The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) by Philip Pullman

As I’d mentioned in my review of La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1), I decided to (finally) read the series when I saw paperback copies of The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) in bookstores. What? There were already paperbacks of book 2 out, and I still hadn’t read book 1?! OK, time to read. And then after reading book 1, I tried to hunt down hardbacks of book 2, but couldn’t find one. Thankfully, my friend introduced me to Book Depository, from where I ordered this specific edition. (Having consistent editions sparks joy in my life.)

The events in The Secret Commonwealth occur twenty years after La Belle Sauvage and eight after His Dark Materials. I admit that I could benefit from rereading His Dark Materials (I read it more than ten years ago…), but Philip Pullman tied all of the characters and events so well in The Book of Dust #1 and #2 that I was able to recall the backstories as I read on.

The Secret Commonwealth was almost perfect, except that it felt too much like a lead in to a third book. But I appreciate. I’m going to rave about certain events in the book, so I will tell you now that this post has spoilers.

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The Near Witch by VE Schwab

Leave it to VE Schwab to come up with a strong female protagonist. Lexi Harris is adventurous, and, in skill and attitude, she takes after her father. I like her spirit, but, as a young person, she doesn’t seem to think of the consequences of her actions. Then again, we wouldn’t have this story if she actually thought things through…

The story is set in a small village, and I like the small-town dynamic. There’s a council of elders with an interesting origin story and a set of folk songs passed on from generation to generation—these are the little things make small towns unique, even if they share general characteristics. Knowing this, of course, something dark lurks nearby. We can’t live somewhere perfect, after all.

So yes, there’s a dark side to the story. And no—it’s not in the form of the mysterious male stranger that arrives in town. It’s more of an eerie type of darkness, one that reminded me of Coraline. I admit that I am quite easy to scare, which is why I avoid horror movies like the plague. But it was only at one point in the book anyway. (I was reading late at night and finally got creeped out, so put the book down and went to sleep instead. I finished the rest of the book in the morning—you know, while the sun was up.)

But my favorite part about The Near Witch is the magic. I loved that the magic is rooted in nature and that there was no need for wands, spells, or incantations. Verdict: I’m all about a nice community story. Yay, yay, I say read this book when you can!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Let me start off by saying how much I love having friends who also love reading. I love looking at my friends’ bookshelves whenever I visit their places, and I’ve found that some of my favorite books have been recommendations from friends. Such was the case for The Name of the Wind: I heard about the book from a few of my friends, so I’d been curious about the book for a while. However, I’d never purchased a copy of the book because I had too many unread new books on my shelf, and I couldn’t in good conscience buy another book to add to that pile.

Thankfully, a friend gave me his copy of The Name of the Wind a few weeks ago—good timing, too, because I was in the mood for fantasy. Since I’d only ever heard great things about The Name of the Wind, I was a little scared I wouldn’t love the book. It didn’t help that the book had ~660 pages; its length was a little intimidating. But I need not have worried. I enjoyed the book.

It started off a little slowly for me. I was less than a fifth through the book, and I was already getting anxious that it was just hyped up to me. I was a little confused with the storytelling and wasn’t sure what the story was supposed to be about. (Does this happen to anyone else?) In any case, I read on and finally connected the dots. And then I became a fan.

Essentially, the first few chapters laid the foundation for the rest of the book. Unassuming little details were dropped here and there, ready to pounce and slap the reader in the face with their importance to the story. When those realizations hit, I was hooked. I kept my copy on my bed and read a few chapters before sleeping each night. By the end of the book, 660-ish pages didn’t feel long enough, and I wanted to know more.

Truth be told, the end felt rushed. It’s funny to think that a book of that length could possibly be rushed, but the end was so abrupt that I felt a little cheated when I reached the last page. Clearly the book was meant to be part of a series, and I was a little disappointed by that. To me, books should be able to stand alone whether or not they are part of a series, and I did not feel this was the case for The Name of the Wind.

Regardless, I still want to know what happens next. I already have a copy of The Wise Man’s Fear (my friend was feeling generous with his old copies), and it’s another long one. I have a feeling it will also feel incomplete to me, but I bet I will enjoy it as much as I did the first. I am itching to know how things turn out, and I’m incredibly disappointed that the final book has not yet even been published. I do hope Rothfuss publishes soon—preferably by the time I finish the second book, but that doesn’t seem likely at this time.