A desert rose with mysterious properties sets off a rush.
The events of The Book of Dust (2017) and the His Dark Materials series behind her, Lyra Silvertongue has grown into a rude post-teen so enthralled by the existential hyperrationalism of two popular writers that even her daemon Pantalaimon can’t stand to talk to her. Believing that Lyra’s imagination has been stolen, Pan braves mutual anguish to slip off to fetch it back. Meanwhile, hints of a rare Central Asian rose whose attar confers the power to see Dust arrive in Brytain, the theocratic Magisterium is poised to expand its reach under the sway of a sinister mastermind, and Malcolm Polstead, Oxford professor and secret agent, finds himself involved in ominous local events—all adding up to multiple characters embarking on parallel journeys across Europe and onward. Pullman places his cast of white main characters in a Eurocentric world marked by rising authoritarianism, general anxiety, desperate refugees, and anonymous terrorists violently destroying rose crops in the name of a vaguely religious Holy Purpose. He skillfully weaves in deeper themes of change and of love’s complexities, ruminations on the nature of evil, evidence of magical truths beneath reality’s veneer, swipes at organized religion, and the powerful—if often twisted—ties of family. This entry, while well stocked with familiar characters in a story founded on ideas, is also not lacking in grand events and narrow squeaks.
Exhilarating. (Fantasy. 14-adult)