after the events of the first book (and therefore about ten years after the events of the first trilogy of books).

The heroine Lyra Belacqua, now known as Lyra Silvertongue, has grown into an adult. She has kept it a secret that she and her daemon Pantalaimon can separate, which is considered abhorrent in their world. She also feels alienated from her daemon, who decides one day to abandon her in order to get her “imagination” back, as he feels she has lost it after reading a couple of dangerous books by malicious authors. When she learns of the disappearance of Pantalaimon, Lyra decides to find out where he has gone and to persuade him to come back.

As a single woman traveling without a daemon, this is a difficult task. Complicating it even further are political developments that lead to a power-grab by certain religious authorities, a consequent unrest among the people, and then their oppression. At the same time, there is a series of unsettling events linked to a certain kind of mysterious rose that grows only in a particular desert in Central Asia. The oil from this rose somehow allows one to see Dust, which undermines the dogma of the religious authorities. They try to suppress trade in it and covertly attack the people cultivating it.

Trying to help Lyra in various ways are Malcom Polstead, Alice Lonsdale, and Hannah Relf, as well as the secretive Oakley Street group of operatives, all of whom also appearead the first book in the trilogy. Since Lyra sets out alone on her own quest and since there is an unhinged Olivier Bonneville (son of the villainous Gerard Bonneville from the first book) trying to track her and kill her to avenge the death of his father, Malcom must try to find and protect her. Malcom also discovers that he is falling in love with her.

The book is quite a gripping read, but feels incomplete due to the way it leaves many open threads and ends on a cliff-hanger. It has been about three years since it was published and there is no sign yet of the next book, so this is a frustrating experience. While waiting for the next book to be published, I will try to keep the spark alive by reading the remaining novellas and watching the final season of the TV-series based on the first trilogy (whenever it is released).

As an aside, in line with the maturing of the heroine, the book deals with more and more mature topics (similar to the evolution of the Harry Potter series of books). It is not a book for children. Some readers might be triggered by the descriptions of sexual assault here, so beware.

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