As a kid in the late 90s/early 2000s I read a fantasy series that I only remember snippets of, although I think it was already a bit of a vague, mystical tale to begin with. There were at least three books, and I think I moved on before reaching the end. The story centered around a boy who comes into possession of a blade that allowed him to slice into an alternate, somehow more spiritual universe. However every time he used the blade he weakened the spiritual connection that he had to an animal that is somehow bound up with him, and maybe the soul of that animal itself. The setting was all a bit vague but seemed to be part of some apocalyptic struggle between mysterious forces that try to sway the boy. The cover of the first book was a swirling, blue oil painting, maybe depicting an animal like a wolf or tiger, but I'm hazy on this.

ChatGPT suggested "The Keys to the Kingdom" by Garth Nix but I don't think this was it, since it didn't take place in a distinct house.

  • 2
    Sounds like The Subtle Knife
    – Radhil
    Jul 28, 2023 at 17:10
  • The fact that ChatGPT was unable to get the correct answer from this description is the best proof yet that LLMs are pure hype :-D
    – JayFor
    Jul 28, 2023 at 17:12
  • Your question has been marked as a Duplicate. That doesn't mean it's a bad question, just one we've answered before. You will still get points for upvotes.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 28, 2023 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


This is almost certainly The Subtle Knife, the second book in the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. The animal that he had the "spiritual connection" to is called his daemon in the series, and is supposed to be a representation of his soul, in some fashion.

  • ... and if it is, this question becomes a duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/33187/… Jul 28, 2023 at 17:29
  • I'll have to get a copy to confirm, but that must be it. The North American title of the first book, "The Golden Compass", rings a bell very clearly. Reading the synopsis, I didn't remember there being such a strong element of theocracy and religious struggle, but maybe I just didn't pick up on it as kid.
    – radiologic
    Jul 28, 2023 at 17:43
  • @JeffZeitlin: Fortunately, we have an accepted answer for that one. :)
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 28, 2023 at 17:44
  • 1
    @radiologic - "not picking it up" is not unlikely; I think there were several series I read as a kid that I just thought were "fun", but on rereading as an adult, found them to have strong religious themes of one sort or another. Jul 28, 2023 at 17:45

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