This was hard. I think I should mention a couple of things: I'm reading HDM for the first time as an adult. I really, very much enjoyed The Golden Compass. I come from a religious background, which makes me sympathetic to the faults of organized religion, but I also still firmly believe in God. I started reading the books not because of the "controversy" per se, but more because I have a few dear, dear friends who call this their favorite. I was only vaguely aware of certain anti-religious elements of the story. For me, The Subtle Knife was not as good. The fact that I made it through the end is mostly a testament to my love for Lyra and Pan, and my (small)(but growing)(new) love for Will. I was interested in these characters and kept reading for a chance to know what might happen to them. Pullman, however, made it difficult for me. It wasn't even so much about the religious metaphors per se, but more about the fact that they stopped being metaphors somewhere along the line and became hammers. Anvils. I was in the middle of a sermon before I knew what happened. In book 2, we lose the intrigue of Lyra's world. We lose a lot of possibilities. Yes answers are good, in some cases, but here as we learn for certain what Dust is and what Asriel's mission is and what Lyra's part in it all is, you get tied down and suffocated by Pullman's big ideas which you! must! believe! Even though I was reading about her, I missed Lyra. I missed my brave girl on grand adventures, who cried yes, but was as courageous as any armoured bear. She became something lesser in this book, and I was sorry to see it. I really, really, really missed Pan. He was so absent here, and the beautiful and intricate relationship between Lyra and Pan was mostly gone, perhaps for a reason I'll discover in book 3, but it's absence was felt here. I missed being able to take my own interpretations and apply them to the book. Pullman abandons his clever and well thought out position of communicating his stance on the church through his fantasy world and the Magesterium. He abandons that and the head pounding begins:"That is what the Church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling. So if a war comes, and the Church is on one side of it, we must be on the other, no matter what strange allies we find ourselves bound to."It was just all a bit too heavy handed for me and it weighed the story down, a story that already missed the high mark set in The Golden Compass.I'll keep reading. Mostly for Lyra.