Pullman's skill has not diminished, making it a masterfully written book insofar as technical ability goes. Yet Pullman said that it could have called "His Darker Materials" and that, as an author, "I’ve got older and perhaps more cynical, closer to despair...It is a darker book, I don’t deny that, but that’s the story that came to me and wanted to be told.”
Hence I liked the book yet cannot put it, storywise, in the same league as the His Dark Materials trilogy. I only hope that lack is due to dear Lyra being a baby and that, in the next book, her fire will brighten the whole thing. (Honestly this one was not unlike a Fantasy Thriller). Though, due to Pullman's new attitude, I now fear for her (and Will, if we see him).
Farewell Malcolm and Alice (and Dr. Hannah Relf & the rest of Oakley Street). It was a pleasure getting to know and see you outwit enemy agents, a mad scientist, and Fairy.