Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 18

In the eighteenth chapter of The Golden Compass, Lyra begins her journey to Svalbard to rescue Lord Asriel with Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala along her side, where we learn even more about who Lyra might actually be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Golden Compass.


You know, even for a rather “slow” chapter, this is fucked up.

But we’ll get there in a bit. I know Pullman has done it before, but chapter eighteen is another great example of his ability to shift who his third person narration focuses on and in a way that’s not jarring either. This book certainly focuses on Lyra almost exclusively, but when Pullman feels the need to talk about her or reveal information about her, he can switch to Farder Coram or Lee Scoresby when necessary and I don’t feel that it doesn’t fit.

He does that right away as Lyra falls asleep and Lee and Serafina begin to have a conversation that is ONE HELL OF A WEIRD TRIP. First of all, the conversation acts as a great way for Pullman to explain to all of us that the social and cultural differences between humans and witches, both to answer my questions about witch society and to create a fascinating dynamic.

Lee’s initial concern about traveling with Lyra is certainly natural for him to bring up: Lee is a practical man, and his pragmatism deals with the fee he was paid by the gyptians to provide a “normal” service. And surely what just happened in Bolvangar is not “normal” by any means.

“Mr. Scoresby,” said the witch, “I wish I could answer your question. All I can say is that all of us, humans, witches, bears, are engaged in a war already, although not all of us know it. Whether you find danger on Svalbard or whether you fly off unharmed, you are recruit, under arms, a soldier.”

I kind of adore the way that Serafina speaks. Like the gyptians, she is quite direct, matter-of-fact and simple, communicating exactly what she needs to precisely in the way she thinks will impart the message. I don’t want to say that she’s detached, because the strips what emotion she does show here, but she’s got a way of talking that’s an interesting parallel to Lee’s pragmatism. Her and Lee trade off about choice and you can see how they both come from two different worlds: one is concerned with human matters and the other….well, the world of witches has not much in common with what we are used to in life.

But this then brings up another issue that I was pleasantly surprised appeared in this book at all: free will. I suppose the thought had only briefly crossed my mind when Farder Coram spoke with the witch consul about Lyra’s bizarre destiny. I’m not a big fan of the idea, I suppose, and I commented that Pullman so far has avoided my distaste for it. And he still does and this section certainly helps that. Lyra is to be kept ignorant of her “destiny,” for whatever reason that is still left unsaid.

“We are all subject to the fates. But we must all act as if we are not,” said the witch, “or die of despair.”

Stripped of the context of Lyra, this is one amazing bit of philosophy dropped on us. The existential tinge to it all of course satisfies me, but as Serafina continues, she gives us a huge chunk of the reason why Lyra is so important:

“There is a curious prophecy about this child: she is destined to bring about the end of destiny. But she must do so without knowing what she is doing, as if it were her nature and not her destiny to do it. If she’s told what she must do, it will all fail; death will sweep through all the worlds; it will be the triumph of despair, forever. The universes will all become nothing more than interlocking machines, blind and empty of thought, feeling, life…”

WELL SHIT. What a head-scratcher! Does this mean she is bringing the end of destiny for herself or everyone? Does Serafina mean that all people are controlled by some unnamable idea of “destiny” and Lyra is going to free people of that? And why can’t she be told? Why will that cause mass death between all of the parallel universes?

The thing is, this still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but I’m simultaneously way more interested in Lyra’s destiny than I was before. Serafina speaks as if the “fates” brought Roger to Bolvangar specifically because Lyra would follow and set into motion her own destiny.

I’m early into this trilogy, so I understand very little of this at this point. I don’t get it. And I’m ok with that because that’s the fun of the experience. But I’m itching to know why this is all happening, especially since it’s being hinted that there is a reason why. At the very least, though, I know that Serafina’s witch clan is on Lyra’s side:

“Whatever they were doing at Bolvangar, we felt it was wrong with all our hearts. Lyra is their enemy; so we are her friends. We don’t see more clearly than that.”

I find it interesting that the witches didn’t know what was happening in Bolvangar.

Their conversation takes a turn for the immediate future and it’s made clear to me that landing in Svalbard is not going to be an easy thing at all. Lee confirms (in a wonderful bit) that Iorek is on their side as well:

“I think he’s attached himself to the little girl as a kind of protector. She helped him get his armor back, you see. Who knows what bears feel? But if a bear ever loved a human being, he loves her.”


Lyra awakes to a cold moonlit sky and she converses with Serafina about the oncoming difficulty of Svalbard. It’s actually kind of funny to me because Bolvangar seems to have set the bar for what “difficult” entails. I mean…HOW COULD IT BE WORSE THAN THAT. The problem, though, is that Svalbard is a much more treacherous geographical location, and the panserbjørne are going to be much harder to defeat than the Tartar guards and their wolf dæmons.

But Lyra doesn’t seem to set herself on this idea much at all, and I’m glad. It’s kind of neat how her conversation with Serafina sort of reads like a curious child who can’t stop asking a question, getting an answer, and then asking forty more questions to follow that. She interrogates the witch about Lord Asriel, about why witches don’t feel cold, how long they live, and whether they are all women. Actually, that little speech that Serafina gives about men is spectacular:

“You are so young, Lyra, too young to understand this, but I shall tell you anyway and you’ll understand it later: men pass in front of our eyes like butterflies, creatures of a brief season. We love them; they are brave, proud, beautiful, clever; and they die almost at once. They die so soon that our hearts are continually racked with pain. We bear their children, who are witches if they are female, human if not; and then in the blink of an eye they are gone, felled, slain, lost. Our sons, too. When a little boy is growing, he thinks he is immortal. His mother knows he isn’t. Each time becomes more painful, until your heart is finally broken.”

And this remarkably depressing passage is then used to explore the tragic past (that we didn’t know about) between Farder Coram and Serafina. Not only were they in love, but THEY HAD A SON TOGETHER. who died. AND THEN SHE NEVER SAW FARDER CORAM AGAIN.

seriously this book is going to make my heart stop functioning or something holy god.

Lyra’s little interrogation session is silenced briefly after she suggests that Serafina actually go see see Farder, but she asks a question I’ve wanted to know the answer to since the beginning of the book: Why do people have dæmons? Unfortunately, there’s no answer given. Even Serafina doesn’t know why. They just do. It’s simply the way of this world. And you know, thinking about it right now, I don’t suppose I ever need to know why, either. If that’s how the natural world works in this parallel universe, I’m at a point in the story where I don’t care to have an explanation for it. It’s not necessary. I accept it as it is. (At the same time….I won’t feel bad if I do get an answer!)

Their talk turns to the armored bears and I think I’m ready to make a bonafide guess as to what is going on with Iofur Raknison. When we first heard his name, I, like probably all of you, assumed he was a man, but we now know he’s king of the bears. I still think I remember it correctly, too: Iofur wants his own dæmon. So, reading this section about how Iofur is a different kind of bear in terms of the way he’s leading the panserbjørne, making treaties and alliances, living in a palace, working with humans. So…..IOFUR DOESN’T WANT TO BE A BEAR. Ok, this is probably a terrible theory that will never be developed beyond this, but I thought it was interesting that he wants a dæmon, he acts more like a human king than a king of bears, and…just seriously, THAT WOULD BE COOL. Also, this:

“When bears act like people, perhaps they can be tricked,” said Serafina Pekkala.

IT’S ALL SET UP TO COME TRUE. Oh god, I’ll be so embarrassed if I’m wrong.

We’d seen before that the witches didn’t comment on Dust, but Serafina pretty much confirms that witches don’t even know what Dust is:

“Witches have never worried about Dust. All I can tell you is that where there are priests, there is fear of Dust. Mrs. Coulter is not a priest, of course, but she is a powerful agent of the Magisterium, and it was she who set up the Oblation Board and persuaded the Church to pay for Bolvangar, because of her interest in Dust.”

So now I’m wondering…was Mrs. Coulter telling the truth? Well, I should rephrase that: Does she genuinely believe that Dust is actually bad? She mentioned that it makes people feel things that are evil and wrong and wicked. So it’s not an issue of her lying to Lyra: she actually believed what she was saying.
So what the hell does Dust do???

This momentary break doesn’t last long. It’s actually one of the very few “slow” parts I’ve had in a while and we’re back to chaos again when Lyra wakes up in the morning to discover Lee having some difficultly flying as the balloon starts rapidly descending into the “thickest fog Lyra had ever known.” It’s here that we get our first introduction to a “cliff-ghast,” some sort of creature “half the size of a man, with leathery wings and hooked claws,” that tries to claw its way into the balloon. I actually laughed when Iorek just swats it away and merely names the creature and then sits back. Cliff-ghasts are nothing to Iorek. Unfortunately, something hits the balloon and it begins to fall so quickly that Lyra thinks the basket may have separated from the balloon. WHICH IS FUN, RIGHT. And the jolts continue and even though she tries to hang on to Iorek’s fur, she is dumped from the basket into a snowdrift below on the ground, the sounds of cliff-ghasts and some sort of battle going on above them. As her and Pan try desperately to find anyone from the balloon (as she couldn’t have been the only one knocked out of the balloon), Lyra is relieved to see Iorek coming towards her.


The bears didn’t move until the first one said, “Your name?”


“Where have you come from?”

“The sky.”

“In a balloon?”


“Come with us. You are a prisoner. Move, now. Quickly.”

Weary and scary, Lyra began to stumble over the harsh and slippery rocks, following the bear, wondering how she could talk her way out of this.


About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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94 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 18

  1. Brieana says:

    "Mrs. Coulter is not a priest, of course, but she is a powerful agent of the Magisterium, and it was she who set up the Oblation Board and persuaded the Church to pay for Bolvangar, because of her interest in Dust.”

    Which proves that Mrs Coulter did not redeem herself when she saved Lyra from being intercisioned. Without her, Lyra wouldn't have needed rescuing in the first place.

    That Serafina and Forder Coram storyline is hardly in the movie. Serafina wanted to see if Lyra knew how to use the alethiometer and we found out about them thata way.
    Also, speaking of the movie, Iofur is called Ragnar (sp?) so as not to be confused with Iorek and this happened right after The Lost Boy.

    • Brieana says:

      Dammit! I meant Farder.

    • pica_scribit says:


      I believe the correct construction would be "intercised". ;p

      And yes, "Ragnar" is the correct spelling. Yay for old Norse names! I hated the way the movie messed with the timeline. Has anyone heard if Mark plans to re-watch it when he finishes the book? We could have a Liveblogging of RAGE (TM).

      • @sab39 says:

        That should be after all the books, or at least after book 2. There's a few things that are briefly shown or alluded to in the movie that don't come up until later in the trilogy.

  2. leighzzz31 says:

    Serafina Pekkala! Finally, I’m so glad we get to see more of her after meeting her daemon and hearing about her from Farder Coram. She is one of my favourite characters (another Badass Female to add to the list, thank you, Phillip Pullman!) and the backstory we get from her in this chapter is fascinating.

    Her conversation with Lee about the differences between humans and witches is just another brick in Pullman’s amazing ability to world build. The ideas of exchange, of choice, of honour, of cold highlight the strangeness of the witches. Particularly though, their talk of destiny. Lyra’s destiny is to bring about the end of destiny… At this point, that sentence makes almost no sense but enhances the idea that Lyra is special and has a task to complete, though Pullman is basically dangling the answers just beyond our reach. I appreciated Lee’s aversion to the idea of fate too – he’s so much more practical and more of a realist and I love that choice is one of the things he always wants available to him.

    Then, Serafina’s conversation with Lyra. Excuse me while I wipe away the tears. Coram and Serafina’s love story got to me even as a kid (and I was a cynical kid, let me tell you). And she says one of the best quotes of the book: “…but you cannot change who you are, only what you do.”

    Also, IOREK. He’s a PRINCE. I remember, first time I read this, I wasn’t even shocked. My reaction was akin to Lyra’s. Duh, of course he’s a prince. Look how AWESOME HE IS.

    One last thing I remember noting from this chapter was Lyra’s immediate reaction after she falls from the balloon. “Oh god, I’m frightened. I hope they’re safe.” How can you not love this child? She has just fallen off a balloon, she’s hurt, she’s alone, she’s admitted she’s frightened and yet her first thought is of her friends. Lyra Belacqua, be my friend. Even though I’m twenty years old and you’re imaginary.

  3. FlameRaven says:

    I always thought of Lyra's destiny as sort of a flip of the traditional self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are told a prophecy and try to avoid it, whatever you do to avoid it will make it come true. So with Lyra, if they told her what she needed to do, she wouldn't do it, or wouldn't do it in a way that is natural to her, and so the "destiny" could not be fulfilled. The whole idea seems to be that there is something inherent in her nature that will lead her to do something, and trying to control that nature (by telling her what to do) would defeat the purpose entirely.

    (Also, armored bears hell yes.)

    • Kate says:

      I agree. But there's another interesting point here for free will/destiny. Clearly, Lyra's destiny is not set in stone, because to tell her what it was would be to change it. On the occasions when I believe in such things (maybe 2 days out of 7?) I see destiny as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel. Every ending has been written, but where you end up depends on the choices you make. Clearly there's some element of that here as well.

  4. Tilja says:

    IT'S ON.

    And yet, you are FOREVER UNPREPARED. This chapter doesn't make me want to say more than that. The Svalbard stage has begun.

  5. stellaaaaakris says:

    I always imagine the cliff-ghasts to look something like this:

    <img src=""&gt;
    <img src=""&gt;

    But without the outfits. (Just in case the second image doesn't show up, it's a gif of the Wizard of Oz with Wicked Witch sending off her flying monkey minions and they are wearing vests and hats. It's the "Fly my pretties!" scene if that means anything to you.)

  6. Tilja says:

    The only one who calls Scoresby by his first name is Iorek; he calls him Lee. Then Lyra always calls him Mr. Scoresby.

    Serafina Pekkala is truly never given her first name alone.

  7. dbmacp says:

    Oh, it is so on.

  8. majere616 says:

    Mark: Where is my dæmon?
    Iofur Raknison: Amen brother!

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      yeah, you gotta feel sorry for old Iofur. If you lived in a world where everyone had a daemon, wouldn't you be pretty pissed off not to have one?

      • majere616 says:

        True, but I'd take consolation in the fact that I was A MOTHERFUCKING ARMORED BEAR! RAWR!

  9. enigmaticagentscully says:

    I couldn't help but think of Doctor Who when reading Serafina Pekkala's little speech about her past with Farder Coram. The whole idea of living so long you have to watch everyone you love grow old and die y'know?

    I feel sorry for the witches but it's kind of a fascinating idea that they are all female and mate with human men. So they're not an entirely different species? More like an offshoot of humanity? Or like a genetic mutation that passes only down the female line that gives them long life and the ability to use magic?

    IDK. I probably think too much about this sort of thing. Stop trying to scientifically rationalise witches Alice.

  10. leighzzz31 says:

    Hahahahaha! Of course it isn't!
    Lyra and I are just sitting here, talking about bears and hanging with our daemons, Pan and…I don't know, Bill, probably (My daemon would have a boring name to balance out his awesomeness). I haven't given this any thought, as you can see XD

  11. sabra_n says:

    Ah, that's classic stuff – tell someone a prophecy about themselves and they will screw it up, even if they're trying to bring it about rather than prevent it. And I like the phrasing you quoted, Mark, that Lyra has to fulfill her destiny as if it's her nature to do so – because that's what's brought her this far, no? Her nature. Her courage and stubbornness and cleverness and loyalty to Roger; if those are the qualities that will continue to bring her closer to whatever this "destiny" is, then I don't really have a problem with it. She's choosing to conform with that prophecy, whatever it is, so it kind of slides from being "we are all puppets of Fate" to "Fate is just really, really good at predicting our free choices."

    Like, on any given weekend, if you give me the totally free choice between, say, going clubbing and staying at home with a book, I'll always choose the book, because that's my nature. If destiny is just about how we restrict our own choices and make only a few branches of our alternate realities possible, that's cool.

    Also, Iorek Byrnison! Lee! Serafina! Farder Coram! Why so many amazing characters, Pullman? Seriously, I just want to yell them out like a cheerleading routine.

  12. SporkyRat says:

    Oh Mark. It's so exciting! Lyra versus the armored bears!

  13. Mauve_Avenger says:

    Fun facts: Though he got his way re: casting Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter, Philip Pullman's choice for Lee Scoresby's character was Samuel L. Jackson. He also wanted the role of Lord Asriel to go to Jason Isaacs.

    Akka is the Sami word for a female spirit (also the Finnish name for the goddess of fertility). The Yambe-Akka that Serafina Pekkala references in this chapter is the Sami goddess of the underworld. This could mean that Serafina's clan roughly corresponds to the Sami people in our own world, or it could just mean that her witch clan, being from the same area, adopted some of their culture and traditions.

    Unrelated thought: did anyone else think it was weird that Lee's daemon isn't mentioned at all during the balloon ride? I guess she could have been asleep the entire time, but I would've thought she'd at least be awake and alert when the cliff-ghasts attacked and the balloon started tumbling around, if not actively panicking like the others were.

    • arctic_hare says:

      He also wanted the role of Lord Asriel to go to Jason Isaacs.

      Who probably didn't get it due to being busy voicing Zhao in ATLA. Fun fact!

      (we'll ignore the timeline issues)

    • pica_scribit says:

      Jason Isaacs should just play all powerful and intimidating but also kind of hot men ever.

    • MichelleZB says:

      The reason why it's so sad the movie is full of such fail is that the casting is quite good. The main actors are all good for their roles.

    • Many Rainbows says:

      I have to admit, I love Sam Elliot for Lee Scoresby (I loves me some Sam Elliot, and he personifies the Texas Cowboy trope in my mind, probably due to the whole Sacketts movie) but Jason Isaacs for Lord Asriel? YES PLZ! oh cod I love Jason Isaacs (he is perhaps second to Alan Rickman in my British Actors I Love).
      I wish/hope someone gets the rights to make The Northern Lights/Golden Compass *properly* and ignores the stupid churches boycotting the movie. These books need a proper movie adaptation!

  14. lilygirl says:

    If you use" Free Will" instead of Destiny it makes more sense. Lyra must have Free Will to bring Free Will to everyone. It has to be her choices, her acts, made in the moment without influence. In other words total Free Will. Here it comes, the debate of Free Will, Destiny, Foreordained, Predestination. Good stuff.

  15. _Sparkie_ says:

    I'm pretty sure it was around about this chapter that I realised Lee was awesome. Added to the whole 'saving Lyra' from the previous chapter, he's a very real, pragmatic character and enables us to find out a lot more about the witches-which is always a good thing.

  16. Becky_J_ says:

    So I had a pretty much fully-fleshed-out outline for this chapter about all the things I wanted to talk about…. and you literally took every quote that I had and put it in your review. GET OUT OF MY BRAIN MARK. But seriously, I think it's rather awesome.

    Serafina Pekkala's conversation with Lyra pretty much made me want to cry…. to have your heart broken so many times, to me, is nearly not worth living longer. And besides what you said, the only other thing I have to say is…..

    "Come with us. You are a prisoner. Move, now. Quickly."


  17. MichelleZB says:

    Also, kudos to Pullman for painting fate and destiny as a bad thing: if your life is set for you, you descend into despair. Killing destiny is something that must be done or everyone will become "machines".

  18. roguebelle says:

    "Our sons, too. When a little boy is growing, he thinks he is immortal. His mother knows he isn't."

    I love that line so much because it's not just true for witches. That's a universal truth of motherhood right there, I feel.

    And you're right — not much /happens/ in this chapter, up til the end, but we get so much information, so much of it is so crucial and so deep-thoughts and so thematic. It's lovely.

  19. FlameRaven says:

    I saw in a thread last week that Pullman said the daemons of the parents name the child's daemon. Somehow I don't think Mrs. Coulter's evil golden monkey would come up with 'Pantalaimon,' so it was probably Stelmaria's choice.

    • _Sparkie_ says:

      Cool thanks, I hadn't heard that! The details of this world are always so fascinating!

    • stellaaaaakris says:

      And considering Mrs. Coulter was all "Let's throw this baby down a well" or something (clearly I don't remember John Faa/Ma Costa's story), whereas Lord Asriel still seems to care somewhat about her survival if not about an actual emotional connection, Stelmaria seems a good bet.

  20. FlameRaven says:

    Are you talking about in general, or about the prophecy? Because I believe the witches know quite a bit about the prophecy, but Serafina is deliberately not saying much here: either because she doesn't want to chance Lyra overhearing or because she thinks it best if the information in general is not given out too freely.

    • @sab39 says:

      I think Serafina knows all kinds of things that we, as readers, don't yet know enough to ask the right questions about – and neither do Lyra or Mr Scoresby…

  21. Ellalalalala says:

    Made of win. Right there.

  22. seriously this book is going to make my heart stop functioning or something holy god.
    Puking with joy, peeing yourself, and now potential cardiac arrest! Seriously, I think you should see a doctor who will prescribe for you books that are superboring and uninteresting like, I don't know, My Antonia.

    • stellaaaaakris says:

      My Antonia. Goodness, I hated that book. It was a summer reading assignment for AP English though one year. I had to bribe myself that I could read something fun after a chapter or something like that – it was the only way I could read it. So painful.

  23. Ellalalalala says:


    I was getting off the bus at King's Cross today before getting a train north, and right in front of me was a big yellow road sign the like of which I have never seen before. It read:

    Dust suppressant trial site



    (I have a picture (yes I stopped and squealed on the street; what of it?) but I don't know how to insert it, alas.)

    In other, chapter-related news, I miss Farder Coram! His life is so tragic! And I love the dialogue – the way that Lee Scoresby speaks, and the entirely believable, childish way that Lyra both asks questions and then runs with them afterwards. Ahh it's all so GOOD!

    I cannot wait for Lyra to pwn these armoured bears… (eek)

    • eleventysix says:

      A. MAZ. ING. Why, oh why do I live on this side of the Atlantic where the only signage I'm likely to see is the punchy-mood-inducing kind from tourists clogging foot traffic around the monuments trying to convert me to their way of thinking?

      My life, 'tis clearly difficult… *dramatic sigh*

    • redheadedgirl says:

      OMG I lived near Kings Cross for study abroad last summer and I MISS IT SO MUCH. I have a picture of me at Platform 9 3/4.

    • t09yavorski says:

      Dust at Kings Cross? Ahhhhhhh, fandoms converging! Danger of headsplosion! Abort! Abort!

  24. Darth_Ember says:

    Long-lived plus short-lived in a relationship seems to end in tragedy; how terrible for the witches that there is no other choice for them. Your typical fantasy elf could marry another elf, and have elf children; the witches do not have this choice.
    It is constant heartbreak, or extinction. Those are their only options.

  25. pica_scribit says:

    I just confused my roommate by saying, "Yay! It's Monday!", and then I had to explain to her about the loveliness of the Mark Does Stuff experience, and how weekends are a time of TRAGIC DEPRIVATION.

    • nanceoir says:

      I didn't have any explanations to give to people, but I know this weekend I was feeling rather empty, and I realized that there was no new Mark Does Stuff interaction to be had until today. Which is a strange thought, really, since I don't actively participate in any of the TV show liveblogs. I guess just knowing that there was nothing happening on that front was enough.

  26. eleventysix says:

    I Agree!! I just finished reading his book The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (because I like how Pullman's brain works and insist on learning more about how he thinks – especially now that school reading is temporarily out of the way), and it made me walk away with lots of thoughts that I had to chew over and puzzle out and I really, really liked that.

    I think part of my love for Pullman is that even though he has his own points of view, he doesn't try to sucker you into adopting them with his writing. He seems to genuinely want to just present something – perhaps something completely new – and allow his readers to work through it and use their ~brains~ and enjoy the ride. It's all incredibly satisfying, as far as reading goes.

    Anyhoo, so glad that reviews are back up after the weekend; it means I can continue with reading myself ;). I'm pretty sure that if a) I hadn't read these before and b) I didn't have other reading material for distraction purposes, my self control would be out the window and I'd be done with all the books by now…again…

    • FlameRaven says:

      Indeed. I've been re-reading Game of Thrones, but now I've finished book four and have not much to do except sit and wait for July 12 when book five will be out. ):

  27. lossthief says:

    So I've been re-reading on and off with your reviews mark, and I think today I want to address something about Pullman's writing that's been popping up occasionally (No, I'm not presently talking out his obsession with things happening presently). near the end of this chapter Lyra does something that annoys the shit out of me every time I see it in fiction:

    "Oh, God, I'm frightened," she said.

    I'm sorry, and I'm probably coming off like a huge nit-picking asshole, but I HATE when writers have a character say something like that. Any time there's somebody outright saying what emotion they're feeling it immediately drags me out of the story, especially when it's something like this where there is literally nobody to be saying this to. It also isn't helped by the commas there. It always comes off like she's bored by the whole thing. It's like "Oh, I am so afraid. I have never been more fearful than I presently am at the moment. Fear is pulsing through my veins like cheap heroin. I have become a creature composed exclusively of dread."

    Then there's another bit of dialogue that, I don't know, just feels very weirdly paced:
    "If I was going to die, I'd rather die up here than down there, any day. I thought when they put us under that blade thing, I thought that was it…. We both did. Oh, that was cruel. But we'll lie down now. Wake us up when we get there," she said…
    Maybe I'm just not getting something, but that line just feels so…oddly constructed? "Oh, I'd much rather die up here than have to relive the horrors of that place. I truly thought it would be the end of us…TIME FOR BED, NIGHTY NIGHT."

    And that's my inane rambling for the day.

    • hallowsnothorcruxes says:

      "Oh, God, I'm frightened," she said.

      <img src=" "/>

      I completely agree with you. It's always off putting when characters just spell out what their feeling.

    • Ellalalalala says:

      I can definitely see why the self-narration would annoy you, and I think it's a particularly annoying habit in real life as well — and, infuriatingly, one that I've recently discovered that I have acquired myself. This morning I actually heard myself say to myself I feel upset by that. Living alone for too long? STOP IT NOW ELLA.

      The second example was also jarring, but I thought it was meant to be. I interpreted it more that she was getting so cold that she was beginning to ramble incoherently and get really sleepy and out of it. But I might just be projecting that!

      • Darth_Ember says:

        That works. Rambling needn't make sense.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        I also interpret it as her being very lightheaded from the altitude, because she definitely wouldn't be used to the thinner air.

        I think quite a few of her lines when she's in the balloon seem like things she wouldn't actually say (or wouldn't say in that particular way) if she were in her normal state of mind. Like, the lines where she's telling Serafina Pekkala that she's clever (she's a witch, Lyra, she already knows she's clever) and comparing her to Mrs. Coulter always seemed very weird to me.

    • BradSmith5 says:

      What's even sillier is that the paragraph before the "I'm frightened" line says it all anyway: "She swallowed hard to subdue the lump in her throat, or the fear in her breast, or both." I GET IT, SHE'S SCARED.

      I loved the rest of this chapter, though; everything was conveyed using dialog from the characters. Amazing. But why in the world does Lyra keep getting captured!? It's not quite as bad as constant drugging, but it's getting annoying. And speaking of Hunger Games, where did you go after that!? I haven't seen you in months!

      • lossthief says:

        I have been unbelievably busy. Graduating high school and trying to find a way to pay for college, looking for a job and the like. I've also been doing some commenting on "Mark Watches 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'" when I had the time. Thankfully life has quieted down some so I've been able to re-read alongside Marks reviews.

        Still, I'm glad to be back, as I've missed this community SO MUCH.

        • BradSmith5 says:

          Ah, yes. Pursuing such things does take time. I hope college works out better for you than it did for me though, ha,ha,ha.

          What is it about that Avatar show that people like? Or do you chime in to say that you hate it? I saw a few episodes, and it just seemed like the standard "kids with elemental powers fight a cackling villain" stuff. The annoying dude with the boomerang only sealed the deal. :'(

          • lossthief says:

            I really like it, it's one of my favorite shows. I can get why you wouldn't really like it, but trust me, it's a lot more than your average kids' show.

  28. Aimee says:

    I am a Christian so in this chapter I have a few thoughts that maybe you wouldn't have.

    First of all, the argument about free will and destiny is fascinating to me because of course, Christians believe in both free will (taking responsibility for one's decisions) and destiny (God's will). Here it's interesting that there's some sort of natural force at work that is leading Lyra to her destiny.. which is interesting because that is an argument for a divine more than anything, but we all know what this series is about.

    Secondly, I do think that the discussion in these books about "Why do we have a daemon?" is euphemism for the age old "what makes us different from animals? Why do we have souls?" question. It is that kind of identity-seeking, purpose-seeking question which humans have, whatever their belief system. Wanting to know what sets them apart, how they fit into the world.

    These kinds of moments in the Pullman novels are what really makes me love them. 🙂

  29. Ash says:

    These are just my thoughts, guesses really but something I’ve been thinking about, particularly after this chapter.

    Lyras destiny hinges on her own will; what she is as a person right now and the choices she will make because of that. To tell her would be to throw a spanner in the works, it would cause an inner conflict. What is free will anyway? I don’t think humans could ever hope to have such a thing, not to its extreme anyway or anything close to that. Free will would certainly come at the cost of self, our own will, as individuals with all our biases. If Lyra is told she would change, and her choices would change because she is someone who believes she is free. What’s important is to leave Lyra to be herself, so that she can act upon her own will.

    And besides to tell her would just be committing the heinous act of spouting spoilers. The experience just isn’t the same if you know the outcome or think you do. Spoiling someone isn’t doing them a favour right? Yes that’s right; this trilogy isn’t against organised religion or anything like that, it’s firstly against spoilers.

    • cait0716 says:

      this trilogy isn’t against organised religion or anything like that, it’s firstly against spoilers.

      That's why Mark likes it so much!

  30. cait0716 says:

    Has anyone ever read The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson? Basically, there's a little boy and girl who are best friends. Then one day the Snow Queen tempts the boy away and holds him captive in her ice castle (in Lapland!). The little girl goes on a quest to rescue her friend from the Snow Queen, which she eventually does. This was one of my favorite fairy tales growing up, and I literally *just* realized that it's basically the same plot. I mean, it's not the same story, Anderson shines a much more positive light on the church in his tale, and his story doesn't have sequels. But damn. Mind blown!

    For that matter, it also has a lot in common with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I wonder how much of that was intentional…

  31. Darth_Ember says:

    And in the end, denying themselves that love would also be tragic; they would be shutting themselves off from their passion.
    And the result? The younger witches watching the old wither slowly, with none to come after. Their end would be slow, but inevitable, and they would feel it each step of the way.

  32. lossthief says:

    But it's been shown that Daemons are intuned with their human's emotions. I don't think Lyra needs to tell him that she's scared anymore than we would have to tell our goosebumps or racing pulse that we're scared.

    • t09yavorski says:

      But she tells him everything else. And speaking aloud to someone, even if they already know, is probably comforting.

  33. notemily says:


    Although I think Jackson would have been a terrible choice for Lee Scoresby. Sam Elliott clearly IS Lee.

  34. notemily says:

    I love the way he talks in this chapter, asking about making more money, but "just by way of making conversation, you understand." Everything he does is so meandering and Southern.

  35. RoseFyre says:

    I always figured she truly thought Dust was bad, but also realizes that the procedure DOES hurt the children a heck of a lot. And so she's using that procedure as a way to find less painful ways to get Dust off of people, possibly so she can use it on herself and the other adults – but she's going to use the poor kids as test subjects first. As Lyra is HERS (and it sometimes does read like Mrs. Coulter sees her as a possession), she's not going to let her kid be a test subject…though I suspect if she ever found a way of having Dust not stick to adults, she would make Lyra undergo that procedure.

  36. fakehepburn says:


  37. Rachel says:

    Stripped of the context of Lyra, this is one amazing bit of philosophy dropped on us.

    I love that you mentioned this because I always tell people when I recommend these books that they changed my life philosophy, as cheesy as it sounds.

  38. hokieblood says:

    GAH I WANT A POST EVERY HOUR MARK! Give into temptation =) pretty please =) =) just kidding i know you have other things to do with your life

  39. t09yavorski says:

    I read the book that I found out influenced Pullman's writing career and my brain developed (discovered? created?) a completely different–and less controversial in my opinion–interpretation of the trilogy.

    I dont think I can share much about it because of possible spoilers but it flipped the whole story on its head for me

  40. Aimee Mac says:

    I don't have my copies of the book on me but I remember feeling uncomfortable about the characters' treatment of Iofur. I mean, we've been told that having a daemon is the best thing ever but the characters seem to sort of ridicule Iofur for wanting one.

    • Rumantic says:

      I don't think we're told it's the best thing ever – just that it's normal in their world and to be without one would be terrible. The reason they ridicule Iofur is because he is trying so desperately to be something he could never be. And anyway, he has a soul – whether you think that his armour is his soul or it's something inside (as in our world) – the idea of him having a daemon is quite ridiculous.

  41. notemily says:

    Sure, but then you have the question, what makes all these things we can do different from all the things animals can do that we can't? Like echolocation or night-vision or flight?

  42. notemily says:

    Ooh, that's an interesting way of looking at it. I'm not Christian but I like that idea.

    • Aimee says:

      Thanks. It's how I reconcile my belief in science and my belief in God. They don't have to be mutually exclusive and nowhere in the Bible does it say the earth is only 6000 years old. Those people are crazy. XD

  43. Stephalopolis says:

    "'Serafina Pekkala,' she said after some time, 'what's Dust?'"


    "I don't know"


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