32

I am looking for the title of a book, actually a series (probably a trilogy).

I just have a few memories - I read it 20+ years ago but the book is contemporary. The few things I remember:

  • the two main characters (boy and girl) come from different worlds which are copies one of each other - one of them being dystopian (if I recall correctly)
  • one of the characters (the boy I think) can move from world to world by "cutting a hole" in thin air with a knife
  • they travel at some point (by the end of the series) to Hell when they need to do something to save the worlds

The end is

sad. The two characters fall in love but for some reason they cannot cross the world borders anymore (this is a decision they make for the good of the worlds) and they "meet" on a bench which is in both worlds and imagine the other one being on his/her bench as well.

94

This is the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, in particular the second and third books: The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

The first book focuses solely on the girl, Lyra. The boy, Will, is introduced at the start of the second book, and he acquires the titular Subtle Knife which allows them to travel between worlds during the course of that book.

the two main characters (boy and girl) come from different worlds which are copies one of each other - one of them being dystopian (if I recall correctly)

Lyra (the girl) and Will (the boy) both come from Oxford, but in two totally different worlds. Will's world is (assumed to be - I don't recall if it's ever explicitly stated) our own, and is set in a modern setting.

Lyra's world is, in many ways, less technologically advanced (they use zepellins to travel, have no cars, etc.). However, they also have "daemons", which are external representations of the person's soul; when the person is young they can switch forms, but will eventually settle on a single form. They have some element of autonomy, but they're limited in how far away from their "master" they can travel.

They first meet in a third world that, if I remember correctly, has portals to several worlds, including both Will's and Lyra's.

one of the characters (the boy I think) can move from world to world by "cutting a hole" in thin air with a knife

This is the Subtle Knife referenced in the title of the second book. It's obtained by Will during the course of that book, and he's taught how to sense places in the fabric of the world(s) where he can make a "cut", creating a portal between worlds.

they travel at some point (by the end of the series) to Hell when they need to do something to save the worlds

In the third book, they travel to the "Land of the Dead". The trilogy is considered by some people to be anti-religion (specifically anti-Christianity), so it has a lot of religious elements and themes in it, so recalling this as Hell is likely.

The end is sad. The two characters fall in love but for some reason they cannot cross the world borders anymore (this is a decision they make for the good of the worlds) and they "meet" on a bench which is in both worlds and imagine the other one being on his/her bench as well.

There's a prophecy that Lyra is the "second Eve", and the primary goal of one of the book's antagonists is preventing Lyra's "sin" (falling in love, though possibly also having sex). In the third book she falls in love with Will, but - I believe - the Subtle Knife is broken (possibly on purpose), trapping them in their own Oxfords.

  • 1
    You may not be aware, but we have a meta post that highly encourages spoilers on story-id questions as the user is expected to have already read the book. – Edlothiad Sep 21 '17 at 10:47
  • 1
    IIRC the knife was broken by accident earlier than the end of the book (when Will is distracted while using the knife) and is later repaired. The decision to remain in their worlds was informed by the fact that existing in the "wrong" reality slowly causes one's health to degenerate. I can't remember if the knife was destroyed again though. – detly Sep 21 '17 at 15:51
  • 9
    @stannius Additional correcting on the ending: leaving a window open slowly sucks the life out of the multiverse. The multiverse generates enough life energy or whatever on its own to leave no more than one window open, so they leave one window open to allow souls to escape hell. They can't stay in each others' worlds, lest they sicken and die. And they can't briefly create temporary windows, because each time you open a window it creates a monster somewhere. Exactly calibrated to give the characters an upsettingly unhappy ending. >:( – Erhannis Sep 21 '17 at 19:25
  • 5
    @stannius, They didn't leave the window to let souls in to hell. They left it to let them out. It wasn't exactly Christian hell. It was more like ancient Greek hell--a gloomy, underground place where nothing ever happens. Once the window out of hell was opened, souls could leave, whereupon they would kind of dissipate, and merge with the cosmos. – Solomon Slow Sep 22 '17 at 0:47
  • 5
    The first two books were pretty good, but the third book got really weird and depressing. It was very much an "anti-narnia" – pojo-guy Sep 22 '17 at 3:28
23

As Alex k. said in the comments, this is His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

The individual books are

  1. Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in North America) (1995)
  2. The Subtle Knife (1997)
  3. The Amber Spyglass (2000)

It matches every detail you've included in your question.

It follows the coming of age of two children, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they wander through a series of parallel universes. The three novels have won a number of awards, most notably the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year prize, won by The Amber Spyglass. Northern Lights won the Carnegie Medal for children's fiction in the UK in 1995. The trilogy took third place in the BBC's Big Read poll in 2003.

The fantasy elements include witches and armoured polar bears, but the trilogy also alludes to ideas from physics, philosophy and theology. The trilogy functions in part as a retelling and inversion of John Milton's epic Paradise Lost, with Pullman commending humanity for what Milton saw as its most tragic failing, original sin. The series has drawn criticism for its negative portrayal of Christianity and religion in general.

The first book "The golden compass" was dramatised in the 2007 movie of the same name enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.