For whatever reason, I had a bit of a slow month in June. I was still working on the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, and although I loved every minute of it, it still took me a while to read. I also listened to two fairly long audiobooks this month. The Nix clocked in at almost 22 hours, and Foundryside was nearly 20 hours. Both were excellent in different ways.
This was not at all what I was expecting from a sequel to The Golden Compass. The end of the first book in the trilogy pulls the rug out from under the reader, revealing that Lyra’s father is just as dangerous as her mother, if only with different methods and conflicting alliances.
The second book resets the playing field when we meet Will Parry, who comes from a world much like our own and who lives in modern times, not the early part of the Twentieth Century like you might imagine from Lyra’s version of Oxford.
The Subtle Knife is deeper and weirder, and much more disturbing than the first book. Lyra and Will discover a third world that serves as a way station between their respective worlds, but it has fallen into disrepair and been overrun with invisible specters who can suck the life out of an adult in seconds.
Will has to make some hard choices, and they encounter new and more terrifying dangers. We also start to get glimpses of Lord Asriel’s grand plan, and it is unclear what to root for other than Lyra and Will living to fight another day.
The book ends on a cliffhanger that must have been maddening back when it was first published. On to the final book in the trilogy!
This is a sprawling coming-of-age novel about a boy abandoned by his mother, and the man he becomes when he seeks her out years later to try and write a book about her life and history. It’s also about the girl she was before she gave up and married his father.
It jumps back and forth between 2011 and Chicago in the late 1960s, when the city was on the verge of erupting into riots at the Democratic National Convention.
The Nix reminded me a bit of The Goldfinch at points, but the end result wasn’t nearly as masterfully done. I enjoyed the book, but there were several points where Hill spends long chapters on characters completely secondary to the main plot, and I found myself asking why those scenes were relevant.
The only real justification is that they cross paths with the main character, and Hill wanted to paint a bigger picture of their lives. It didn’t help that the audiobook narrator chose to narrate those chapters in the voice of the characters, which made the time spent with them even more annoying.
I also felt like the ending wrapped things up just a little bit too smoothly, especially after so much strife and struggle.
REALLY LIKED IT
This book, translated from the French, follows two parallel storylines in Los Angeles, 1961. One thread follows competing detectives as they try to catch a serial killer known for murdering beautiful women and then posing them like centerfolds. The other thread is about a young woman who went deaf after an assault and decided to take up cat burglary.
The possible connections between the two storylines are intriguing, and the premise has a built-in ticking clock as the murderer kills a new “centerfold” every month, presumably leading up to the cat burglar in October.
The art is gorgeous, perfect for the fashion and the period, and the story is compelling enough that I came close to buying the rest of the series as soon as I finished this first volume.
REALLY LIKED IT
This book is a great combination of epic fantasy world-building structured around a series of heists with escalating stakes and a dark heart of atrocity that permeates the engine of its dystopian society. Highly recommended.