The Secret Commonwealth

Knopf. (The Book of Dust: Bk. 2). Oct. 2019. 656p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780553510669.
Gr 9 Up–It’s been 20 years since Malcolm Polstead braved a once-in-a-lifetime flood to bring the infant Lyra Silvertongue to Jordan College, events detailed in Pullman’s first “Book of Dust” title, La Belle Sauvage. Now, Lyra is a student at Oxford and Malcolm a professor at a different Oxford college. Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon, have been at odds over Lyra’s interest in a rationalist philosopher who believes that daemons are a human delusion. After Pan witnesses a murder, he and Lyra find the dead man’s rucksack, which is full of plant samples and information about his expedition to a desert where roses grow that allow people to see Dust, but where daemons cannot go. Pan leaves after he and Lyra have an intense argument, and when Lyra sets off to look for him, she’s followed by agents of the Magisterium and a mysterious young scholar who has developed a new way of reading the alethiometer, as well as Malcolm, who hopes to help her. She travels to an address in Turkey listed in the dead man’s notes and meets a sorcerer who commits an act of cruelty in front of her and tells her she’ll find Pan if she goes to Syria. On her journey, she learns about an underworld where daemons are stolen and sold, and confronts an ongoing refugee crisis.
VERDICT Older teens and adults who are already invested in the series will be excited to catch up with Lyra and Malcolm, but with primarily adult characters and a complicated plot, this will have limited appeal in most YA collections.

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