Mark Reads ‘The Subtle Knife’: Chapter 8

In the eighth chapter of The Subtle Knife, Lyra and Will travel to the Tower of the Angels to retrieve what Charles has asked for, where Will’s life is set on to a new path. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Subtle Knife.

Lyra crossed the bridge to the stars in order to find Lord Asriel, and she could not be further from that plan than she is now.


I could see why people might dislike this, but for me, this is about as close to fantasy perfection as I could ask for. I love when a story is taken to realms you’d not even considered, when you expect it to be about this thing, but it ends up being about this other thing that never even entered your brain. Pullman’s quite good at keeping me guessing at this point, and I’m certain I never once would have thought that the book’s title would mean what it does here. But seriously, Lyra has not even thought or mentioned her father’s name once in at least a hundred pages. AMAZING!

I also didn’t expect Pullman to immediately continue with Will and Lyra’s story; he’s been mixing it up so often with Serafina and Lee, and given that Ruta found Lord Asriel’s fortress, we have three other subplots with ridiculously exciting possibilities waiting for us. AH THERE IS SO MUCH GOING ON AND I HAVE FIGURED OUT PRETTY MUCH NONE OF IT. Well, except that Charles is from Lyra’s world. Which…that is the most obvious clue of them all, so I don’t suppose I deserve to be patting myself on the back. why can i never figure these things out.

Chapter eight. WELL. WELL. I think it’s best for me to try to make sense of this all in one of the only ways I know how to organize such things.

A Very Ridiculous and Lengthy List of Things Found in Chapter Eight of The Subtle Knife That Made Mark Want To Pass Out From Excitement

  1. Charles is very knowledgeable of Cittágazze and the Guild and has no qualms about revealing this to Lyra and Will. How many other worlds does he know about? Does he collect artifacts from parallel worlds for a living?
  2. Lyra swears she recognizes this man, and I know it’s Pullman’s way of saying CAN YOU GUESS WHO THIS IS, but I literally cannot. I have either completely forgotten most of The Golden Compass already or it’s not that easy of a clue. I honestly believe it’s the former.
  3. Before dropping Will and Lyra off, Charles tells Will there’s a mighty fine photo of him in the newspaper that day. GREAT. GREAT. Can he ever return to his own world?
  4. At the Tower of the Angels, Pan flies up to an open window and confirms there is a young man inside. Oh, and he’s dancing. Dancing. I have given up hope ever figuring this out. I’m just going to enjoy the ride.
  5. When they make it up to that room, they discover Pantalaimon was not exaggerating in the slightest. It really does appear that the young man is dancing with the knife Charles wants in his hand.
  6. Oh, and there’s clearly someone on the roof that’s not this man. WHAT.
  7. Oh, and that noise from the roof is an old man with his hands tied behind his back.
  8. Oh, and his name is Giacomo Paradisi, and he is the “bearer” of the knife, but the young man below stole it from him.
  9. Oh, and he “hold[s] the subtle knife on behalf of the Guild.” Which sounds like nonsense, but obviously Pullman has a plan for this.
  10. The young man with the subtle knife appears on the roof and the fight that takes place is disorienting and brutal. Perhaps this is motivated largely by the young man’s frustration with being unable to “cut through” whatever the older man on the roof was referring to.
  11. When Will and Lyra successfully trip the man, the knife falls out of his hand and appears to slice right into the stone ground as “if it had fallen into butter.” what the hell
  12. Will’s internal monologue about causing this man as much pain as possible is something that I, too, learned in elementary and junior high, but I was always on the receiving end of it. OH WELL UTTER TRAGEDY.
  13. Will gets to enact that history of violence on the young man and lands a well-placed kick to his kneecap, and the man falls, and then Will stomps on the man’s hand TWICE in order to get the knife away from him, and there’s blood and WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON and then Will shoves the man down the stairs, much like the intruder in the first chapter, and he gets the knife, and the man runs away, and WHAT A BADASS VICTORY.
  15. No, seriously, I cannot get over this. Two of his fingers have fallen off and he is gushing blood HOW DID THAT HAPPEN.
  16. Lyra is witness to Tullio, the young man, being attacked by the Specters below the Tower. I can’t ignore the parallel to Will knowing he killed someone, and while the Specters don’t exactly kill a person, watching Tullio convulse and thrash in terror, and then become lethargic, is ridiculously disturbing.
  17. Giacomo tells Will the knife is his, as he is now the bearer of it. He says he knows this is true and shows by raising his left hand to show that the exact same fingers are missing, too.
  19. Giacomo tells Will and Lyra they are never to give Charles the knife; he will betray them in order to get it.
  20. The subtle knife is revealed to be an actual subtle knife, made of some bizarre material with “subtle” colors flowing through it. It reminds me of the aurora, personally, and I also now sense that this is directly related to the alethiometer. How? I’m not sure. Lyra, however, recognizes that one side of the knife is the exact same color/make up of the blade that was used during intercision. How could the scientists in Bolvangar create a blade like this???
  21. Giacomo reveals that one edge of the subtle knife is able to cut through any material in the world, and then demonstrates it by cutting through a spoon like it’s a slice of paper.
  22. Oh, and the other side cuts through the wall between universes.
  23. The other side of the subtle knife cuts through the wall between universes.
  25. Okay, I’m all right now. I’ve begun to process this. Giacomo seems rushed for some reason, and stresses that Will has only a very short time to learn how to use the knife in order to cut a hole in the world. We learn it’s remarkably similar to the process that Lyra uses to work the alethiometer. Does Dust/dark matter flow through the knife? Why does this sort of soulful concentration bring about such fantastical powers? I recognize that this is what they have in common, but I can’t figure out why they work this way.
  26. When will has a breakdown in front of everyone, overcome with sadness, grief, and pain, Pantalaimon decides to break the taboo between human and dæmon and lick Will’s wound. It is one of the most moving passages in the entire series. Pan works independent of Lyra, but Lyra knows that this act is deeply moral and right, despite how weird it is for her.
  27. There’s a really, really interesting bit that Pullman provides that I think is a much larger clue to this whole series: When Lyra is more aware than ever how similar this process is to using the alethiometer, she compares it to the same knowledge that Dr. Malone, and Keats, and other great minds who know about letting go of one’s mind. So what exactly does this mean for the story here? We know Dust is attracted to acts of humanity. Is Pullman trying to say that there’s nothing more human that this process? I AM INTRIGUED.
  28. Will cuts a hole in this world and they all look in on a parallel universe. I just…I cannot even deal with this. This book is seriously one of the best things I have ever read.
  29. Giacomo teaches Will how to CLOSE THE WINDOW. YOU CAN CLOSE THEM. But why are some left open?
  30. Upon Will’s success, Giacomo spends what little time he has left explaining what he can about what he has been doing as part of the Guild and what Will is up against. He confirms that the Guild brought Specters into the world by splitting particle bonds. No one knows which universe they came from, but they arrived three hundred years before. !!!!!!!
  31. The window Will climbed through was opened by Giacomo, who was trying to lure Charles through in order to have the Specters destroy him. CHRIST.
  32. Giacomo reveals why he is in such a rush: He needs to go kill himself, as he no longer has the subtle knife and is not protected from the Specters. holy fucking hell THIS BOOK.
  33. Lyra, deeply upset after bidding Giacomo goodbye, is comforted by Will, who reveals that their next step is to obviously travel back to his universe and steal back the alethiometer. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM SO EXCITED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My god, I am so unprepared and I have never been so happy to state that.


About Mark Oshiro

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

160 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Subtle Knife’: Chapter 8

  1. Hanah_banana says:

    I LOVE THIS CHAPTER SO MUCH. Oh god, it's when the shit really, really gets real and you begin to grasp how spectacularly unprepared you are for these books.

    I love stories in which the author isn't afraid to have his characters suffer and feel pain. And what's more, that once they've suffered the problem doesn't suddenly disappear. And Will has just lost two fingers, which is completely unimaginably horrible and scary (and oh god I remember when I first read that I had to put the book down and breathe a little bit because I tend to get a bit queasy around descriptions of wounds and things – I once fainted during a 'be safe driving' lecture when someone came on and described how his spine had shattered in a car crash and then told us to stand up and 'appreciate the use of your legs'. Which I did by failing to use them at all but crumpling into a heap on the floor! Still, it got the point across, I'm bloody terrified of driving now! /end tangent) and there's not really any coming back from that. I mean, if someone get's stabbed in the stomach or has a broken arm in a novel that's awesome and exciting and tense because they're injured, but if they get medical care they will eventually recovered. YOU CANNOT JUST GROW TWO NEW FINGERS OH GOD WILL IS MAIMED FOR LIFE. (Is that tautology?) And I love that Pullman was brave enough to do that.


  2. Jenny_M says:

    Ungh this chapter. I love you so much, Pullman.

    The passage where Pan comforts Will makes me cry every single time I read it. It's so utterly perfect.

    (Also, am I the only person who pictures Tullio as Scott Tenorman from South Park? I know this makes me a terrible person.)

  3. Foxfire says:

    Oh god yes the bit about the fingers on the floor being curled like a question mark really got me the first time. THAT IMAGERY.

    If I remember correctly, you are still not fucking prepared for this oh maaaan.

  4. monkeyfeathers says:


    At least it's not called the Deathstick?

    This chapter has the word "higgledy-piggledy." It is the best chapter. A kid named Parry being the destined owner of a knife that wards off spirits? Well done, Pullman. Pan licking Will's wounds to comfort him is the sweetest thing, and I like how comfortable Lyra is with the process of relaxing and focusing at the same time. It's her strength, and I like that she gets to be the guide.

  5. Maya says:

    Ugh god, I remember be so completely freaked out by Will losing his fingers. I already had a fear of knives as a child, and Phillip Pullman made me NEVER WANT TO PICK UP A KNIFE AGAIN WHAT IF MY FINGERS FELL OFF.

    • Jenny_M says:

      This chapter, and the chapter in one of the Ramona books where Ramona is convinced Beezus is going to shred her fingers into the salad as she's shredding carrots has made me mortally afraid of kitchen tools.

      • knut_knut says:

        even as an adult I'm TERRIFIED of the potato peeler. Think of how much it would hurt to peel your skin off!!!

        • hpfish13 says:

          As someone who accidentally cuts her knuckles open almost every time I peel potatoes, carrots, etc., it's not as bad as you would imagine. It hurts, because the peeler is pretty dull, but it's definitely manageable. It's nowhere near as a bad as cutting your fingers on siding, or getting a 2 inch long splinter removed from your foot, or having staples put into your head (all of which I've had the joy of experiencing).

          • xpanasonicyouthx says:


          • knut_knut says:

            AHHHHHHHHH!! What did you do to get staples in your head??

            I once sliced my thumb on a brand new shaving razor while trying to get it out of its packaging (SO. MUCH. BLOOD), so I always thought cutting yourself on a potato peeler would feel like that D: I'm glad it doesn't, though! Now I can peel potatoes in peace! kind of…

            • hpfish13 says:

              I was under a heavy wooden chair and someone startled me. I snapped my head up and cracked it on the underside of the chair. They can't put stitches in the top of your head, so they stapled the wound shut. And, having had stitches put in my eyebrow, I can tell you that staple are much better. The whole process takes about 30 seconds, whereas with stitches, it takes a whole long time.

              I cut myself on a brand new razor once, but it wasn't on my hand. I elbowed it while taking a shower, and it cut a bunch of skin off.

              I'm fairly accident prone, a shelf fell on my leg just this weekend.

              • monkeybutter says:

                I'm terrible with potato peelers, knives, and razors, too. I always used to scrape my knuckles while peeling when I was a kid until I stopped listening to my parents instructions to peel away from the body, oddly enough, my finger nails have saved me from slicing off the tips of my fingers, and I once cut myself shaving so badly that I started to blackout in the shower. I can't see well without my glasses, so I thought it was just a nick until I started seeing stars and getting tunnel vision, and realized that it was a narrow two-inch scrape above my heel. I had given blood earlier in the day, too, so it wasn't a good time to be a klutz.

                I staunched it with a pad, hobbled into my room to lay on the floor with my leg propped up on a chair for an hour before it stopped, while trying to get a hold of my mom to tell her I might be bleeding to death (lol I'm an adult). I only got up because my roommate was about to come home and I didn't want her to be horrified by the pools of bloody water I left on the bathroom floor.

                I've never had stitches or staples, but I have plenty of scars. Bella Swan has nothing on me.

                • hpfish13 says:

                  Its funny how you don't get certain injuries. I've broken all of my toes at least once, but never any other bone in my body (despite having sprained my ankles three times, damaging my tailbone, spraining both a pinky and a thumb–but not at the same time–, dislocating my shoulder, getting tennis elbow, having both my eardrums burst, being bitten by a four foot tall dog after no provocation, being hit in the head and face by a large variety of sporting equipment, and various other cuts, bruises, burns and general injuries).

                  I blame a combination of bad luck and not being able to see while I was growing up and learning things like coordination. I didn't get glasses till I was 6 years old, and apparently I walked out of the optometrist and said "Mommy, there are leaves on the trees!"

              • Feanna says:

                It's definitely possible to put stitches on every part of the body. Staples are faster and easier to work through hair, but stitches can definitely be done (have seen it myself). The thought process was probably: It's faster and easier and the scar's not gonna be visible – staples!

                Personally I have totally peeled like half a cm of skin off my finger with a carrot peeler.

              • ComputerizedWoman says:

                I had my head stapled too. Glass fell on my head and they had to close the wound with staples. Just in case anyone wants to know no glass went into my head luckily.

          • FlameRaven says:

            I worked at a frame shop for about six months, and since I was working with wood, razors, and cutting/handling large sheets of glass, my hands were constantly getting all kinds of small cuts and nicks. Most of them weren't too bad, although I did have a miraculous moment where a piece of glass (about 20 x 30") actually shattered in my hands and somehow I didn't even get cut.

            The thing I feared most of all was the frame-cutter; it was literally a huge razor-sharp double blade in the shape of a V that could cut through a 2-inch-thick wood frame. It was operated by a foot pedal, but you still had to have your hands on the wood and reasonably close to the blade to keep it from moving. The owner warned us the first day that this thing could EASILY take off fingers so it was always a little nerve-wracking using it. DDDD:

            Being an artist: much more hazardous to one's health than you would generally assume!

          • lossthief says:

            or getting a 2 inch long splinter removed from your foot
            This reminds of the time as a kid that I stepped on a nail and it went ALL THE WAY THROUGH MY FOOT.

            Not fun.

            • hpfish13 says:

              Yikes! I stepped on a nail once (it was inside a homemade rainmaker, which consisted of paper towel tubes with nails poked in it and beans, all wrapped up in contact paper, real safe idea for 8 year-olds, church craft people!), but it only went a little of the way in. The tetanus shot I had to get afterward hurt a lot more than the nail itself. The two bouts of blood poisoning I've gotten in my feet were much more frightening than the nail or two separate times I've been stung in the foot by a bee (I've also been stung in the leg and the chin).

              • drippingmercury says:

                NAILS in a rainmaker??? Mine always used toothpicks! Still hurts if you step on it, but nails… yowch!

          • sabra_n says:

            Ooh! I have one! It's also not as bad as cutting a quarter of an inch straight into the top of your thumb with a mandolin. Man, that bled like crazy. 😛

    • FlameRaven says:

      See, my mom totally allowed us to use kitchen knives and/or x-acto blades to slice windows in cardboard boxes to make our forts. This was kind of stupidly dangerous, but we turned out okay, and no one lost any fingers, although in hindsight I am kind of surprised there wasn't any real injury. Knives I'm okay with. It was fire and other natural disasters I was terrified of as a child. Also, skeletons.

      • Maya says:

        I also had a mortal fear of tornados and rattlesnakes hiding under my bed. The former I attribute to a recurring nightmare where a tornado hits my town and my father and I have to hide in a Jiffy Lube (WHERE DOES MY MIND GO). The latter is because I read "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" as a child and was convinced someone was going to murder me with a snake. I probably should not have read some of the books I did when I was a kid.

        • Saphling says:

          The Speckled Band is why I still will refuse to sleep in a bed under a ceiling vent. >_>

          • Maya says:

            Thank God someone else was affected by that story. It was probably one of the most terrifying things I ever read. It gave me worse nightmares than Goosebumps (although, I did for a while think there was a dummy in my closet that wanted to strangle me).

            • ferriswheeljunky says:

              That one with the giant jellyfish! The Lion's Mane? It gave me a lifelong fear of jellyfish. Ugh…

              (Hilariously, I recently discovered that my kids' editions of Sherlock Holmes had been carefully combed for all mentions of drug use, which were completely excised. This, while the bowdleriser had apparently been perfectly happy for kids to read graphic descriptions of people having their faces burnt off with acid. But cocaine? Perish the thought!)

              • Maya says:

                Hahaha my versions were like that too! When I finally got around to reading the real versions I was like "Cocaine? What is this?" They were also the versions you got at the dollar store which meant they were even shorter and had these illustrations which did NOT help with the whole overactive imagination thing.

                • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                  HOLY SHIT THIS HAPPENED TO ME TOO. oh god i was so mad to find out I had read EDITED VERSIONS.

            • barnswallowkate says:

              Wow I thought I was just a giant wimp for being scared by that story as a kid! I see that we need to form The Support Group For Mark Fans Scared As Children By The Speckled Band.

              At least now I adore snakes so there was no lasting damage…

              • Maya says:

                See, I still have a fear of snakes, which isn't helped by the fact that I now live in a place where there are actually rattlesnakes. I also haven't been able to read The Speckled Band since I was like 10 for fear of not being able to sleep ever again.

                • barnswallowkate says:

                  Ah yes, where I live (suburban MD) it is extremely unlikely that I'd be injured in any way by a snake, but rattlesnakes don't mess around.

                  Despite liking them now there's no way I'd read that story again!

                  • Maya says:

                    Haha I lived in suburban Virginia as a child so don't even ask me where I got the idea that it was a rattlesnake that was going to kill me. Logic does not always work so well on children.

                  • monkeybutter says:

                    We have Eastern rattlesnakes and a not-very-dangerous subspecies of copperhead. I'm always afraid I'm going to piss off a copperhead while walking through the woods. 😀

                    • Saphling says:

                      Ugh, the copperheads we have in AR are the most likely of our poisonous snakes to bite. It's totally unfair because THEY'RE SO PRETTY.

                    • barnswallowkate says:

                      See I assumed the rattlers are out in the Shenandoah/Catoctins, and copperheads are small so they'll run away from me before I even see them? IDK, rationalizations.

                      I did once scooch a northern water snake out of the middle of a trail with a stick and later found out that they like to bite and spray musk on you, which would have been unfortunate…

        • FlameRaven says:

          Yeah, our nightly TV was watching Star Trek: Next Gen and then some kind of emergency show hosted by William Shatner who would tell the stories of real-life accidents and horrible injuries. Which meant I went to bed thinking about all the terrible things that could happen. This was made worse when a hardware store burned down a few blocks from our house. It burned for almost a week and, when we first heard about it, my mom made some kind of comment that "if the wind had been right, it might have spread to our house." I was so terrified of fire for awhile that I would take my teddy bear and other beloved possessions to school with me so I would have them, just in case the house burned down while I was gone. o_o

          • redheadedgirl says:

            OH MY GOD. Rescue 911! I watched that show too!

            What I did was I had a bag of my favorite toys that I kept near the front door and gave everyone strict instructions that if anything were to happen, THEY WERE TO GRAB THAT BAG. Happily, my mother recognized this as a coping mechanism (trying to exert some control over a world I had just realized was chaotic) and let me kept that bag there until I quietly took it back to my room some weeks later.

            • FlameRaven says:

              Ah! Now I know it's name. I couldn't remember that bit, only William Shatner calmly talking to the camera about whatever horrible things they were about to show us. I think there was one story where this kid's jeans got caught in an escalator and his leg was torn up pretty badly, which left me very nervous around escalators for awhile.

              The weird thing was my mom was totally okay with us watching this, and for some reason allowed us to see It on TV when I was only 7 or 8, but was pretty restrictive on other media. I didn't see 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' until I was 17 because she thought it was inappropriate. (I promptly showed it to my younger sisters. When she disapproved, I was like Mom, it is a children's movie.)

              • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                Rescue 911 also gave me nightmares. WHY WOULD THAT BE A SHOW ON TV. IT WAS NIGHTMARE FUEL.

                • monkeybutter says:

                  I liked Rescue 911! I think there was one with a kid getting his tongue stuck to the freezer that freaked me out. My personal nightmare fuel was Unsolved Mysteries. I loved that creepy theme song.
                  [youtube K2S6ZQn9lvk youtube]

                  • I LOVE UNSOLVED MYSTERIES. By which I mean, I still have a little crush on Robert Stack, and whenever someone takes a picture of me, I think (in a Robert Stack way), "This is her last known photograph." Because they did that shit ALL THE TIME. It's enough to give a person a camera phobia. :/

                    • writerscramp says:

                      LOL THIS IS ME. Also, I am constantly narrating my own life with "little did she know…", particularly on the cusp of a big decision/choice, doing something risky/scary, or even just deciding whether or not to investigate the unknown noise in the basement.

                    • So glad it's not just me! This is how TV trains us.

                    • monkeybutter says:

                      Shit, I think the same thing. "God, I'd better not disappear, because I do not want that dopey-ass face all over the news."

                      His voice is the exact right mixture of foreboding and soothing.

                  • momigrator says:

                    Ahhhh, that theme creeps me the heck out too! Whenever I think of creepy music, it is something similar to this… The only show I remember having a lasting effect on me was when I saw Scream 2 as a child… Whenever I was in a public bathroom after that, I was afraid somebody would stab a knife through the stall and get me… I never peed faster in my life than when I had that fear rolling around in my head. -sigh-

            • Maya says:

              I used to go over in my head exactly which of my toys and books I would bring with me if the house caught on fire. There had to be just enough to fit in my blanket, but not so much that they would fall out as I ran from the fire. I mean, they told us in school to have a fire escape plan…

            • notemily says:

              Every time they did "fire prevention week" at my school, I'd make up a similar bag. And then be terrified that I lived on the second floor and didn't have a ladder to get down to the ground if I had to go out the window.

          • Andi says:

            Omg I completely forgot about that show.
            Hello repressed childhood horrors, nightmares tonight?
            Also, that show made me afraid of The Shat. He was creepy >.> <.<

        • barnswallowkate says:

          Did you see Twister as a kid? I think at one point they have to hide from a tornado in a mechanic shop in a gas station. Maybe that's where that came from?

          Also re: things hiding under the bed: I saw "The Witches" when I was pretty young and was convinced they were under my bed and would grab me, pull me under, and turn me into a mouse. I jumped into my bed for years to keep my feet out of their reach. Now that I'm grown up I'm like "Why didn't I just tell my parents to take my mattress off the frame and put it on the floor, then they wouldn't have had anywhere to hide."

          • Maya says:

            I never actually did see Twister until I was like 13 or 14, but it probably snuck into my subconscious somewhere.

            For some reason The Witches never scared me even though they were pretty much pure nightmare fuel. I have a lot of friends who were terrified of them for ages, but they never bothered me at all. Maybe I assumed they were all British or something.

          • FlameRaven says:

            Oh, man, I read like ALL the Roald Dahl books, they were my favorite in elementary school. I never minded all the creepy stuff in them, but oh god, looking back now I can't believe what got included in those stories.

            If anything though it just supports the theory that kids can handle way more than one would expect. I think Neil Gaiman said something like he writes a story, and then if it's too scary for adults he writes it for children instead. Which is, I'm sure, how we got things like Coraline. o_o

          • AnonAndi says:

            Watched it with a friend because it was on tv and it was pouring outside. An hour later, what happens?
            The cosmos have a really sick sense of humor >_<

          • sabra_n says:

            I couldn't even get through The Witches when I first started reading – just the body horror of the witches having no toes got to me. And The BFG gave me nightmares about being snatched from my bed by giants and eaten. Thank you, Roald Dahl!

  6. pennylane27 says:

    How I love watching you flail at new information. It is deeply satisfying. I may or may not be cackling evilly at you. Shit hasn't begun to get really real yet.

    OH AND WILL JUST LOST TWO FINGERS. Thanks Pullman for the lovely image.

  7. FlameRaven says:

    I think the most intense part of this chapter (I can't call it my favorite) is how the Subtle Knife is so subtle that no one has any idea Will is injured until the fight is over and suddenly there is blood everywhere and then his fingers just fall off what the fuck. I remember going back and trying to see where it happened, just when Will was cut, and there's just nothing in the text to explain how any of it happened. The bit about the fingers curling into a question mark is a great bit of imagery that is also, I'm sure, nightmare fuel for quite a few people.

    On the other hand (ha), Will is now 100% more badass, and he was pretty badass already.

    • hazelwillow says:

      I've done that too… I think the only indication is when he wraps the rope around his hand "to protect it", you can see how it would happen in the fight after that. We know that will not be any kind of protection at all against the knife, but with the rope there he must feel more secure in using that hand. Like a false sense of security.

  8. hymnia says:

    This is my favorite chapter in the entire series. The twist where Will is "chosen" to bear the knife, in such a brutal way, is just so intense and unforgettable.

    Shh, keep it down, Walter Bishop will hear you.

  10. Andi says:

    It cuts the walls between universes!! OMG.
    But.. I also like my fingers…

  11. Becky_J_ says:

    "and I know it’s Pullman’s way of saying CAN YOU GUESS WHO THIS IS, but I literally cannot."

    Pullman loves doing this to us…. you will probably be doing it in some form or another for the next book and a half.

    22,23, and 24 are my favorite ones on that list…. I KNEW HOW MUCH YOU WOULD LOVE THE KNIFE THAT CUTS THROUGH UNIVERSES. It's like Pullman wrote this just for you

    OH, and when Pan licks Will, the part I love most is watching Lyra….. the gasp that she lets loose is wonderful. What a strange sensation that must be……

  12. leighzzz31 says:

    Remember in Northern Lights, when Lyra is found spying in Bolvangar and they decide to 'cut' her from Pan? And one of the 'scientists' actually grabs Pan, breaking the 'great taboo'? I was utterly repulsed by that scene, given how Pullman had very persistantly made us aware how wrong it was to touch someone elses daemon and Lyra's horror mirrored my own.

    In this chapter, we see the complete reverse of that. Pantalaimon, completely of his own volition, comforts Will by doing what any daemon would do to his own human. It's a beautiful scene and I love how we get to see from both Lyra and Will's perspective; it gives Will the strength to keep going whereas Lyra sits there, breathless at the strangeness of it all. How weird must it feel to have a part of you, a part your 'soul' touch someone else like that?

  13. Ellalalalala says:

    22. Oh, and the other side cuts through the wall between universes.
    23. The other side of the subtle knife cuts through the wall between universes.


    I keep saying "this is my favourite chapter so far", and one day I'll have to go back and decided which one actually is my favourite chapter (because it's important, because I say so, because shut up), but for now – THIS IS MY FAVOURITE CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF EVER.

    Also: FINGERS! I've always had a fascination for chopped-off fingers – I think because I nearly split my thumb in half when I was 8 (most spectacular spurting blood display I've ever seen; Tarantino has nothing on me), and because an elderly gentleman in my town had lost fingers in World War II and you know how children fixate on things. I used to think about how his fingers would now be skeletons even though he was still alive, and that used to freak me out no end. Pullman has written this passage JUST FOR ME.

    I'm glad that Will got to cry – what a helluva time he's had.
    I'm glad that Lyra gets it, and knows when to stay quiet and let him figure it out, and when to be helpful. What a change from her original bossiness! I <3 watching Lyra grow and change.
    I love Pan, and the circumvention of taboo.
    Oh man this book is so good.

    It's weird, but I've actually come to enjoy reading just one chapter a day. I got to the end of this one and had that agonised ack, shall I just… no, don't – stay strong …just one more – NO! moment I always have, but actually it was a relief to get some space, and peculate on it, and digest the frenzy of what had happened. I was so gripped during the fight that I hadn't realised how tense I'd been feeling throughout it, and unwinding was definitely needed.

    • barnswallowkate says:

      I completely agree with your last paragraph. Of course the only reason I can read it one chapter per day is that I've read it at least twice already. But I found that I forgot a lot of this book so it's new and exciting and testing my willpower not to just blow through it and the next book in a day!

    • pica_scribit says:

      Your fascination just reminded me of one of my English profs who was missing the last two fingers on one hand, and who, when he felt he was losing the attention of the class, would make some sort of hand gesture, and everyone would instantly sit up and pay attention.

    • SecretGirl127 says:

      You are so much stronger than I am. This is the third book series that I tried to stay with Mark on, but I suck. I read all three Hunger Games before Mark finished the first one. I stayed with Mark a little longer, about five chapters, for the Book Thief. I decided I would not start this book for a week, then read a chapter a day behind him so I could read all the comments but not be spoiled. No way. Impossible. Multiple worlds? I have no power to resist multiple worlds. I'm about 75% done with the final book. I am weak. I am no Lyra.

  14. knut_knut says:

    I COULD NOT STOP SMILING while reading your review this morning! I love happy, excited Mark!

    Can we just talk about how useless Giacomo is
    “You know what I mean by a bond? Something that binds?”
    (he's not actually useless, RIP Giacomo :'( )

    • I really liked the "bond" thing. I could hear his bitter sarcasm and his weariness over what his culture has done. "Yeah, they thought they could buy and sell it like everything else, but we were wrong." It really resonates with our own modern world and with something else I can't talk about because spoilers.

      RIP, Giacomo. 🙁

  15. eleniel says:

    Considering he lives in Oxford now, maybe Charles is someone Lyra saw around Jordan? Maybe he was a scholar? I'm not sure he's a character that was named in TGC (but then again I'm not going back and looking). My other thought was that maybe he was at Bolvangar or Mrs Coulter's party. whatever he could still be a polar bear

    I loved the super detailed description of the knife. Pretty, but also kind of scary. And I'm glad they explained the cover for it because that's what I was wondering, obviously you'd want to cover it, but it can cut through anything so??? Buckles are the answer!

    It's neat that both Lyra and Will have now obtained mysterious artifacts that they are uniquely suited to use. I hope Lyra gets her alethiometer back soon. Then they will be UNSTOPPABLE.

    • Sarah Brand says:

      Do you think Charles is maybe Lord Boreal? I don't have my copy of The Golden Compass handy (by which I mean that it's all the way upstairs), but he was at Mrs. Coulter's party, and I think he spoke to Lyra briefly.

      • eleniel says:

        That could be! He seemed pretty important but we haven't actually "met" him yet, right?


      • flootzavut says:

        You are Sybil Trelawny and I claim my five gold galleons.

    • pica_scribit says:

      We definitely met at least three men in The Golden Compass with serpent daemons.

      • eleniel says:

        You have a better memory than I! I can't remember anyone specific.

      • RoseFyre says:

        We did? I can only remember one, and I know who that is, but that's because I've read this already. When Mark finds out who Sir Charles is, you'll have to tell us who the other two were. 🙂

  16. PeanutK says:

    I can't seem to remember how to log in here, and I can't keep from commenting anymore, so I'll just do it this way.

    I remember when I first read this chapter, I was so overwhelmed with how cool this all was. A knife that can cut through and into other universes? GET ME ONE OF THOSE RIGHT NOW! I remember how I ran to my sister's room (she had already read the whole trilogy a few years back) and told her how excited I was and how badly I wished I could bear the knife like Will. It was just as strong as my wish to have my own dæmon. I wouldn't even care that I'd have to give up two of the fingers on my left hand. To me, it sounds like more than a fair trade to have the ability to travel between billions of alternate realities. I'm an explorer by nature, so Pullman here is appealing to one of my strongest wishes: to explore other worlds!

    This series is so cool. I know exactly what Mark means when he says it feels like it was written specifically for him. It's packed with all the things that could ever appeal to me and make me excited!

  17. Mauve_Avenger says:

    A few things I wrote in my notes about this chapter…

    This is the first (and hopefully last) time the word "presently" gets used twice in a chapter, and the two instances occur only a few paragraphs away from each other. If my book were formatted a little differently, they'd even be on the same page.

    The plum brandy Will drinks for his pain is more accurately a type of rakia called slivovitz. Rakia is pretty well known for having a very high alcohol content, especially if it's home-brewed. Presumably Paradisi got it from another world, though, so who knows?

    Speaking of Mr. Paradisi, I mentioned in a Hunger Games review that I wondered if perhaps “Morphling” is just morphine by another name, but the people of the district don’t know it. I think this was before we knew that there’d be HDM reviews, but I know I referenced Giacomo Paradisi and the antiseptic ointment from this chapter in some capacity and I really hope it was vague enough that no one got spoiled.

    And finally…

    “ We’ll see,” said Sir Charles. “This is where I dropped you before. Shall we let you out here?”
    “No,” said Will, because he could see a police car farther down the road. “You can’t come into Ci’gazze because of the Specters so it doesn’t matter if you know where the window is…”

    You know he wants the knife but he can’t come into that world to get it himself because of the Specters. He just told you that the knife scares away the Specters. It was at this point in the narrative that I started (mentally) shouting at Will: YOU ARE BRINGING HIM A KNIFE THAT WILL ENABLE HIM TO GO THROUGH THAT WORLD WITHOUT HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT THE SPECTERS. OF COURSE IT MATTERS WHETHER HE KNOWS THE LOCATION OF THE WINDOW OR NOT. WILL, Y U NO USE BRAIN??? *ahem* This would've made sense if Will had already known that the knife could create new windows, meaning that Sir Charles wouldn't even need to use the one Will found, but that's not the case here. Or it could make sense if it were clear that Will already knew that he wasn't going to give the knife to him, but that doesn't seem to be the case, either, since Will mentions the plan to give it to Charles after he becomes the knife-bearer. So it's all well and good that they know they aren't going to give the knife to Sir Charles any more, but at the time showing him the window into Cittagazze was an incredibly foolish thing to do.

    • notemily says:

      About that plum brandy: is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that this series is heavy on golden liquids?

    • Ellalalalala says:

      You are very good at second-guessing and keeping track of who knows what when! I'm exhausted!

      But would the knife have worked for Sir Charles if it didn't choose him? Wouldn't he have just flailed around like the young man in the tower?

      • hazelwillow says:

        I don't think it would have worked, but I don't think Sir Charles knew or accepted that.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        Probably the knife wouldn't work for Sir Charles, but I don't think any of them knew that at the time.

        Even if Giacomo had told Sir Charles that the knife only works for the people who have the mark of the bearer (since it seems that Latrom has confronted him about it before), I tend to think that Sir Charles would just assume that Paradisi was making it up as an excuse to keep the knife for himself. That, or he'd just assume that any non-rightful-bearers who came before were just too stupid to know how to use it, and that he himself wouldn't have a problem with the knife at all.

        Another question is why exactly Sir Charles wants the knife. If he wants it to cut through to different universes, then obviously he needs to become the rightful bearer or it won't work. But if he already knows enough about the pre-existing windows that he'd just be able to get by on using those, then he really only needs the knife to ward away the Specters. And the fact that Tullio wasn't dementored while he was in possession of the knife might indicate that one doesn't need to be the proper bearer of the knife for it to have that efffect on the Specters around you.

        • Ellalalalala says:

          Nefariouser and nefariouser…

        • RoseFyre says:

          Yes, exactly – you don't have to be the proper bearer for it to hold off the Specters, though you do to cut through universes.

    • RoseFyre says:

      Ah, but Will doesn't KNOW that the knife holds off the Specters. At this point, all he knows is that Sir Charles wants the knife, nothing else about it at all. Lyra spotted a man in the tower – a man who would be old enough to be eaten by the Specters – but she hasn't told Will this yet. And she doesn't know that the knife is what's keeping him safe, either. For all she knows, it could be the tower itself, considering how creepy it felt. So, yes, the knife would keep Sir Charles safe from Specters, which would let him pass through Cittagazze, but Will doesn't know that yet, so he sees more harm in being caught by the police than in telling Sir Charles the location of a window that he can't use.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        I actually quoted this part in my notes, but for some reason it didn't c/p into my original comment properly. Several paragraphs before the part I quoted above:

        Will said, "If we've got to get the knife from that man, we need to know more about him. He's not going to just give it to us, is he?"
        "Certainly not. It's the one thing keeping the Specters away. It's not going to be easy by any means."
        "The Specters are afraid of the knife?"
        "Very much so."

        So Sir Charles told them that the knife wards the Specters away only a short time before Will decided it wasn't necessary to conceal the location of the window from him.

        • RoseFyre says:

          Ah, true. Well, Will may not have put it all together, since he found out like a minute before, and was immediately distracted with the daemons. And he's still scared of the police, too, so…

          • vattna says:

            Actually, I don't think Will really cares what Sir Charles will do after he gets the knife. Their singular goal is to get the alethiometer back, and once they have it they'll get outta Dodge and never look back at Sir Charles again. His motivations for having the knife don't concern them at this point, and with what he told them about the knife why should they? To them he's just a collector of artifacts, a pompous man who likes stealing pretty things. The police pose a more immediate and terrible threat than Sir Charles' greed. He and Lyra have a much larger and more important agenda, and since Sir Charles already knows about Cittagazze, there's no reason to hide another door to the place from him. Obviously he can get into the city, or he wouldn't know about it. It's just that he's trapped by the Specters from going through whatever door he knows right now.

  18. tesla says:

    I just finished listening to all three audiobooks with Pullman as narrator plus a full cast – highly recommended!
    While there were several passages in the series that made me get choked up, Pan comforting Will was by far the most moving. Pullman's narration is superb and he adds so much emotion to this moment I just can't get over it!
    Although Pan does this on his own, he's still part of Lyra and I think this is a big step forward in her growth as a person. Pullman is just such a great writer…

    And, I don't comment often but I have to say hanks so much for choosing this series! My husband got these books for me a few years ago and I loved them. I've been meaning to reread them since then and just never got around to it. Your reviews gave me the push I needed – though there was no way in hell I could do one chapter a day! 🙂

  19. notemily says:

    This chapter, man. THIS CHAPTER. I love this chapter, even though it’s physically painful for me to read it. My hand starts hurting in sympathy with Will. I remember the first time I read this, KNOWING that something awful was going to happen, because we already knew that the knife could cut through lead “like butter”–so I knew the ropes Will wrapped around his hand wouldn’t be of any use. Oh man. And then when he kicks the knife away and his foot connects with the hilt “luckily for him”… BUT NOW HE IS THE BEARER OF THE SUBTLE KNIFE. HELL YEAH. Badass instrument number two.

    I like that Lyra teaches Will to relax his mind by telling him not to fight the pain. That’s something I learned about in mindfulness training–letting the pain in, feeling the pain, actually helps alleviate the pain. Fighting pain, trying to push it away, really does take up a lot of mental energy. It’s the same with fear–many symptoms of anxiety aren’t caused by the fear itself, but by trying to push the fear away.

    So maybe the state of consciousness that Keats knew about could also be thought of as mindfulness? (This is also one of the reasons I like Avatar: The Last Airbender so much. Aang meditates! I am a mindfulness nerd.)

    And how poignant is the moment when Pan licks Will’s wound? Oh my heart.

    • Mindfulness, definitely! Maybe with a little flow, too. I loved the Keats references; just spot-on.

      What kind of training was that, if you don't mind sharing? It sounds fascinating and, obviously, very useful!

      • notemily says:

        Well, I took an in-person beginning mindfulness class at the Milwaukee Mindfulness Center, but the concepts my teacher used can also be found in books by, for example, Jon Kabat-Zinn, who writes about mindfulness-based stress reduction and dealing with chronic pain. Right now I'm reading Full Catastrophe Living, but I've also read The Mindful Way Through Depression which he wrote in collaboration with a couple of doctors. Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron are other good authors to check out.

        If you can, though, I'd recommend finding a mindfulness class nearby. Reading books is great but there's nothing quite like having a teacher, especially when you're just starting out.

    • @Arachne110 says:

      I like that Lyra teaches Will to relax his mind by telling him not to fight the pain. That’s something I learned about in mindfulness training–letting the pain in, feeling the pain, actually helps alleviate the pain. Fighting pain, trying to push it away, really does take up a lot of mental energy. It’s the same with fear–many symptoms of anxiety aren’t caused by the fear itself, but by trying to push the fear away.

      I don't have any knowledge of mindfulness training- but I wanted to say that what you said about letting pain in and not fighting it is absolutely true just from personal experience. In my family all the kids were not supposed to cry about anything past baby ages(my dad is in his 70's now so I think this stoic idea is a more old-fashioned thing and I don't recommend it) so often when something hurt so freakin bad we kids would do whatever worked to not cry. At some point I realized just concentrating on the hurt and not fighting it seemed to help a ton.

      I have absolutely no idea what to do when other people cry though. I feel lost.

      • notemily says:

        Well, obviously, you let your daemon lick them.

        No but seriously, repressing emotions like that is a bad plan, and yet so many people continue to use it as a coping strategy and even praise it in others. As for what to do when people cry, I'd say just sit with them and be there. But obviously there are many reasons why people cry, and some people want or need different reactions than others. Some want distraction, some want comfort, etc. So… it depends?

      • momigrator says:

        My family was like that, too, I still have a hard time crying in front of people, though I've tried very hard to just let gooooo… 🙁 Someday, I'll get to that point and it'll be a grand thing indeed. There is just no sense in trying to be tough and perfect all the time, even if society expects it.

  20. flootzavut says:

    "Oh, and the other side cuts through the wall between universes.
    The other side of the subtle knife cuts through the wall between universes.

    Was SOOOOO waiting for the brainsplosion for this chapter 😀

  21. Hanah_banana says:

    Also I can never help but be amused in terms of Lord Asriel when I read this chapter. It's like, he thought he was being so rebellious and revolutionary and exciting by making a hole between universes and it took him SO much effort and he had to kill Roger ( D: ) to do it. And then we find out that actually this Guild of people have been chopping holes through the universes for centuries and basically it's nothing special at all. (Well, obviously it is and only one person gets to be the bearer and has to LOSE THEIR FINGERS to do so, but still. Asriel bb, you're not as trail-blazing as you thought you were!)

  22. lindseytinsey says:

    Where has Lyra seen that man before???? I can't figure it out! I think I remember a man with a snake deamon somewhere but wasn't that a huge snake? Dammit! Just reveal yourself already! Or can Lyra just get that memory already. I don't wanna go looking through pages of the Golden Compass for a clue.

  23. pica_scribit says:

    I just love Will so much that any Will-related character development makes me warm and happy in my belly. He is probably one of my favourite fictional young people ever. Compare him to what, say, Harry Potter was like at the same age. Will is, at 12, already a complete badass. And he's ready to roll with anything. He doesn't freak out when the plan changes; he's just like, "Fingers? Still got eight. Okay, here's what we're going to do now." He is the reason this is my favourite book in the trilogy. Also, I'm noticing a trend in my favourite fiction of maimed hands and character development. "A Song of Ice and Fire", anyone?

    • Ellalalalala says:

      Oh I dunno, Harry was all right – he fought GIANT SNAKES, dammit!

      Frankly, I don't know why he got so angsty over dragons in the fourth book. Harry, you can look at THIS one without dying! That's got to be something, right? And with all the bad dreams later, not one HOLY CRAP THE GIANT SNAKE IS AFTER ME nightmare. That's pretty badass.

      But definitely with you 100% on the Will-is-awesome bandwagon. <3 Lead on, MacDuff!

  24. Billie says:

    The bit about antibiotics always makes me incredibly sad. I feel so bad for Paradisi because he think's he is going to make everything okay with this stuff, and Will recognises straight away that it won't be any use. I also think "City of Magpies huh, way to steal something totally crap." but mostly I'm just sad.

    Pan licking Will's hand is probably one of my favourite moments in the whole series, it is beautiful and sad and I love how blown away Lyra is, but also that she immediately realises and accepts that it's right. I think it's heartbreaking that this happens after he thinks of his mother. That he just breaks down. I like that she hasn't been forgotten, that she still is a constant presence in his mind, and he loves her absolutely.

  25. frogANDsquid says:

    I still dont get why its called His Dark Materials but maybe that’ll make more sense when i finish the amber spyglass

    • vattna says:

      Into this wild abyss,
      The womb of nature and perhaps her grave,
      Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,
      But all these in their pregnant causes mixed
      Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,
      Unless the almighty maker them ordain
      His dark materials to create more worlds,
      Into this wild abyss the wary fiend
      Stood on the brink of hell and looked a while,
      Pondering his voyage…
      —John Milton, Paradise Lost,Book II

      That poem(?) was the opening page for The Golden Compass. When I first read it it was extremely confusing, and it didn't help that I've never read Paradise Lost at all, so I'm sure it's taken far out of context for what meaning it was originally intended. However, having read through Pullman's books, I have a much better understanding of it coming from the perspective of <<this>> book. I can only guess that's where the title of the Trilogy came from, inspired by that section of poetry talking about the "creator" making new worlds from "his dark materials".

      • I would love to reply to this, but I don't know if it's spoiler-y. 🙁

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          I would say…avoid it for now? If you doubt it, it's best to err on the side of caution.

      • frogANDsquid says:

        I havent read Paradise Lost (though i intend to eventually) so the poem had some meaning lost from it. But a lot of the time i dont get the full meaning of a series name until i finish the entire series. So i assume that this will eventually have a more full meaning to it.

  26. hazelwillow says:

    I don't like the term badass. I find it distancing. Will is very brave and I love him to pieces, and I think he's amazing, but I don't like to see him as a "type", even if it's a compliment and he totally deserves it (which he does).
    The bit about the fingers curled like a bloody quotation mark on the lead, and how Will laughed when he saw them, that image stayed with me for a long time. It was more graphically disturbing than most things I'd read at that point, I think (though I'd read extensively!!).
    I also think it's true to life the way he only gets upset and cries when he thinks of what his mother will think. If something bad happens to me, I can usually accept it until I think of what my family would think and feel about it. Then I suddenly feel how shocking it is. It's very weird. It's like I want to protect them from whatever's happened to me.

  27. sabra_n says:

    Isn't it great that you're only partway up the Staircase of Infinite Realness?

  28. @Leenessface says:


    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

  29. Rachel says:

    Will getting his fingers severed really really affected me dear lord. That's when I knew Pullman wasn't fucking around. Most protagonists (especially children protagonists!) make it through the book relatively unscathed but Will pays a very real and tangible price in order to achieve something beyond him.

    *tears falling as I fall down in a slow circle and die*

  30. ChronicReader91 says:

    Every chapter so far has been pretty exciting, pretty intense and full of revelations, but THIS. Just… there are no words. The point where it just says “his fingers fell away with the rope.” WHAT. Just so completely random and unexpected. And then, oh sorry Will, no time to recover, because you have to learn how to cut windows into other worlds now! Good grief. For the record, I do love that Pullman allows his characters to screw up badly (Lyra giving Will away AND losing the alethioemter in the last chapter) and get hurt badly. And I love that he doesn’t downplay Will’s injury or undermine it’s impat on him- he just LOST TWO FINGERS, that has to be painful as hell, not to mention more than a little emotionally distressig, and Will isn’t Superman here, he’s feeling it.

    I have a lot of catching up to do (oh man how did I get so far behind?). I'm glad I can read more than 1 chapter a day if I have to to get caught up.

  31. Diana says:

    I could not wait to see your reaction to this chapter. You did not disappoint.

  32. Hailey says:

    Since I know you've finished this and the answer is RIGHT THERE about who the man is…. well.. maybe. I guess someone else could have a green snake for the Daemon….

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