The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth

The Book of Dust, Volume 2
Narrated by: Michael Sheen
Series: His Dark Materials, Book 0.5
Length: 19 hrs and 44 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (1,748 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

Critic Reviews

"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 listeners say about The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth

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  • Overall
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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!

17 people found this helpful

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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.

60 people found this helpful

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I wish I could unread this book.

I regret finishing this book. I realized part way through how disappointing it would be, but kept going anyways. Don't need any more old men's rape fantasies in my life!

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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!

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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.

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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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I can’t help but love it!

I would like to preface this review by saying that I am a diehard fan of Phillip Pullman so my opinions of this story are likely to be biased. Anyway, I loved this book. I really cannot find the words to describe the way this story resonated within me. It made me re-examine myself and question my beliefs. I am so so glad Pullman blessed us with this book. I read the original Trilogy when I was 19 and I found myself entranced by the elegant and seamless way Pullman weaves together Fantasy and Science Fiction (I mean I guess they’re the same thing). I was star struck with the way fantasy and science almost literally butt heads in this story. I spent my time reading the original trilogy falling in love with Lyra and her dæmon Pantalaimon, and the way that their dynamic completely implodes on itself in this installment simply shook me. I cried a lot listening to this book. I can’t help but find myself relating in almost every way to Lyra and her self loathing. And I am really enjoying the conflict between the Magesterium, the freedom of Scholarship, and the authors Brande and Talbot. My main criticism is that, as always, this story is very long and drawn out, and there are so many names, places, and plot lines all happening at once, that it is difficult to remember what even is going on. However, the way these numberless and tiny details weave the story together paints a picture of a world so complex and well-thought it’s almost hard to believe it doesn’t actually exist. Additionally, I heartily enjoy Michael Sheen’s performance. He is very talented. Although, without a full cast of voice actors, sometimes dialogue can get a little muddled, and if you don’t pay close attention, you’ll lose track of which character is saying which line. But his voice is full of emotion and his narration style is easy to listen to. This book means a lot to me. I can hardly wait for the third installment.

1 person found this helpful

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I would listen to Michael Sheen read ANYTHING!

Pullman is great, that's a given. When I listened to La Belle Savage, the book that precedes this, I had no idea who Micheal Sheen was, I just thought it was the most beautifully narrated book I had ever heard in my life. He makes the characters live. He puts you in the scene. And it wasn't until after I'd watched Good Omens that I saw him as an actor. Wow. I am a fan. This book is more difficult that La Belle Savage. Lyra is in her twenties and really struggling with what has to be PTSD. The events in the first trilogy are an adventure for the reader, but horrific for the characters who lived them. Lyra has survivor's guilt, she kind of hates herself and in her world that means she's at odds with her daemon, Pan. She's going through the wringer, he's going through hell, we feel every bit of it. There's a sexual assault. Male writers see, do this because they think it gives their female characters gravitas. Alan Moore did iit too, in Jerusalem. And while it's better than fridging female characters, I wish these guys would get over it. I'm going to keep reading because, well, Pullman and Moore, but it makes me grind my teeth. Get this book. But brace yourself. Ending is a cliffhanger. Don't pull a GRRM on us Philip! I am considerably more invested in Lyra than ever I was in the Mother of Dragons. Get that next book written!

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Left hanging....

I’ve enjoyed all the books in this series - Lyra’s world and the parallel worlds, the rich characters and the philosophical questions raised. With this volume, I felt that the plot was “left hanging” in limbo, as though the author got tired of writing and decided to deal with all the loose ends in the next volume in the series.

1 person found this helpful