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The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth

The Book of Dust, Volume 2
Written by: Philip Pullman
Narrated by: Michael Sheen
Series: His Dark Materials, Book 0.5
Length: 19 hrs and 44 mins
5 out of 5 stars (54 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The number one New York Times best seller!

Return to the world of His Dark Materials - now an HBO original series starring Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda - in the second volume of Philip Pullman’s new best-selling masterwork, The Book of Dust.

The windows between the many worlds have been sealed, and the momentous adventures of Lyra Silvertongue’s youth are long behind her - or so she thought. Lyra is now a 20-year-old undergraduate at St. Sophia’s College, and intrigue is swirling around her once more. Her daemon, Pantalaimon, is witness to a brutal murder, and the dying man entrusts them with secrets that carry echoes from their past.

The more Lyra is drawn into these mysteries, the less she is sure of. Even the events of her own past come into question when she learns of Malcolm Polstead’s role in bringing her to Jordan College.

Now, Lyra and Malcolm will travel far beyond the confines of Oxford, across Europe and into the Levant, searching for a city haunted by daemons, and a desert said to hold the truth of Dust. The dangers they face will challenge everything they thought they knew about the world, and about themselves.

Praise for The Book of Dust

"It’s a stunning achievement, this universe Pullman has created and continues to build on." (The New York Times)

"Pullman’s writing is simple, unpretentious, beautiful, true. The conclusion to The Book of Dust can’t come soon enough." (The Washington Post)

©2019 Philip Pullman (P)2019 Listening Library

What the critics say

"Michael Sheen throws himself wholeheartedly into narrating this sequel to La Belle Sauvage, and listeners will be rapt.... For the ever-expanding international cast of characters, Sheen conjures a multitude of accents and delivers rapid-fire conversations between them. He's in step with the text at every turn; when situations become fraught or dangerous, Sheen ramps up the tension exquisitely. Thanks to Pullman's intricate storytelling and Sheen's propulsive narration, listeners will be on the edge of their seats right up to the cliff-hanger ending." (AudioFile Magazine)

"The Secret Commonwealth is a majestic return to Lyra’s next chapter with all the magic, folklore, and fantasy only Philip Pullman can provide." (Hypable) 

"A big novel full of big ideas, big characters and big sorrows.... This book feels like a response to the darkness of our time." (NPR) 

"Pullman’s best novel so far. A work of extraordinary depth and humanity." (The Observer)

What members say

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  • Overall
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I wish Michael Sheen could narrate every book!

Honestly the best audio book I’ve listened to in a long time. He’s a master. I am devastated to have to wait for the third book now.

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Darkest materials yet

I saw the first series on display in the kid's section of the local bookstore and thought "Not this sequel and not the prequel, it's all grown up." and that's not a criticism but it does make this out to be a different expedience and a fascinating evolution. This one as the last is excellent but the narration disjointed in places as we follow the characters apart, it can be a bit jarring as in some cases we leap from a cryptic encounter to a domestic calm to suddenly we're far away and things have gotten strange and grim. It's a gothic steampunk engine pulling a train and it ends at the station with all the passengers where we knew they'd be. The next book has a lot of gaps to fill and I look forward to seeing how and even if it all comes together.

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Spoiler Alert (sort of)

Excellent listen. Narrator is a very good actor. With respect to the story - I wish the second book didn't finish the way it did. This book does not have a feeling of a conclusion like the first book did. Instead, this one requires that you read the third. And since the third is not available yet, I am sitting with a feeling of disappointment rather than excitement. I don't like to read/listen to get half of a story. I want a real conclusion, not a cliffhanger like this. I'm sure the third book will be great. But in an on-demand era, I almost get so mad at this kind of ending to blacklist.... almost.

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Lyra is back!

Lyra is back, and so is Phillip Pullman. Although I enjoyed the Book of Dust, it just didn't have the same visceral quality of the first Dark Materials trilogy. So was I monumentally thrilled when I started listening to the Secret Commonwealth. Although the Book of Dust was a prequel to the Golden Compass, this book is a sequel to the Amber Spyglass, and the treachery of the Magisterium is back in full force. And this time, Lyra has in some way, lost herself. As we follow her angst, we wonder where that spunky, sharp little girl has gone to, now that she has grown up. The setting is spread across a dozen countries in Europe and the near East, with delicious characters and places, intense with smells, particularly that of 'rose oil'. Wait, no more spoilers. You HAVE to read this if you loved the Dark Materials.

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  • Maddy Avena
  • 2019-10-14

Worth the long wait since Amber Spyglass

I confess. I was rather nonplussed with La Belle Sauvage. Michael Sheen is quite a thespian and I was annoyed at all the yelling during the flood, which (IMO) was way too much of the volume of the book. But since reading His Dark Materials at least 5 or 6 times and then listening to the whole thing on Audible, I didn't hesitate to buy Book 2 of The Book of Dust, The Secret Commonwealth.
I was not disappointed. Lyra at 20 is a nuanced and complicated character. One reviewer complained about all the side characters, but many of them have been revived in age or memory from His Dark Materials and every one of them has impact on the story. The tie-ins to His Dark Materials and of course La Belle Sauvage are well woven too.
Philip Pullman, for me, is such an important voice for the times we live in. So many social issues that we deal with here in the 21st century, while redressed for Lyra's alternate world were poignantly explored. I see the negative effects digital age (which I call the zombie apocalypse) to be portrayed so heartbreakingly by the schism created between Lyra and Pan, her loss of imagination, the disconnect from all that is magical in the world.
So many times while listening, I found myself with tears rolling down my cheeks. I was so enthralled with the book, I did little all weekend that required me to talk or think and just did hand work and listened to the whole thing in 3 days. I felt so empty when it ended....a great indicator that the story got under my skin and filled my imagination, that I decided to give La Belle Sauvage a 2nd go to see if it was just me at the time of the listening.
Caution: This is not a stand alone book. It is much advised to read all 4 previous books before this one, or like the aforementioned reviewer, you *will be overwhelmed by all the side characters and the subplots and you will miss a lot. Read them in the order of their publication, not their order in the story timeline.
I can't wait for Book 3. And I have to. Darn it!

13 people found this helpful

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  • Sharon Mehdi
  • 2019-10-09

And so I wait

I waited years and months and days and finally hours and minutes for Book Two. In the meantime, I listened to the Audible edition of Book One seven or ten times or eighteen times. Today I begin the wait for Book Three. I am 81. I will do everything I can to stay alive and sound of mind until Book Three is published. If that is not an endorsement of the story-telling prowess of Philip Pullman, I can’t imagine what is.

52 people found this helpful

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  • Mary I
  • 2019-10-30

I Was Shocked!

I was completely shocked by how good this book is!
I purchased this title because it is, after all, by Philip Pullman, but I expected fully to be disappointed. While I loved the Golden Compass series, I did not like the first book in "The Book of Dust" in the least. But in "The Secret Commonwealth", the Pullman magic returns! Once again, Pullman tells me a "make-like" which is mesmerizing, with characters in which I believe and a storyline I can trust. I normally couldn't listen to something with so much about troubles in our real world, but Pullman got me to do it. There are just so many different thought-threads in this novel, and they are all so well done. I just hope he needs to make the series longer than a trilogy, because I want to keep on listening! "Tell them stories." Well, Philip Pullman does it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Chelsey Stevens
  • 2019-10-15

I need more

I am obsessed with these books and this one did not disappoint. Michael Sheen did an outstanding job. The story of Lyra is haunting, inspiring, and unforgettable.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-12-04

unnecessarily rapey

Phillip Pullman is a great writer, absolutely. But he took the clever fearless hero that so many of us have loved for twenty years, and subjected her to irrelevant violence that has nothing to do with the story. I'm not sure there is anything that ruins a story for me more than arbitrary sexual violence that is unconnected to the story thrown in for shock value. Avoid.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Georgina
  • 2019-11-23

Enjoyable if imperfect...

Let me start by saying, I REALLY ENJOYED LISTENING TO THIS BOOK! Micheal Sheen does an amazing job as a reader and I really got caught up in the story. I have read all the books from the series and I grew up listening to the His Dark Materials trilogy (hands down the BEST audiobooks of all time- ALL TIME!!!), and they truly shaped my childhood and young adult life. I love Philip Pullman's world building and his ability to weave a story together piece by piece. I liked a lot of this book but I also could have lived without it. Just like Harry Potter, I am ok with keeping some things sacred.





***SPOILER TALK.....

That being said, I skimmed the reviews of this book but didn't dig in too much because I wanted to form my own opinion. I think this book has some issues but I also don't think those aspects ruined the whole story for me. I was most frustrated by reviews that gave bad ratings to the book because Will wasn't part of it... WHAT??? Something I will always cherish about the original trilogy is the ending. I loved the realistic nature of it and in a world of "disney happy endings", we need some reality checks. I was not expecting Will back in this book and I'm glad he didn't magically appear.

So. Things I didn't like. As a 30 year old teacher myself, it always makes me squirm when the love interest is significantly older. It isn't something I'm personally interested in and I was disappointed that we got jumped with it at the beginning of the book. I could have more invested if it was EARNED. But like a lot of issues I had with this book, there just wasn't enough time dedicated to it to feel genuine. I respect a crush, I respect a growing feeling to affection but love??? Right off the bat? Ugh.

I also struggled with Lyra's "skepticism". This was another aspect of the story that did not feel earned. She cut open doorways to alternate universes and traveled to the world of the dead and you're telling me she's a freaking philosophical skeptic??? what?? I don't really get that. I do appreciate that returning from a childhood journey like that would be traumatizing and I wish Pullman had dedicated more time to those moments of reflection. I believe we see that more of her coping with those emotions on her journey, however, I still felt like it was abrupt for Pan to leave based solely on her lack of imagination.

That takes me to another issue I had, which was with reviews saying they didn't like Lyra's character. My favorite part of Lyra is that she's kind of ... unlikeable. I would not have wanted to be friends with her when I was a child and that child would not grow into the easiest of adults. She's an orphan with a traumatic childhood, she's a brat who mouths off at adults all the time and she's sometimes ungrateful for what people have done for her. Of course she would struggle with the person she's become and THAT is really what feels genuine in her character arch. She isn't always a good person and Pan is the best of her. That feels like the real division, not her imagination. She is going on a journey to accept herself and grow into a woman she wants to be.

I feel like I've vented about my main issues with the book- which are not deal breakers for me in the least. I can't wait to see what happens in future books!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Marc Johnson
  • 2019-10-28

Absolutely spellbinding!

What a delight to fine the second of this series even better than the first. Don't read them out of sequence though, you'll miss too much. To anyone who is an adult, let me encourage you to read Philip Pullman. I am 64, a lifetime voracious reader of thousands of books. This is so special, so extraordinary, so compelling but so readable! If you listen to the Audible edition, the performance by Michael Sheen is so perfect you will simply be carried away. Savor it, it is so good in every way!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Michaela
  • 2019-10-24

Fantastic continuation

This is the story I have been waiting for and enjoyed ever minute of it!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ashley F Miller
  • 2019-10-22

Only sad it isn’t longer

Wonderful performance from Michael Sheen, who does lovely accents throughout and disappears right into the story.

The story is rich and engrossing and echoes the themes of his previous novels while enlarging the home world of Lyra.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Gail N.
  • 2019-10-17

Some high points not as good as I had hoped

The characters seem to have fallen into a funk. Not nearly as much fun as the first book in the series.

5 people found this helpful