Mark Reads ‘The Subtle Knife’: Chapter 5

In the fifth chapter of The Subtle Knife, Will and Lyra realize how important it is for them to trust one another, and Will finally reads the letters from the leather case he is carrying. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Subtle Knife.

While the plot of The Subtle Knife races forward at a pace I wasn’t ready for, I have to say that I love that there’s still a hefty dose of character development dropped into the narrative. Don’t get me wrong: I love how exciting this all is, how the answers are pouring out liberally in the text, and how the fabric of this story is coming together in fantastic ways. It reminds me of the second season of LOST, when the scientific concepts were first introduced into the show, adding a brand new layer of intrigue that appealed to me. I like stories that take things that exist in the real world and explain them in new ways. (Doctor Who does that a lot. Bless you, Doctor Who.)

Still, I want to care about it. My brain can only go so far when it comes to fiction, and I’ve always been the sort of person who really wants to experience stories with people who grow. (Or don’t grow, as character recession can be just as fascinating.) What it really comes down to, though, is that I need an emotional base to keep going. I need something to draw me in and keep me there, and sometimes that comes from seeing parallels to my own life. Sometimes, it’s because I’m reading about something I have never experienced myself. Either way, I want characters who are whole people, even if I have to deal with the uncomfortable nature of that.

People are inherently messy, and that’s just the way it’s going to be. As social entropy finds ways to topple the relationships and loyalties that seem to exist unscathed, it’s up to us to use our agency to fight the natural plight of deterioration. To me, that’s what Will and Lyra do here: For a brief second, it seems that their experiences are about to crumble as trust issues flare up between them. Yet the both fight against the urge to let this all fall apart by acknowledging that they need each other to get through this.

It doesn’t help that Lyra comes to Will with an attitude that is the polar opposite of his: She’s found what she was looking for in the Scholar, and she’s full of an unbridled joy. Her non-plan just became a concrete one, and the impossible situation is now very impossible. Will, on the other hand, is angered by the fury of betrayal, knowing that he was probably set up by the lawyer so that the blonde-haired man could apprehend him. He’s also deeply disappointed in himself. He murdered a man. How do you deal with that on top of everything else?

It’s because of this that he appears so closed-off and inattentive, something that Lyra picks up immediately. After she deflects some possible negative attention from a couple policemen, it’s not long before Will and Lyra start lashing out at each other. At heart, both of them believe they’re the best at being “invisible,” at disappearing in crowds and not drawing attention to themselves in negative ways. Again, the theme of culture clashing comes into play: Lyra comes from a world where she uses her words to convince others that she knows what she’s doing. Will comes from a world where silence and stillness work best. It’s actually a pretty absurd conversation once you think about it. But aren’t these arguments always like that?

However, things tip a bit more towards Will when Lyra makes an offhand comment about him coming back to his universe because of his father. Up until this point, they’d not really discussed Will’s father much, so he’s curious as to how she knows. I honestly hadn’t thought about the alethiometer as a matter of personal privacy, but Will does make a good point. It is sort of like spying in a way, even though Lyra doesn’t intend it to be a way to invade Will’s life. She’s always viewed it as a way of reading people and situations. On top of that, there’s more of this idea of the alethiometer as its own entity, one that openly converses with Lyra, but only to an extent. She defends her use of the device to Will because she did not trust him when they first met. After traveling to a parallel world, I must also admit that it’s practical for her to use the alethiometer as she does. Who else can she trust aside from Pantalaimon? She has no allies or no friends and she’s in a strange world that is nothing like her own. What is she supposed to do?

Even though it has a hint of pragmatism, the two children decide it’s best for them to trust each other. I love that Lyra tells Will she’ll never give him, and in a poignant reflection on the recent past, Lyra reveals to Will that she thought she was saving her friend, but she ended up betraying him. She’s not going to do that again.

Will, exhausted by the journey he’s been on, agrees. I think he does trust Lyra in his heart, but I do get the sense that he’s just tired and he wants to do anything else but having a heavy conversation like this. His suggestion to go to the movies, both to hide and get food, seemed strange at first to me, until I realized it was the perfect place for him to take a nap. At the same time, it’s a joyful culture shock for Lyra, who had no concept of what a cinema was in this world. It’s especially great that she is SO into it, cheering and laughing along with the audience. Oh, while Will sleeps. BLESS HIM.

After viewing a second movie (I LOVE SEEING TWO MOVIES IN A ROW seriously this book speaks to my soul), it seems like Lyra feels obligated to return some of the trust and kindness to Will, so she decides to come completely clean and tell him everything that has brought her to this point. It’s almost a silent apology for reading into his life with the alethiometer in a way.

Plus…it’s all just so fantastical, isn’t it? I mean, here are two pre-teens discussing an alternate universe after they both had just traveled to one, and then traveling back to it. i’m drawing hearts around this book already omg MARK AND THE SUBTLE KNIFE, SITTING IN A TREE.

I can’t claim to understand what happens next, though. I can talk and gab all I want about the fascinating cultural backgrounds of Will and Lyra, but I am flat out stumped by the kids of Ci’gazze THROWING ROCKS AT A CAT. It’s another one of those things that Pullman does, keeping the answer hidden just out of view. When Will intervenes to save the cat, Angelica, the girl from earlier, is quick to declare that it’s clear he and Lyra are not from this place. But there was no mention of cats earlier! Are they like…harbingers of Satan or something? Is this why John Ashcroft believes they’re evil???

Well, I don’t think it’s something Pullman is just going to ignore; we’re bound to find out what it means. But it might not even be that important, you know….SINCE SOMEONE IS WATCHING LYRA AND WILL FROM THE CREEPY OLD TOWER. Ugh, another possible foil to their plans? This is all complicated enough as it is.

The real treat of this chapter, though, is the fact that we get to read the letters in the leather case. I’m glad that Pullman included them in full, instead of having Will just read them and summarize them for us. As revealing as John Perry’s letters are, they are also really confusing. That’s sort of what Pullman goes for in this book so far: He gives us an answer and, in the process, everything makes less sense than it did before. (Hello, LOST writers.)

The letters start off innocently enough, and John Parry’s tone is one of an excited academic. Unfortunately, it’s confirmed right away that the man with the balloon is named Nelson, so there goes my theory that it’s Lee Scoresby’s double. IT WAS A GOOD THEORY, OK. But this doesn’t matter! Because John Parry outright admits to his wife what he’s looking for up in Alaska: the anomaly! Which, he learns from some local folks is a door to the spirit world.

Wait. wait. Will’s father was searching for a door to a parallel world? LIKE THE ONE WILL STUMBLED THROUGH ALREADY?!?!?!


Just….HOW. HOW. I can barely wrap my mind around this. What are the odds that Will’s father would disappear searching for something Will just accidentally found?

This just continues to get weirder and weirder. John Parry reveals that the ballon-owning man who is traveling with him also appears to be searching for the window to the other world. I like that Pullman has constructed these less as random occurrences and instead as deeply ingrained in the mythological fabric of the cultures that live in the north. Urban legends and campfire stories abound with rumors of where the anomaly is, and now John Parry is certain he’ll find it. Which…I don’t know what makes him so certain, but it probably helps now that he knows Nelson has the same end goal as him, even if they don’t outright talk about it.

The third and final letter that Will reads confirms a lot of things and then simultaneously opens a billion other doors. John Parry discovers that Nelson is a lot more serious than he initially realized. The Ministry of Defense is funding Nelson’s expedition, and the man has a radiation suit in his balloon. Does he believe the window to the parallel world gives off radiation? Or is he looking for something else?

For Will, though, this letter is an eerie and fantastical parallel to his own life. I cannot imagine what it’s like to read a letter from your father, written over a decade ago, that describes a window into a parallel world exactly like the one he just climbed through the day before. It is a surreal coincidence, but for me, it provides such an amazing character convergence between Will and his father. The only thing I’m worried about is Will experiencing the same sense of defeat and disappointment as Lyra. I can’t ignore how similar John Parry and Lord Asriel are, so now my brain wanders: Is Pullman building Will’s life to have the same tragic end? Is his father not the hero he thinks him to be? Will’s already experienced so much heartbreak and pain, and I worry that he wouldn’t be able to stand it.

For now, though, I’ll appreciate what this does for Will. It’s like a recharge to his soul. It provides him with a connection to a father he’s never seen, and it almost validates all of the pain he’s gone through in his life. For the moment, it gives Will joy, and I think it’s only fair that I feel that, too.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in His Dark Materials, The Subtle Knife and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

107 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Subtle Knife’: Chapter 5

  1. Jenny_M says:

    This chapter opens up so many new mysteries, but my favorite part might have been the cat's reaction to Pantalaimon-as-a-cat. The indifference of the cat once it realizes that Pan isn't actually a cat just cracks me up, because…well. Cats, man. They're so cool.

  2. Partes says:

    Badass Lyra moment of the day:

    "You had to come through," she said, furious. No one should speak to her like this: she was an aristocrat. She was Lyra.

    Love you bb

    This chapter deals with an interesting issue: at what point does Lyra's connection with the Alethiometer stop being a way to gain information she needs and start being plain invasive? She says that if she just used it for spying it would stop working (she seems to have become so good at reading it that she can tell it's intentions, blimey) but that's hardly soothing for Will. She already knows his worst secret and about the part of his life – his mother's sickness – that he has been trying to keep hidden from everyone for years. From his point of view, what else could she even ask about him now? She knows him incredibly well after a few seconds. That's got to be at least a little frustrating, so I understand his anger.

    I liked Lyra's fascination with the cinema. I always wondered what a young person from the nineteenth century would think if they weresat down and shown a film with incredible CGI. It would probably seem like the most incredible thing you've ever seen, showing impossible delights every few seconds. It's something we probably take for granted.

    My favourite scene from here, however, would have to be Lyra telling Will her story. It's such a small part of the chapter, but the implications are pretty awesome. She already trusts this strange boy from another world to such an extent that she'll tell him everything. I feel like the fact that they are of a close age probably has something to do with this. I mean, nearly all her company up until this point has been adult – with the notable exception of Roger who, while lovely, was never really her equal when it came to social interaction as she was always the leader – and so to have someone her own age who stands up to her but still listens is probably a very pleasant and healthy thing for Lyra to experience. This is probably the first real sign that a bond of trust has been formed, although she outright states this moments later.

    The real meat of this plot wise was probably Will's father and his letters, of course. The two do seem quite similar, although clearly John Parry seems to have slightly more of a sense of humour than his son. My mind is clearly bad at focusing on the big picture, though, as what I took from these was that there was a rock shaped like a bear near the entrance of the window; I can't help but imagine it as an armoured one, giving hints to weary travellers about how awesome this other world might be. "We might exist through that little gap you're searching for. Yeah, I'm not surprised you want to keep looking."

    • eleniel says:

      I liked Lyra's fascination with the cinema.

      I loved how she was like "that was the most amazing thing I've ever seen!" Lyra, you have seen armored bears fight to the death, what are you talking about

    • xynnia says:

      I love that Lyra thinks of herself as an aristocrat. X3

    • Brieana says:

      "I always wondered what a young person from the nineteenth century would think if they weresat down and shown a film with incredible CGI."
      I think of that too! I want to go back in time and show people movies and mess with them.
      I'm guessing Lyra didn't watch an action movie. When I was in high school, I watched one of the first movies ever and at the end the guy turned to the camera and shot his gun. My APUSH teacher told me that people were screaming when that happened. So I imagine for Lyra an action movie might be scarier for her because the technology that we have now. Everything looks so real. People get shot or stabbed and they bleed and they look like they're actually dead. That would be really scary for someone who had never seen a movie or TV show.

  3. kka says:

    Haha… Mark, you are so NOT ready… this is just the mere tip of the iceberg… I seriously CANNOT wait for you to move on and find out more…
    I find this chapter super interesting in the fact that it captures so well how much both Lyra and Will have wanted to/want to connect with their parents, despite not knowing them really… Even though Will love his mother, I’m sure he still lacks that person with whom he can connect and share fully. It’s really just like every child wanting to feel close to someone. Also, parallel worlds = major awesomesauce…
    You are SO NOT READY. XD
    And I want to spoil you so much but I SHOULD NOT. I SHOULD NOT I SHOULD NOT.
    Sometimes, I hate this day-to-day thing. Can’t imagine what YOU’re going through… Going to distract myself with a tangent… Repeating to myself… Do not spoil it for Mark…

    Reading the Subtle Knife again reminded so much at how I loved it the first time because it reminded of a darker gloomier Chrestomanci series… anyone else like that? I admit the writing styles and tone or even themes to be completely different but all this talk about parallel worlds and walking through windows between worlds, possible alternate doubles, and similar streets reminds me SO much of the Lives of Christopher Chant, my favourite book, and his many parallel worlds, their “replacements,” and related histories and the invisible tears he makes to travel to the lands of goddesses, mermaids, dragons, magicians, witches, enchanters, charms…. Even the fact that Lyra is unfamiliar with cars in Will’s world is uncannily remindful of the dynamic between Janet and Cat Chant… Sigh, may Diana Wynne Jones rest in peace. I know how Roald Dahl is usually held as a classic children's author but DWJ books are equally timelessly enchanting.. and perhaps much more magical with her parallel worlds in Chrestomanci and Howl's moving castle, or the Dalemark quartet. She had this incredible ability to accurately grasp how a child’s mind would think. A child’s point of view is really just plain observation even though it can be viewed as offensive as adults, and to create the most wonderful worlds which captures you whether you are a child, or a full grown adult. People usually compare her to HP for some reason but I find that comparison not very accurate and deceiving… the plot is usually much slower, and never as complex, nor as grasping, or with much action and suspense… it is much lighter thematically than GC (even though it explores family and friendship rather well) and juvenile tonally and yet it doesn’t make it less memorable [I know all the above sound bad but it’s really not, it’s just different].
    When I recently saw her name in on the top twitter trends column and found out she passed away, I literally had a tear suddenly fall down. Her books gave me so much as a child and I have reread them so many times since the pages were so torn I had to buy another copy for almost all of them. There will no longer be any hope of her writing additional Chrestomanci books for us to devour through and, no longer any new stories about discovery of the newest magic, no longer any featuring from Christopher, the greatest Chrestomanci there is [though I’m sure Cat will be a good one as well], no longer any Howl, no longer any new shenaniganery to read through, no longer any poisoning of vines, or soul chasing, or movies made of dreams, no longer any moving castle… At least, she gave us the comfort of leaving us with treasures and memories for life. We were very fortunate to have her.
    I'm sorry, I'm getting thoroughly out of topic and sentimental. It's just that re reading this book for some reason makes me miss Christopher Chant and DWJ so badly even though despite some similar elements, they really are completely different all things said. I don’t know why but Golden compass series has always made me reminisce about DWJ, as if it was an unintentional homage or wink to her. She's undeniably one of the best thing that ever happened to fantasy and literature. I wonder if I would feel as strongly when it'd be JK R's time? Gosh, I'm depressed now.

  4. Maya says:

    So are we all shipping Mark/The Subtle Knife now?

    Oh god you guys, Rule 34. *pulls out the brain bleach*

  5. stellaaaaakris says:

    I do like this chapter and I love everything we learn and all the interaction between Will and Lyra, but it's probably my least favorite of the book. For some reason, I hate reading long sections of italicized text. Like, a lot. You're pushing my attention span with 5 lines; pages and pages of the stuff is not going to go over well. I flat out skip the songs and poems in HP and Lord of the Rings, especially since I find characters will discuss anything important I need to know from a song/poem later on in dialogue or something. But I can't really do that with letters, so I'm annoyed that I can't just skip over it. At least when I listen to my audiobook, I don't have to read it.

    Enough about my random quirks. I love how much Lyra enjoys the movies and Will naps. I didn't see it that way until you pointed it out, but Lyra telling her story to Will is like a way of making things even between them. She knows his darkest secrets, and now he knows hers. They're totally going to be BFFs and it is beautiful.

    I wonder what Lord Asriel is up to and if he's evading the Specters….

    I'm so glad you are loving this book! Out of the many fantasy books I've read, it's my favorite, second only to OotP (listen, angsty!Harry speaks to my soul – maybe why I love Will so much as well), though they're usually battling it out for the top spot.

    • pennylane27 says:

      How can you skip the songs in LOTR? They're like, the best songs ever! Oh well, I shouldn't be surprised, my sister skips them too, as well as the long descriptive paragraphs. She's weird.

      But I agree about angsty!Harry, it makes me love him even more.

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        Well, I wouldn't know as I've never read them haha. I'm sure they're lovely, which means I do recognize I'm missing out on some quality writing. But I just. can't. do. it.

        I don't mind long descriptive paragraphs. I can read those endless paragraphs of Dickens that go on for 1.5 pages, needing just a touch of determination. But show me italics and I am doomed. They are my downfall. My brain just skips straight to "NO. DO NOT WANT. GO AWAY."

      • Brieana says:

        I used to have problems with long descriptive paragraphs back in the day. Now I don't during my first read, but during rereads I tend to just get the dialogue and a few things inbetween.

    • Ellalalalala says:

      All the love and cuddles for Angsty!Harry <3

  6. Gillyweed says:

    Bad kids, you do not attack cats! Why would they do that? I think it's a reference to Dark ages. The main reason the Plague spread so fast is all the cats being killed everywhere. Cats are awesome and adorable.
    <img src=""&gt;

    I read The Golden compass about a year ago, and started The Subtle Knife straight away, but I wasn't fond of the first few chapters. When you started reading the series I decided to give them another chance. This chapter and last one was when I became hooked. I loved the story of Will's father, and the interaction between Lyra and Will. The whole chapter is a real head spinner isn't it?
    <img src=""&gt;
    (sorry for the bad pun, just wanted to use that gif :))
    Anyway, everything just gets better from here, and I'm already half way through the last book. I think it's the journey you're going to enjoy. 🙂

  7. Gillyweed says:

    Bad kids, you do not attack cats! Why would they do that? I think it's a reference to Dark ages. The main reason the Plague spread so fast is all the cats being killed everywhere. Cats are awesome and adorable.
    <img src=""&gt;

    I read The Golden compass about a year ago, and started The Subtle Knife straight away, but I wasn't fond of the first few chapters. When you started reading the series I decided to give them another chance. This chapter and last one was when I became hooked. I loved the story of Will's father, and the interaction between Lyra and Will. The whole chapter is a real head spinner isn't it?
    <img src=""&gt;
    (sorry for the bad pun, just wanted to use that gif :))
    Anyway, everything just gets better from here, and I'm already half way through the last book. I think it's the journey you're going to enjoy. 🙂

  8. monkeybutter says:

    No, no, no John Ashcroft thinks naked ladies are evil, not cats. That was just a random-ass story (so we're told). Bill Frist, on the other hand, liked to vivisect stray cats (and not in class). Mitt Romney tied the family dog to the roof of his car for a road trip. And this has been a review of animal abuse by Republican pols relevant in the last decade.

    I love that Lyra and Will are challenging each other's outlooks. They're both fiercely independent, but they wend their ways through their worlds in such different ways, so it's fun to see them butt heads and accept that maybe the other one has a point. I love the insight Will finally gets into his father, and his life with his mother. I think it's interesting that Reagan's Star Wars program was mentioned by Mr Creeper in the last chapter, and now we have Russian spies and the Ministry of Defense poking around in the National Petroleum Reserve.

    Yeah, I looked up the coordinates. 🙂 I love that I can use google and wikipedia to help picture where the characters are. The Coleville River is used by ice road truckers, for instance! The rivers look so pretty. I don't recommend zooming in too closely if you're panning across the landscape, though. The lakes started to remind me of lotus boob, and that is so dnw. Alaska: land of contrasts.

    • notemily says:

      Ohhh, that Mitt Romney thing always makes me spitting mad. And WTF Bill Frist.

      • monkeybutter says:

        Seriously, it galls me that the dog story was initially told as a positive thing. What the hell, man?

    • arctic_hare says:

      Yeah, that's basically all I need to know to hate those guys. Not that there's not plenty of other reasons to hate them, but those are BIG ONES.

  9. roguebelle says:

    "What it really comes down to, though, is that I need an emotional base to keep going."

    This, so much. The books I enjoy least, the ones I struggle to get through or even put down without finishing (a very rare occurrence) are the ones where I just don't care about any of the characters. I need the emotional tether.

    • notemily says:

      I feel that way too. M.T. Anderson, while a fine writer, tends to let the plot dictate his characters and not the other way around, and I find I just can't connect to his books. It feels too much like he's trying to Make A Point, instead of telling an organic story. He doesn't care about his characters so I can't either.

  10. Saphling says:


    Mark and Subtle Knife,
    Sitting in a tree!
    we warn, "Just deal-
    Hold on tight as shit gets real!"

    ….it's the best I can do before having my morning coffee. >_>

  11. hilarius11 says:

    Mark, I am pretty sure that this chapter solidified my intense love for Will. I am naming my first son Will after this character, because if my child turns out to be half as awesome as he is, I will be proud.
    Seriously, this book!!!!! AH! And this CHARACTER!! While I love Lyra to death, Will has and always will have that special place in my heart.

    • Emwiams says:

      I seriously considered Will for my first childs name, but it was nixxed by the then-husband. -sigh-

  12. enigmaticagentscully says:

    Awwww I love Lyra going to the cinema! It's like, after all the amazing magical shit she just deals with on a day-to-day basis, it's going to see a movie for the first time that brings her such joy and amazement.

    Though I have a hilarious mental image of her really getting into the film, laughing and cheering at the screen and all the other movie-goers getting all annoyed. Because who even cheers at the screen? Lol this is Oxford where we watch movies in reverential silence.

    • Araniapriime says:

      In Times Square and other huge cinemas in the USA, especially at the premieres of "big" movies, you get cheering and laughing — and a lot of talking, too, unfortunately.

      Have you ever seen a really fannish crowd at a Harry Potter movie or Lord of the Rings? Nothing like it! 🙂

      • Saphling says:

        For the midnight showing of the fifth HP movie, the whole back of the theatre was taken up by people from my college. We're a small school, and most of us knew each other. We ran trivia games and an in-theater costume contest for the younger kids while we all waited. Great fun.

      • notemily says:

        That's like half the reason I became a LOTR fan–the fan energy at the premiere of Two Towers was infectious. I was like, "I must find out more about this thing that makes these people so happy!" I mean, I also liked the movies, but that was what made me want to become part of the fandom, if that makes sense.

        I love seeing movies on opening day. So much more energy than later on when there are just a few bored people in the theater because they had nothing better to do.

    • notemily says:

      To Lyra, the movies must BE amazing magical shit! Ha. And I love that she watches them while eating a hot dog and soda. Welcome to our world! It's full of suspicious meat and drinks that will rot your teeth, but on the other hand, we have MOVIES.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      Awww I'm so jealous of everyone in the replies! I've never been to a showing of anything where people have cheered or yelled stuff or anything like that. I saw Lord of the Rings and all the HP movies in the cinema but no-one so much as applauded at the end.

      Maybe I just just live in a reeeaaaally repressed area. 😛

  13. Becky_J_ says:

    Mark, you better enjoy this relatively slow chapter, because from here on out, you're gonna have to hold on tight! I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOUR UNPREPAREDNESS. mwahahahahahahaha

  14. TreasureCat says:

    Because John Parry outright admits to his wife what he’s looking for up in Alaska: the anomaly!
    I havent read this book in too long and I dont have my copy handy, but does it seriously use the term anomaly? O.O

    <img src=""&gt;

    ….no, just me? Ok then >.>

  15. theanagrace says:

    Happy Canada Day to you too!!!!!!!!
    Yay Canada!!!!!!
    (And since I might not have internet access next week, Happy 4th of July, America!)

    Also, I'm glad you posted those covers, I thought about trying to do that. The edition I have is the first one, and I was going to say; "Look! It's totally the scene that just happened!"

  16. Stephalopolis says:

    Instead of "The Subtle Knife" I think this book should be called "The Creepy Onlookers" They seem to keep popping up. How many have we had so far?

    I don't see why you're giving up your theory of Nelson and Lee being parallels of each other because his name is Nelson? Isn't alternate universes about choices/slight nuances being changed? Well, a name is a choice, so I don't think the same "person" would necessarily have the same name. Plus, you've given up on this theory but not Asriel/John yet their names are different.

    Poor cat. I too would like to see more of the mythology of why the children attacked the cat, however, unlike you, I don't think we're going to get it- or at least get it right away. I don't think we're going to learn more about this city and it's ways for at least 5 chapters or so. I think they wanna keep up this "mysterious city" vibe they have going on.

    Also… I kinda wanna see Lyra try and hug a polar bear that look just like Iorek. Only, it turns out to be one of our polar bears and not nice and all. I know, I'm a horrible mean person. I mean, the polar bear doesn't have to kill her, something can protect her or something. But I wanna still wanna see her try.

  17. Kisu0x says:

    Thank you for posting this!
    I wonder if Pullman ever read Chrestomanci before? or if he just knew about the series? If he read her and got inspired by her world, that would explain a lot about all the elements found in GC. I'm glad he acknowledged her as the first children's author to fully explore parallel worlds.
    I would love it if Mark would read Chrestomanci, especially the volume I with Charmed Life or the Lives of Christopher, or the trilogy Howl's moving castle but I doubt he would since there seems to be a long list of books he plans to read for MarkReads, including the Series of Unfortunate Events, which is the longest series you could possibly choose to read and it's going to take at least a year to finish that (and quite frankly, it is not worth it. it is too draggy and repetitive. Only the first book, or at best, the first few books were original and engaging. After that, it was a waste of my time to finish that series.) Plus, seems like he ignored the recommendation you linked.
    I also wonder if he would find the Chrestomanci not dark or deep enough for him? The series is quite tamed compared to some more modern youth novels. I wouldn't be surprised if he read that series before either since Chrestomanci was somewhat, though to a lesser extent, the Harry Potter back in the days. But you're right, I would LOVE it if he read it for Mark reads. It's a shame for anyone to not have read those…

  18. Didgy says:

    Have FINALLY caught up with Mark – it took a few days to get hold of a copy of the book. Actually managed to catch up most of the way yesterday in school, when I didn’t have teachers because of the strike here in Britain.

    I’m going to actually try and read along this time – I read HP and The Book Thief before Mark, HG after. I did try with GC, but I ended finishing it in two days. Must try harder this time.

    My only problem with these books is that years ago, when I was about 7, my older brother had audiobooks of these that he used to listen to in the car on long journeys. I’ve forgotten most of it, but I still remember a few random plot points. For example, I knew that Dust was something to do with Adam and Eve, and that GC ended with Lyra walking into the sky, and windows in the air, and a bunch of other stuff which I dare not repeat here in the spoiler-free zone (all I’ll say is that there’s one – I have no idea when or in which book – where something so awesome happens that Mark will probably pee his pants when he reads it.

    And on that lovely image, I’ll be off…

  19. echinodermata says:

    "As social entropy finds ways to topple the relationships and loyalties that seem to exist unscathed, it’s up to us to user our agency to fight the natural plight of deterioration."

    I read this and my brain stalled. I mean, I understand it, but it's in the morning on a Friday and I was not ready for this sort of phrasing from the review.

    …that is all.

  20. Jenny_M says:

    This is why I love cats. My dog runs around like an idiot and gets way overexcited about nothing, whereas my dear departed kitty would just be all, "sigh. Whatever. Scratch behind my ears please, minion." I love them both for very different reasons, but as the saying goes, "a man who has a dog to adore him should also have a cat to ignore him."

    • knut_knut says:

      haha, my mom grew up with 6 cats so when we got a dog she was like WHAT DOES THIS CREATURE WANT FROM ME JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!!!!!!! I don't know if I could deal with the rejection, though, if I got a cat 🙁

      • notemily says:

        Living with a dog is like living with a little kid, while living with a cat is like living with an adult. Sometimes a cranky adult who wants to be left alone, true. But if you sit still long enough they'll usually come over for snuggles.

    • flootzavut says:

      "Dogs have owners, cats have staff."

      "sigh. Whatever. Scratch behind my ears please, minion."

      I commend your fluent understanding of Cat. This is SO TRUE!

  21. lossthief says:

    So I was planning on re-reading in time for your reviews this week Mark, but I got distracted by Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (BTW, REALLY GREAT BOOK SO FAR.) and so I don't have anything to add right now. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up in between job hunting sessions!

    • knut_knut says:

      AHHH I finished that book a couple of weeks ago! IT'S SO GOOD! but it gave me nightmares 🙁

    • xynnia says:

      OMG my friend lent me that book to read recently!! I've only read the first few pages but I've heard great things about it and the Swedish film adaptation. I'm looking at it on my shelf right now as a matter of fact… I should be able to get through it during my upcoming two-week holiday to Spain (where I will be protected by lots of bright sunshine!) :3

      • lossthief says:

        Oh, the film adaptations are really good. I will say I feel the Swedish version is better, but the American version is also really good. Just so you know though, if you watch the Swedish version, try to get the DVD with the theatrical sub-titles. For some reason the DVD release dumbed down the sub-titles and it takes away a lot of the movie's charm that way.

    • Let the Right One In!! Oh hell, that book is an ORDEAL. I mean a fabulous ordeal, but … I have never had to physically put a book down and walk away from it for a while to recuperate.

      And I've read the Twilight saga.

    • Brieana says:

      I didn't even know that that was a book.
      I have seen an hour of the movie though.

  22. Ellalalalala says:

    The cat scene was properly traumatic. I am traumatised. And I love Will more than ever — and Lyra&Pan win EVERYTHING for badassery.

    I also love the way John Parry wrote his letters. He sounds hilarious. And SO cool! Just a bluff army man, what, good for a crisis, what ho, tootle pip – and zen sneeeeeakily sneeeeeeaking eeeento ozzer verlds vile nobody eez looking…

    I don't know why I think he does it in a comedy evil genius way, but that's how it is in my mind.


    I really like this book, by the way.

    • notemily says:


    • stellaaaaakris says:

      I am pretty much crying at your John Parry imitation. He starts off as a standard upper class British guy then turns a bit into those villains from cartoons who hunch over and tiptoe across the screen when they're being secretive. With a French/German/Russian accent thingy. At least that's how I read it in my head. And I love it.

  23. OMG kneading kitteh is adorable

  24. flootzavut says:

    "He gives us an answer and, in the process, everything makes less sense than it did before"

    Yes, he's a genius at that!

    I'd forgotten how much I just plain old LIKE Will Parry. I remembered Lyra clearly but Will was a bit fuzzy in my mind; now I remember that I actually really loved his character.

  25. Ravenclaw42 says:

    OMG, Saphling, are you me? What is this I don't even.

    But I don't remember my small, academics-focused, football-less liberal arts college in the south where most of the nerdy student body were into knitting/crocheting and identified as Ravenclaws ever doing a mass HP viewing and holding trivia contests and things in the theater. Although IF THAT DID HAPPEN, then I am extremely disappoint that I didn't get the memo. ;_;

  26. xynnia says:


  27. arctic_hare says:

    This chapter marks the first appearance of the word "presently" in this book. (Clearly, I have priorities here.)

    LOL I made note of it too, thanks to people here pointing it out! xD

  28. mal612 says:

    Me too, except it was the movie theatre on Main St. on Grad Night.

  29. theanagrace says:

    Ack! I didn't notice until you pointed it out, lol.

    Now I'm all twitchy.

  30. ELFCSJ says:

    I was not going to comment until all the recaps of Subtle Knife finished because I was afraid of being tempted to spoil Mark too much but I couldn't resist when I read all the comments about Chrestomanci.
    I was one of the people you mentioned who suggested reading DWJ to Mark

    but in the end, I thought it again and I concluded with my friends that it would be unfair to Mark to have to wait so long in order to read her and that he would be better off reading them now rather than later, after having to wait however many years of recaps from other books he planned to read before getting on to this.
    I am so glad there's people here who loves Chrestomanci and DWJ as much as I do.

  31. kka says:

    Oh My… That article you shared is so PRECIOUS. Probably one of the best articles I have seen about her.
    Thank you so much.

Comments are closed.