• The Secret Commonwealth

  • The Book of Dust, Volume Two
  • By: Philip Pullman
  • Narrated by: Michael Sheen
  • Length: 19 hrs and 43 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (226 ratings)

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The Secret Commonwealth  By  cover art

The Secret Commonwealth

By: Philip Pullman
Narrated by: Michael Sheen
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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Shortlisted for Audiobook of the Year at the British Book Awards 2020.

Winner of Best Solo Narration at the New York Festival Radio Awards 2020

It is 20 years since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life-changing journey.

It is almost 10 years since listeners left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford's Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, best0selling His Dark Materials sequence.

Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child....

The second volume of Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust sees Lyra, now 20 years old, and her daemon Pantalaimon, forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existed. Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood, now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is right.

Theirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search for what is lost - a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert and the mystery of the elusive Dust.

The Secret Commonwealth is truly a book for our times; a powerful adventure and a thought-provoking look at what it is to understand yourself, to grow up and make sense of the world around you. This is storytelling at its very best from one of our greatest writers.

©2019 Philip Pullman (P)2019 Penguin Audio

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)

What listeners say about The Secret Commonwealth

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Expectations were high

After the volume one , the expectations were high, and so was the disappointment.
Still OK, but stretched out thinly, and narrator ruins it by exaggeration.
The end is missing,
I presume that sooner or later the story will continue in a Volume 3, but still, it feels like the the book ends midd sentence, leaving me disappointed.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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I Didn't Love It

Missing a lot of the charm shining from La Belle Sauvage

Not a great deal happens

Once upon a time not having a daemon was unthinkable now it's everywhere.

Lyra goes on a journey bouncing from one person who helps her to another

Political Commentary is very thinly veiling (The evil petrol company is called TP)

Malcolm's position is borderline disturbing

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Whoever complains about Lyra’s accent

Don’t be fooled by watching too many episodes of Inspector Morse, the accent Michael Sheen uses for Lyra is actually far closer to a local Oxford accent than the usually RP dross. I say this as someone who has lived in Oxford my entire life…so stop complaining about it!

Other than that an entirely absorbing book, one less star but it’s not so much for the story, it’s just hard to give 5/5 for the second book in a trilogy where the ending is still open

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Not a real story, the worlds longest intro

I would NEVER have used a credit to buy this book if I had any clue it was not a complete story. It ended mid-sentence with no closure for any of the characters.

The Dark Materials trilogy was firstly honestly advertised as a trilogy and each book stood alone. If I had known this is the start of an infinite series I would have waited till all the books are published to decide If I wanted to invest that many credits.

This half (thrid, quarter???) story was not worth a credit. I would recommend that Mr Pullman take a leaf out of Diana Gabaldon's book who writes great long stories (55 hrs) with as many details as you please yet each book has an ENDING.

Obviously this is triggering.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Missing the magic!

2,5 stars. I only rounded the stars up to three because I managed to finish the book, more out of duty though, than out of interest.

I wanted to finish it mostly because of the Northern Lights trilogy, hoping it would eventually lead to something equally exciting. I didn't like the the direction the story took early on, but I was willing to give it a chance. It wasn't all negative though. The world Philip Pullman has created is truly marvellous and I enjoyed spending more time there, getting to know it better. It was a bit of a nostalgic experience, above all else.

However, the slow paced and depressing storyline wasn't quite rewarding enough, and here is why:

The biggest problem was that the plot was missing a proper arc. The set-up was impatient and the conclusion non-existent. The book felt like a middle without an end. Barely any questions of note were answered and actually, very few were asked in the first place. The last chapter revealed nothing but a cliffhanger, a big "to be continued."

That in itself would not have been such a big problem if the book had been more character driven. I don't mind slow paced, character driven books with little plot, as long as the main protagonist's inner journey makes a significant progress. That wasn't the case here. The book seemed little more than a set-up for the next installation.

The main characters lacked the depth and charisma from the author's previous works from this world. They weren't awful or poorly written. I just never felt properly connected to any of them and couldn't bring myself to care. I was totally unaffected by the hardships and trauma they endured.

A huge factor to this was the presence of too many viewpoint characters. I often like reading books with multiple POV's, but this time their number wasn't justified. The author could easily change the feel and atmosphere to distinguish between each one, but I felt the "extras" took away from the story, instead of adding value to it. There were too many strings pulling in different directions. The information provided through many of the viewpoints wasn't unneccessary. Had it been discovered through the lens of fewer characters, however, it would have been a more immersive experience and given those characters a better chance to grow.

I was disappointed with Lyra, whose main problem was loss of drive, enthusiasm and curiosity, all of which were her most attractive qualities in the previous books. Had she retained those qualities, I could have coped better with her lack of imagination. Instead, I wanted to desert her almost as much as her deamon did.

I was really excited to see Malcolm again. I just wish he had been given more space and a stronger storyline. His journey didn't add much to the story and he didn't get to shine like the hero he was in La belle sauvage. He deserved more and I hope he gets it in the next book.

I'm unsure about reading the third book. On one hand, I want to see Lyra, Pan and Malcolm done justice. I really hope that the issues I had with this book get resolved in the next. On the other hand, I'm afraid it will not, and even worse, that it might ruin the original series for me. I just don't want to leave it like this either.

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    3 out of 5 stars

disappointing middle part

to be continued ...
Most threads are unresolved and we will have to wait for years

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wonderful!

amazing book. totally captured by imagination just as the original northern lights trilogy did. can't wait for the next one!!

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Good reader! Meh story ☹️

Struggled to finish but only because of the story. The reader is quite good!

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A decent piece

But still, I don't understand why does it exist. The original trilogy was perfect to close all the necessary plot questions.

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A wild voyage of intertwining adventures and drama

Here we see a grown up Lyra facing down the Magisterium and the equally threatening challenges of the adult world. The story throws her, and Malcolm, and Pantalaimon, each alone, into a whirlwind Eastward trip through Europe and ultimately to locations in the Middle East. Some parts of the story feel a bit less organic than others (I was happy enough with the Welsh detour) but they all fit together so that the heroes' paths overlap. Michael Sheen's narration and ownership of the huge cast of characters is what glues and elevates it. Great escapism. I look forward to the next installment.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-07-19

Oh Dear....*spoilers*

Not often am I left so completely baffled and underwhelmed by a book that I put it to words...yet here we are.

Firstly, and a massive drawback to the entirety of the book is the return of Lyra. I fail to see why she has been reintroduced to the audience as an 'adult' when it seems our beloved character has devolved into a meek little dimwit. Gah! Imagine...just imagine, writing the heroine of a fantasy story, who does not believe in fantasy! It is absurd. Her dwaddle down logic lane is completely at odds with the fierce little girl who traversed the multi-verse just 10 years before. Lyra is a superficial shell of her former self...need I say more.

Next. The Malcolm & Lyra love arc. Can I get a collective shudder? Let's ask any irl female who grew up to have a former caregiver come on to her if she swooned? I know the age gap is only 10 years but Lyra is portrayed as especially naive, and as a reader, it appeared that this grown, experienced professor had absolutely nothing in common with this vulnerable 20 year old. Just the fact that he used to change her nappies and describes his love for her entirely in physical terms...her hair, her scent, her body.....cringe....and Gah!

Lastly, it's all the little things that drove me to despair. The slow moving plot. Why is Hannah Ralph referred to as elderly now 10 years on when I was under the impression her career was just getting started last book? Why does Lyra, upon receiving a vial of rose water, a seemingly mystical and rare commodity, never become curious enough to look at it again? The CCD round up of people towards the end of the book was very odd in the way that every person involved seemed to react in the same way...by kicking and screaming...it undermined the premise of the CCD as a tyrannical formidable power...and having such cohesion between the victims gives no sense of realism or individualism of character making for sloppy writing as far as I'm concerned. Gah! There are more but my ears are starting to release steam so I'll leave it at that.

One thing I will say in Philip Pullman's favour is that I adored the previous books and he is a far superior narrator to Michael Sheen. However, this installment will be hard to forget, for all the wrong reasons. I prefer to see it as a blip that will fade from my memory over time. Sigh. Sad and disheartening, even more so after reading many reviews contrary to mine.

All of this is just my humble opinion of course. By nature, it is bound to be subjective to every reader. Personally, I implore you: save your time! Save your sanity! Save your wallet...

& Gah!

29 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Gerry
  • 10-03-19

Listened In One Go

MESMERISING.

Listened in my car on journey from Fort William to Berlin. We flew!

Narration is incredible.

26 people found this helpful

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  • Doublespeedson
  • 10-05-19

I can not wait for the third installment.

If you loved his dark materials you will love this book.

Faster paced that La Belle Sauvage, and left on a cliff hanger. Lots of characters from his dark materials make an appearance and the story does require you to have read that trilogy first.

Michael Sheen is excellent reading this.

22 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-19-19

Amazing book, annoying performance

Great story, but the performer decided to use a weird west country accent for Lyra that makes no sense. Lyra wasn't a country girl, she was raised at a university with well spoken professors. In this story she's spent the last 8 years or so since the original trilogy at a university too.

Where is she supposed to have picked up this thick, West Country farmers accent from? It's so jarring, it takes me completely out of the story.

18 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr David Paul Arnold
  • 12-07-19

Not at all what I expected.

It took me a lot longer to get in to this story, his dark materials had me captivated from the first page. I was irritated with Lyra, I didn’t recognise her, she was very different from the younger version. I expected that the gutsy girl would grow in to a gutsy woman. What she had gone through when she was a girl, the things she saw, the people she met, there was nothing she couldn’t do, and yet now she has grown up she seemed a very weak personality. The old Lyra and her demon had gone to hell and back, what they had seen and experienced would of made them stronger together, and yet in the book they couldn’t stand one another. She knew far more then the two authors of the books she read. I couldn’t understand why she would give them the time of day. I stuck with the book, my husband was ahead of me and told me that it was worth it. He didn’t mention the end, if he had I may of put the book down. When I reached the end I felt robbed.

17 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Terri-Louise
  • 10-31-19

I don’t get what all the fuss is about! Did I listen to a different book?!

I have read his dark materials many times which I love; the characters, the plot, the magic... but this! I’m just not quite sure what this is! Firstly what happened to the Lyra we love, where’s the plot to keep us enthralled. I feel like i have just listened to over 19hrs of Michael Sheen telling me a story which doesn’t really go anywhere! For the love I bare for the first trilogy I will persevere and carry on with the next book but I do hope it leads somewhere good!

16 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-29-19

Not up to standard

It really could be better. Shouldn't have brought Lyra back into the world without an amazing storyline.

15 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Derby mum
  • 10-06-19

One star off for being half a book.

Abruptly ends without tying up any of the plot lines. I'm completely frustrated to think I might have to wait years to find out what happens next!

14 people found this helpful

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  • Gina
  • 11-05-19

Good narration but awful story

As a fan of the His Dark Materials trilogy I was looking forward to this book and I also really enjoyed La Belle Sauvage. However I wish I could erase this particular book from my memory. The relationship between Malcom and Lyra is inappropriate with him initially lusting after her when she is his underage pupil he went from being a protective almost parental figure in the previous book to a creepy older man incredibly quickly. I can’t help but think Lyra deserved better than this.

10 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Tracy Russell
  • 12-15-19

A long slog

OK I really wanted to love this. The reader is a fantastic actor and he gives an amazing performance. The story on the other hand was just a very long stream of small events with no real direction or end. Sorry but I have no idea what the author is trying to say. Its not very entertaining anyway

9 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Melanie
  • 10-04-19

Download error

I’ve been looking forward to this audiobook for ages, and have had it on pre-order for months. Unfortunately I’m unable to download the audiobook using the instructions sent by Audible. Hoping that this can be resolved quickly so I can listen and then give it a proper review.

3 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-24-20

Brilliant narration of a terrible book

The only redeeming feature of this utter piece of misery is Michael Sheen's performance. If you're expecting to see the brilliant, adventurous, fiesty Lyra of old, prepare to be overwhelmingly disappointed. Some chapters were particularly traumatising. There should be a warning that this book contains graphic depictions of violence against women, including attempted rape. I'm never reading another book by Pullman again.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-19-19

My new heroine

Surprisingly for this reader, it is Alice, friend,protector and confidante of Pullman’s own heroine Lyra ,who throughout the novel has proven to herself most able to inspire and amuse
Rarely is a less than attractive woman more able to exude sensuality and whit whilst brandishing expletives guaranteed to raise an eyebrow
In the era of ‘girl power’ look no further for both a wonderful story and fine literary examples of that power in action
As for the narrator, such a term is grossly insufficient .It is a performance and an example of Mr Sheen at his very best
I eagerly await the final volume of the trilogy

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Barbara Fisher
  • 10-18-19

Brilliant

Gripping story which is superbly performed and ends with a cliff hanger. Compulsive listening. What more could you want?

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Stealeye
  • 10-09-19

Philip Pullman is the best

Outstanding story read brilliantly .given the option I would have scored it 10 . can't wait for the next book.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nathaniel Crawford
  • 09-18-22

Brilliant

It took a dark turn at the end but was so real and exciting

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • SimonSmiley
  • 05-26-22

Vapid and self indulgent

If you have read His Dark Materials you could be forgiven for thinking that reviving those characters is a sure hit but you’d be sorely wrong. All the life and spark from the initial books has been lost with this boring pedestrian story. A string of unrelated events are put together with an attempted semblance of reason and the characters are lifeless and dull. The youth and energy is gone, replaced by a farcical story created to produce a journey from A to B. With little reason to care about the main characters and long stretches of little to take your attention, you would be forgiven for stopping this book early. Coupled with the excruciating accents of Pan and Lyra and this book really shows how Pullman wrote an excellent trilogy and is now back to his previous mediocrity.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • rebeccavdb
  • 09-03-21

great narrator.

loved it. enthralled. very imaginative. really looking forward to the next book. such a great series.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Liang
  • 08-13-21

Excellent! A great sequel to the series.

this was a great book, engrossing and well integrated to the previous books. this was well performed by the reader with the pace accents.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Vaelei Lemauga
  • 08-08-21

Excellent narrator

Best narrator I have ever heard! His voice alone made this story come to life and you won’t regret being entertained by him 😍