Will Parry's mother is seeing things, and his father disappeared years ago, presumed dead. After he commits involuntary manslaughter, Will Parry discovers an interdimensional window, and flees through it to another world, in the town of Çittagaze, where he meets the silvertongued Lyra.
Will and Lyra return to our world's Oxford after staying in Cittagaze for a while, and meets the villainous Lord Boreal, who steals Lyra's magical device, the alethiometer. He desires something for himself from the world of Cittagaze- the subtle knife, which can cut through anything and allow its chosen owner to travel through various dimensions. Will returns to Citagazze and looks for the knife. Joined by Lyra, he discovers its whereabouts, but must fight its insane owner in order to gain posession of it. After winning the fight and losing two fingers an old man speaks with him, and tells him that his two missing fingers indicate that Will is the chosen bearer of the knife, and that he must keep it from Lord Boreal, so Lyra and Will sneak into Lord Boreal's mansion to steal the knife and keep the compass out of their opponent's position while he is deep in conversation with Lyra's evil mother Mrs. Coulter.
After Will and Lyra escape the mansion, they follow the advice of the alethiometer and seek aid from the scientist Mary Malone, who discovers she can make contact with dust. After Will and Lyra leave she follows the dust's commands and smashes the machine she uses to contact it. Also following upon the dusts' advice, she slips through the window to Cittagaze.
Meanwhile, Will and Lyra use the powers of the knife and alethiometer to go through multiple worlds, including one in which Will encounters his father and he learns of his true destiny.
This report prepared by Steve Arthur
The first book in this trilogy took place on a planet very much like Earth but different in several striking ways. This second book ranges across three parallel Earths: the one from the first book that featured Lyra, the one we know in which we meet 11-year-old Will Parry, and a third one where most of the grownups have been sucked dry of life by Spectres who cannot be seen by and cannot hurt children. This third universe turns out to have been a way station for travellers from the other dimensions. Will, whose explorer father John Parry disappeared in Alaska searching for a window between the worlds a decade ago, finds himself on the run from mysterious and threatening men -- one of whom he accidentally kills -- and finds a window into an alternate world where he meets Lyra (who now calls herself Lyra Silvertongue). Still in possession of the alethiometer, Lyra joins forces with Will, who gradually learns that he is destined to be the bearer of the "subtle knife," whose powers are tremendous and miraculous. Lyra is still searching for her father, Lord Asriel, and trying to guess his plans, while Will hopes to find his father, John Parry. But powerful forces are after both kids -- or rather, the magical tools they possess -- and witches, Spectres, and soldiers in balloons and zeppelins will also help or hinder them.
This report prepared by David Loftus