I have a feeling I would have liked this much less if I hadn't been listening to the excellent full cast audiobook, narrated by the author. As it is, I probably enjoyed it a little less than I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Golden Compass. Some of the things which I enjoyed most about the first book - the Gyptians and the armoured bears - did not appear in this instalment. Moreover, Lyra takes a back seat to her new friend Will Parry, a boy from our world who is looking for his missing father. Will's an attractive character, but his situation also seems a bit of a chiché: the brave boy who takes care of his mother while desperately seeking a father figure.
However, I still enjoyed the book overall, even though it did occur to me from time to time that while the title of the book refers to subtlety, there's nothing very subtle about the way Pullman develops his themes. There are some interesting ideas in the book, though, and some good writing. I stayed engaged enough with the narrative and the characters to move straight on to The Amber Spyglass. 3-1/2 stars.