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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
Length: 19 hrs and 44 mins
5 out of 5 stars (31 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

"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

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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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    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

38 of 41 people found this review helpful

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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!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Lannie
  • 2019-10-10

Cliff Hanger

Hugely important themes explored including the pernicious spread of totalitarian ideas, international incursion -- including in the Trukey/Syria area -- and the toxic effects of popular media. Otherwise, it's a cracking good story but minus 20 for egregious use of cliff hanger

5 of 5 people found this review 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.

2 of 2 people found this review 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 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Marc Johnson
  • New York, NY
  • 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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig A.
  • 2019-10-25

Half A Book

The only problem with this book is that it's incomplete. The ending doesn't wrap up any of the details, which means all the characters and story lines are left hanging for book 3. It's like the author said "that's enough pages for this book" with the next page starting book 3.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Dr.
  • CARY, NC, United States
  • 2019-10-24

Unfinished

Just as the book finally started to get good, it ended. I wouldn’t even call it a cliff-hanger because there wasn’t really a cliff to hang from, just a quick end to a slight upward climb. It was less an ending than an alien abduction. You’re just going on about your day and.... BOOM... aliens. If you really really feel you need Philip Pullman in your life, just wait til the last in the series comes out and listen to that one. You won’t be missing much.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Michaela
  • Hillsdale, MI, United States
  • 2019-10-24

Fantastic continuation

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • sherri
  • Kirkland, WA, United States
  • 2019-10-23

Ponderous

This book suffers from midriff sag despite Michael Sheen's lively narration. I enjoyed the Golden Compass trilogy as well as La Belle Sauvage; but with the change in Lyra's personality in this book comes a less interesting character. Gone is the energy and willfulness that made her such fun in the first series. Fortunately, there's Malcolm to take the place of a character with resourcefulness, will, and wit.

The plot is a classic--and not particularly surprising--journey filled with obstacles. I felt as if I were plodding along, knowing what had to happen here and there. Now we cut to the bad guys who are busy creating this situation, now we cut to the good guys who are battling through. There are a few parallels to today's world to add some interest, but overall the book lacks an arc. Worst of all, nearly unforgivable, is the fact that there is no ending. It's worse than a cliffhanger. The book simply stops. Two years went by between Belle Sauvage and this. Do we have to wait another two years for the conclusion? Will I even care by then?

I suggest that readers wait on this and read it nearer to the time that the next in the series will come out.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful