I think this book might deserve more stars than I'm giving it. Intellectually I see a lot to like here. The first book in the series, Sabriel, I really liked a lot. Creative, unusual world building, great characters, lots of adventure and excitement. But for whatever reason I am connecting less and less with this series as it goes forward. Its still good, its still very readable, and it still has a lot of the same elements I liked in Sabriel.
I guess there are two things not working for me. One, I don't like Lirael and Sam as much as I did Sabriel and Touchstone. Although I like Nick and the Disreputable Dog a lot, it doesn't make up for not really connecting with the two primary protagonists. Two, I just am not that big of a fan of books that aren't self contained enough to read on their own.
Sabriel made sense as a book by itself, you didn't have to read one before or one after to make sense of the story. Not so much with the next two in the series. They are starting to read a little bit like those movie serials where you have to keep coming back to find out what happens to our hero next. Give me a self contained story arc, please. I don't mind if its part of a larger tale, but don't leave me hanging, or give me a book that I have to have read the previous entries before I can understand it. It bugs me.
That said, I still think its a good series and worth reading. I just feel like the first book is going to be far and away my favorite.