The Secret Commonwealth jumps about two decades from the ending of its predecessor. I said with La Belle Sauvage that you did not have to read His Dark Materials, but that is not the case with The Secret Commonwealth.
I was really excited for this, especially after really enjoying the first of this series. Bu other than the prose, each element of this story was weaker and less intriguing. But it is still a book that fans of this world will enjoy.
The main protagonist is Lyra once again, now a few years older. A major theme of the novel is her arguing with her daemon, which was heartbreaking, but jarred horribly with their personalties. It seemed forced and only to drive the plot further, making no real sense.
“You're in a world full of colour and you want to see it in black and white.”
The main character of the former book, Malcolm, is also in this, now a professor. I loved his naive determination and moral code in the first book, but was put-off in this one. He makes a few….questionable decisions that really distanced me from the character and took me out of the story. I’m sure those who have read The Secret Commonwealth will know what I am referring to.
A disheartening aspect to this book is that the events of the previous series appear to have been for nothing. The world and its evils have not been suppressed or altered in any way, making His Dark Materials basically useless.
Of course Pullman’s prose will never be a weakness. It is lyrical as always and immersive. Narrated by the wonderful Michael Sheen, the style convinced me to plough on through this massive book! My two favourite aspects of the experience.
“You won’t understand anything about the imagination until you realise that it’s not about making things up, it’s about perception.”
Overall, The Secret Commonwealth was a disappointment on all levels, with the exception of prose. And also the narration on Audible was brilliant, which is not down to Phillip Pullman himself. Characters developed in unnatural ways, plot seemed forced, and it was very different from the usual experiences I have had regarding Pullman’s works.