Mark Reads ‘The Subtle Knife’: Chapter 9

In the ninth chapter of The Subtle Knife, Lyra and Will learn the true identity of Charles when the worst–seriously, the worst–possible guest arrives at the man’s house while they try to steal back the alethiometer. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Subtle Knife.



This is a great flow that Pullman has developed, moving through three consecutive chapters with the same two characters. It makes a lot of sense that he didn’t interrupt this bit of the story with other character narratives; I think it would have been too choppy to force those kind of cliffhangers, and it gives this plot a very nice finish to it. After the mind-bending revelations about a new instrument seemingly based on Dust/dark matter, Pullman decides that this is nowhere near enough for us to have to deal with. Will, now completely determined to get Lyra’s alethiometer back, and with this new tool at his disposal, is not going to be the same anymore. That is exciting!

A subtext to this all, though, is the journey that Will and Lyra have. After Lyra unfortunately gave Will up to the man with pale hair in chapter seven, it seems that her assistance here has helped him regain his trust of her. They are in this together, even if Will had some resistance towards that idea in the beginning. It’s good for Will, too, who feels a loneliness and despair that is linked heavily to the pain he’s feeling because of his hand. It’s a moment where I start wishing Will had a dæmon, someone intrinsically linked to him that could provide him with the loving comfort that Lyra knows when she is hurt.

For the moment, though, Lyra is there to help tie his bandages and give him the strength to keep moving. It’s a sign of how much he’s willing to believe in her when he decides it’s probably best if she holds on to the letters from his father, and the gesture is not lost on Lyra either.

After a nap, Will and Lyra head towards Sir Charles’ place, but staying in Cittágazze. This is the immediate benefit of having the subtle knife: they no longer have to enter Will’s world through a specific window. I won’t lie: My very first thought upon realizing this was that Will should totally find a way to open a window inside Sir Charles’s mansion, instead of doing it from the outside. Then I was shown to be not-so-creative as I thought as Will reveals to Lyra that this is exactly what he is going to do. WELL, I TRIED TO BE CLEVER.

So Will heads into Ci’gazze while Lyra stays behind, waiting for the call to come back through the window into that world while she stays in Will’s universe. (Whew, it makes more sense then that sentence. I swear!) It should only take a few moments, so Lyra waits patiently outside of Sir Charles’s house, awaiting Will’s voice. However, a few minutes pass and she hears nothing. The unbearable waiting only gets worse when Lyra recognizes the sound of tires on gravel and realizes Sir Charles has arrived home.

The Rolls-Royce stood in front of the house, and the chauffeur was moving around to the passenger side to open the door. Sir Charles stood waiting, smiling, offering his arm to the woman who was getting out, and as she came into view Lyra felt a blow at her heart, the worst blow since she’d escaped Bolvanger, because Sir Charles’s guest was her mother, Mrs. Coulter.

HOW!!!!! HOW IS THIS FUCKING POSSIBLE!!! How did she travel to Ci’gazze and survive and then make it to the house of the one person who is Lyra’s main antagonist in a parallel universe??? WHAT ARE THE ODDS???? i need a hand to hold me through this immensely troubling time.

Pullman switches over to Will, who initially has a whole lot of success using a villa in Ci’gazze to end up inside of Sir Charles’s house and in the precise room where the alethiometer is being held. But things are not that easy in this universe! Especially with Mrs. Coulter in the picture now (HOW HOW HOW HOW HOW??!?!?!?!), the problem multiplies when Will is unable to find the alethiometer anywhere within the room. Knowing it’s too timely to keep opening windows over and over again, he resolves to stay in this world and just do some good ol’ fashioned sleuthing.

Which is also interrupted when he, too, hears the sound of tires on gravel. But I must say that I was impressed with Will’s silent preparation, which is very much in-character for him: Before the car arrived, he opened an escape route behind the sofa, which is where he now crouches in order to hide from Sir Charles. Now, I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the biggest fan of characters learning crucial information by overhearing others while hiding, and this is now the second time that Pullman has used it. I will say that I am simultaneously impressed by this, because he has Will spy on Mrs. Coulter and Sir Charles while Lyra is doing the same. FROM A PARALLEL UNIVERSE.

Brilliance. And it’s not without it’s plot importance either: Lyra rushes to Will’s window in order to tell him that this is her mother, and that she finally remembers who Sir Charles is.

Lord Boreal.


OF COURSE I would not remember a character mentioned maybe three times; he’s the same man mentioned by Lord Asriel as having an affair of some sort with Mrs. Coulter, right? Maybe not an affair, but some sort of relationship. This makes this situation all the more horrific: Lord Boreal knew who she was the entire fucking time.

The conversation that these two GIGANTIC LIARS have is fascinating to read because it’s not written in the way that a lot of these things are in fiction. Generally, the author has the two characters be somewhat ambiguous and coy about the content of what they’re talking about, and it’s a technique to prevent them from revealing too much from the reader. I don’t really like it because it never feels natural. I don’t speak ambiguously about things if I believe I am having a private conversation, and I’m glad Mrs. Coulter and Lord Boreal don’t either. Of course, I’m being selfish, since I do want to know more about what the hell is going on, but I do want to praise how the conversation unfolds. It helps build a much more realistic world.

Mrs. Coulter cuts to the chase, demanding to know how Lord Boreal got the alethiometer, but he says he’ll need information first: What is Lord Asriel doing.


“Very well, I’ll tell you. Lord Asriel is gathering an army, with the purpose of completing the war that was fought in heaven eons ago.”



Ok, so maybe it’s not the greatest novel ever written, but how is this not meant solely for me? I mean…oh god, I hope we return further to this idea of a war against God so I may stretch the theological muscles within my brain. THIS IS SO TERRIBLY EXCITING.

We learn that Mrs. Coulter has actually never visited Will’s universe. (I’m actually pretty comfortable calling it our universe from here on out, since it seems to be exactly like our own.) Lord Asriel’s actions at the end of The Golden Compass have made travel between worlds easier than ever, especially since Cittágazze acted as a sort of way station between parallel universes.

Mrs. Coulter brings up the same bizarre link between children and the mystery of Dust and the Specters. I haven’t figured it out, but there’s clearly some gigantic difference between children and adults that affects them all in a cosmic way. Lord Boreal is interested to see if Mrs. Coulter’s intercised guards are immune to the Specters (which I’m guessing we’ll see), and it further complicates whatever it is that links this all together. Again, I feel like I am so close to figuring out what this all means, but the answer escapes me.

For Will, though, the mention of his father excites him to no end, even if what the man was searching for is not so secret or mysterious anymore. It contributes further to the greatness that Will has ascribed his father in his head, almost as a validation that he is an important figure. On top of that, if his father seems to be acting in opposition to Lord Boreal’s side, then that must mean his father is good. Right?

Unfortunately, Will’s rather brilliant hiding place turns out to be not as brilliant as he thought: He forgets that these two people have dæmons. When he realizes that Lord Boreal has placed the alethiometer in reach, he knows that Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon is aware of something in the room. So he quickly devises a plan with Lyra, who is waiting next to him in another universe (I will never tire of writing that), to create a distraction so he can grab the alethiometer. As she runs off to do that, the two grown ups talk frankly about Lyra and the alethiometer. Just before Lord Boreal begins to introduce the concept of the subtle knife, a rock crashes through the window in the study.

Pullman does a lot of things well, which means I’m quickly running out of ways to praise what I’m reading, but he’s seriously a master of chaotic actions scenes, able to convey to us what’s happening without us succumbing to mass confusion. Still, a lot does happen in an incredibly fast time as Will successfully escapes from the house (but not without a brief moment of terror from the golden monkey dæmon, who almost slips into Cittágazze). However, I do want to focus on one bit of this that brought me to a pause: the tabby cat.

I’d forgotten that the cat had taken to following the two after having been saved by them. Even given that, I find it extremely bizarre that it would jump out at Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon here as a distraction for Will and Lyra. It’s almost too perfect, so much so that Lyra later remarks that it almost seemed like the cat was Will’s very own dæmon.

I realize that I am treading into potentially embarrassing territory here, as this could just be a very thankful cat and I am reading so far into every line in this series that I’m starting to create meanings and subtexts that aren’t there. But I don’t do much predicting in these reviews, and I feel that strongly that this cat has far more to do with this story than we’re being told. I mean, this same cat led Will to discover another universe, and now it’s helping him and Lyra escape back to that same world.

Of course, I could be dearly, dearly wrong. Oh well. All I know is that Lyra has her alethiometer back and she had better ask it a billion questions immediately. Starting with: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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117 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Subtle Knife’: Chapter 9

  1. Maya says:

    Phillip Pullman is kind of a genius. Every time you think Mrs. Coulter is gone for a bit, she shows back up in the most dramatic way possible. I love it. My main regret in the rest of the movies not being made is not getting to see more of Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter because that was GENIUS casting.

    Never prepared Mark. Never prepared.

    • flootzavut says:

      Nicole Kidman as Mrs C was TERRIFYING. She is capable of being so creepy. I am a huge fan of her as an actress, even when I've seen her in some pretty poor movies she is practically always completely fantastic.

      Yes I am a shameless fangirl. Dill with it 😀


  3. Jenny_M says:

    <img src=""&gt;

    That's the monkey coming through the doorway into Ci'gazze. I thought you might want a helpful illustration.

  4. cait0716 says:

    I finally caught back up!

    During the escape, all I could think about was what would happen if Mrs. Coulter and her daemon ended up trapped in different universes? Would that sever the bond? Would there be the constant pull as the stumbled too far away from each other? Would they be able to coordinate and move over to where the other window is so they could reunite?

    I'm so glad Will and Lyra's plan worked. It's nice when something goes right. Although it's scary that Will's fingers won't stop bleeding. 🙁

    • monkeybutter says:

      I wondered that, too, and if the energy of the separation would rip open an even bigger hole between worlds.

      • RoseFyre says:

        Not sure on that, because Mrs. Coulter is an adult, and Lord Asriel stated specifically that he needed a child separated from their daemon – that that has energy. And we know there are differences between adults and children, so not sure if the same thing would happen if an adult was separated from their daemon.

        As for what would happen? No clue!

        • monkeybutter says:

          Hmm, good point about kids vs adults. I'd think there'd be some energy released, but it might not be enough to completely screw up the universe the way Lord Asriel's plot did.

    • flootzavut says:

      The injury to Will's fingers gives me the screaming heebie jeebies… I am deeply squeamish about fingers.

  5. blis says:

    I HATE that golden monkey! That is all.

  6. Partes says:

    Cats are awesome, as this chapter proves. I say that as my particularly vicious moggie lies on my lap, after she spent most of the day in a foul mood and scratching at everything that moves, before finally deciding to stop being a dick and becoming all cuddly. She'd totes fight an evil monkey for me, though. I just know it.

    This chapter shows just how much Lyra and Will's relationship has improved since they first met, and even since the day before. There was no arguing over plans or disagreements over tiny details, only teamwork that they used to execute a great heist, not letting tiny things mess up their trust.

    On the subject of Mrs Coulter… shiver. Will seems fascinated with her, which doesn't bode well. I don't think we've seen him show interest in the opposite sex before this, but just hearing her voice was enough to make him want to know more about her, and when he did see her he immediately notes just how beautiful she is. This really emphasises just how magnetic Mra Coulter is as both a leader and a person; also how susceptible Will probably would have been to her manipulations had he, by some chance, met her instead of Lyra. Not a nice thought.

    On a brighter subject, Lyra and Will now have possession of two of the most powerful objects in the universe. YAY

    • Laurel says:

      "On a brighter subject, Lyra and Will now have possession of two of the most powerful objects in the universe."

      In ALL the universes, if you think about it. THEY HAVE ALL THE THINGS.

    • RoseFyre says:

      Agreed on it not being good that Will is fascinated by Mrs. Coulter, but I think Pullman does alleviate some of those fears – because it's explicitly stated that Will realizes that Mrs. Coulter and the golden monkey are one being, and that his evilness is hers too. So, yes, there's some of her magnetism, but the fact that he can see her daemon, and the daemon isn't acting like he did when he captured Tony Makarios and the other children, but acting like his true self, tells Will that all is not well there.

  7. @reenxor says:

    i love how lyra offers to "make omelet" to help calm will down and comfort him. i've been using that for years. ^_^

    (along with, "do you want to do something fun? do you want to go to TACO BELL??")

  8. monkeybutter says:

    I love Pullman's hectic action scenes, too! When Will suggested that she throw stones, I thought Lyra was just going to throw some pebbles against the window to make noise, but nope, she shattered it. I love her. For a super spy/political genius, Lord Boreal sure wasn't bright to think Lyra and Will would happily hand over the knife to a creepy, manipulative adult.

    • sabra_n says:

      He thought he had outmaneuvered them. Plus there was probably more than a trace of "I'm a smart and powerful adult and they're just kids" in there. But to be fair, he couldn't have anticipated that Will would be the knife-bearer.

    • Brieana says:

      "I thought Lyra was just going to throw some pebbles against the window to make noise, but nope, she shattered it."
      That's our Lyra.

  9. Patrick721 says:

    I really love how Mrs. Coulter says that Asriel intends to finish "a war that was fought in Heaven eons ago." I can just imagine Asriel going "Fuck Lucifer, I can win the war he failed at."

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      • Patrick721 says:

        It's even better, because my mental image of Lucifer is the one from The Sandman/Vertigo Comics, who looks like David Bowie. So now I'm imagining Daniel Craig punching David Bowie in the face.

        And then it turns into Bond vs. The Goblin King. (Not Bond vs. Tesla, because Tesla would END HIM.)

        My brain is weird.

        • cait0716 says:

          That's the Lucifer I always picture, too. And now I'm wondering whether Bond or The Goblin King would win that fight. This is going to keep me occupied all day.

          Edit: How cool would it have been to have that MC Escher set as a level in Goldeneye? This is where I imagine them doing battle.

        • echinodermata says:

          It feels silly to delete your comment since you replied directly to Mark and he'll get the email, but Mark Reads Sandman will be happening in the future, so shhh on Sandman, y'all.

  10. Ryan Lohner says:

    One major criticism of the series is that once Will shows up, Lyra turns into "the chick", content to let him take over as the main hero while she just gives the occasional assistance with some "feminine wile" like lying. I don't agree with it myself, since being stuck in a different universe would naturally discombobulate her enough to briefly hand the reins to someone who actually does know the world they're spending most of their time in.

    My immediate thought reading this the first time was that the heroes now had their hands on the two objects from the book titles, and the natural progression would be also obtaining whatever the hell the Amber Spyglass was and becoming invincible. I won't say a word on how right or wrong I was.

    • Partes says:

      Alethiometer, Subtle Knife and Amber Spyglass are the Hallows confirmed.

    • Vikinhaw says:

      It makes sense for her to hand control over to Will but it feels a bit too bossy for me and how brief this will be remains to be seen.

    • Darth_Ember says:

      Lying is a feminine wile now?

      I mean I get that a character turning into 'the chick' is A Thing. And not very good. But when you decide that her lying is a feminine wile, either you're building up a very strange concept (possibly strawman) of the person writing someone apparently into "the chick", or your idea of what is and isn't feminine is… yeah. Also A Thing. I'm not explaining this very well. But really, I just sort of wonder about anyone who sees a lying character who happens to be female and decides they are using feminine wiles. Maybe I'm wrong. But I sort of envision feminine wiles with a bit more of the fluttering eyelashes and coy smiles and heaving bosoms and, you know, not being Lyra-ish.

      Besides, where have they been? Lyra is a lying liar who lies. It's what she does. It's been one of her defining traits throughout the story.

      • drippingmercury says:

        IA – to me, lying with "feminine wiles" is more like what Mrs. Coulter does than what Lyra does.

      • Marie the Bookwyrm says:

        It's even in her name–Lie ra.

        • Noybusiness says:

          Which actually means "lyre" and is the name of a constellation. But makes a good pun.

      • t09yavors says:

        I think what was meant by "feminine wiles" is the offensive moves of the traditional female. Lying, Poison, Sex. Whereas traditional male offensives involve straightforward actions like hitting and yelling. (This is all from a stereotypical/historical standpoint)

        • Darth_Ember says:

          Will's specialty seemed to be hiding a lot, and he knows the world better to hide in.
          The thing we tend to forget… these are children. For all their courage, they are smaller than adults. I'm sure we remember Lyra being unable to fight off the people in that intercision room. When it comes to truth and lies, she is in her element. When it comes to a physical fight, she has a disadvantage.
          And Will had that same disadvantage, but now can balance it out with a knife that can cut through universes. Without that, he's still the same child whose talent was for concealing himself.

          And regarding the liar archetype… most trickster figures seem to be male. I can think of two favourite liar characters in an instant, and both of them are male; Loki Liesmith, and Garak from DS9. So the liar is not so much a specifically female figure.
          [youtube FzYehduguws youtube]
          "In my experience, the truth is usually an excuse for a lack of imagination."

          • t09yavors says:

            I agree with your point about tricksters, the first that comes to my mind in Hermes (who I am a big fan of btw) but I also don't associate Lyra's brand of lying with tricksters' brand. They lie for fun while Lyra does it (pardon the pun) with all honesty to acheive her ends.

            • Darth_Ember says:

              True. I find myself looking at the Consummate Liar page on tvtropes, and a whole lot of them are not doing it for fun.
              Lyra's in it, as are a lot of others. Of either gender.

    • sabra_n says:

      I was kind of startled by how submissive she became when I reread a few days ago – it seems a bit beyond what was necessary given her regret for visiting Doctor Malone instead of following the alethiometer's directions. But I'll wait until we get to The Amber Spyglass before I decide whether to throw stones about it. 🙂

    • hazelwillow says:

      Lyra turns into "the chick"? I don't see it that way, because of this: while the Golden Compass is Lyra's story, I'd argue that The Subtle Knife is Will's. Lyra is still a very important part of it, but I think it can be considered Will's story (I could name a bunch of things to back this up, but let's just stick to the fact that it started with him in his world, they're looking for his father, and the subtle knife, after which the book is named, is now his.) And if it is Will's story, it will be more powerful if his decisions are able to shape it at least some of the time. Just like Lyra's did The Golden Compass.

      Lyra helps Will in his quest and not vice versa, but I don't think this decision is based on gender roles, but on storytelling relating to whose story this is, as well as on the logical way to further develop her character. Because putting her in the situation of needing to help and think about someone else's well-being is a brilliant thing to ask of her! It's a real stretch for Lyra, who has always operated alone or with underlings, always as a leader, never as an equal to someone her own age.

      So it doesn't happen to the detriment of her character; quite the opposite. And I think that's the main difference. Female characters in the role of "the chick" are by definition tokenized; they don't carry the weight and complexity (and hence ability to shape the plot) of being fully-realized and competent, active characters like their male counterparts. But Lyra's development as a person is just as emphasized here as it was in the Golden Compass, and I don't get the impression the author is placing any less importance on her as a person just because some of the events are more seminal to Will's story than hers.

      It can be easy to mix up the idea of "having an empowered, weighty character" with "having a character who physically fights and wins". Especially because so many people have subverted the traditional weaknesses of women characters by having them take on fierce, physical fighting roles. This in turn makes us hyper aware of any female characters who *aren't* taking on physical fighting roles, and it's led to a whole new problematic binary in which "empowered" means "able to kick butt like Lara Croft" not the more subtle "empowered by the author to be fully realized people who shape a story in a miriad of ways and are allowed to change and encounter situations in which their character development is crucial to the story. etc."

      So, yeah. I agree with you that I disagree with that, and there's my 5 (10? 20?) cents.
      Of course, we'll have to wait and see how things develop in the future.

    • RoseFyre says:

      Honestly, imo, Lyra DOESN'T let Will take over as the main hero until AFTER she fucks up. She's on her quest to find her father, to find out about Dust, and NOTHING is going to stop her…until she almost gets her new friend caught and the alethiometer gets stolen. So yes, she does hand over the reins to Will somewhat, but she a) has realized that shit has totally gotten real, b) feels terrible for inadvertently betraying him, c) realizes that she really isn't familiar with our world at all, and d) still participates! I mean, she argues with Will over who goes into the Tower first, she participates in the knife fight with Tullio – which, yes, Will becomes the bearer, but Lyra is totally a part of it too – and she never lets Will leave her behind. Yes, she takes his orders and follows his plan, but she also has the initiative to tell him info he might not know (who Lord Boreal is, that her mother is there) even though her instructions were to stay at her post. So, yes, she does cede control to Will, but I think it's for the right reasons, not the wrong ones, and, as hazelwillow said, this book is Will's story, not Lyra's, though she is important and remains so.

  11. Araniapriime says:

    "So he quickly devises a plan with Lyra, who is waiting next to him in another universe (I will never tire of writing that),

    Now you're thinking with Portals! B)

  12. Ryan Lohner says:

    I mentioned before that some fans suspected that Roger would survive and take over Will's role if The Subtle Knife had gotten a movie. There's also a more positive note in that area: most everyone figures that the Magisterium member played by Christopher Lee would be Lord Boreal, explaining why he was in such a seemingly throwaway part.

    • hazelwillow says:

      I dunno… I doubt that would have happened. Having Will be from our world is too important and interesting.

    • RoseFyre says:

      I don't think Roger would've worked, though. Lyra and Roger's relationship is clearly her as leader, him as follower, while her relationship with Will is equals. And, as hazelwillow says, Will being from a different universe is too important to the plot for Roger to work.

  13. frogANDsquid says:

    Do we know the name of the golden monkey? It seems to be one of the only (major) dæmons that doeant have a name.

    • frogANDsquid says:

      Oh ip

    • FlameRaven says:

      We don't know the name of the golden monkey. I always thought it was a way of making the monkey even scarier by having it be more animalistic– we don't know its name, and although we see it talk to Mrs. Coulter, we never hear what it says. (And, for example, it was a lot easier to use 'it' to describe the monkey than 'he'.)

      • Vikinhaw says:

        The radio drama gave him the name Ozymandias which may be symbolic. Ozymandias is associated for me with the idea of decline of all empires. I won't speculate on the meaning of that since it could fall into fan theories.
        Pantalaimon apparently came the name of St. Pantalemon which means 'all compassionate' and I suppose Lyra may be a perfect lier but she is compassionate. I have no idea what Stelmaria could be

        • Patrick721 says:

          Stelmaria could be from Latin. Stella means star, and Maria means "of the sea". Or it could be from Italian, in which case it would be something like Star Mary (as in the Virgin Mary).

    • Jaya says:

      We don't have a name for the golden monkey, and (creepily enough) he hardly ever speaks! If that's not mystery and intrigue, I don't know what is. In the radio play adaptation, the golden monkey was given a name – Ozymandias.

    • t09yavors says:

      The monkey was never really given a name because Pullman was too creeped out by him to want to think about him too much.

  14. Fdamy says:

    At the beginning of my Subtle Knife there is a page that says "…The first book was set in a world like ours, but different. This book begins in our own world"

  15. Hanah_banana says:

    This chapter is again, brilliant. That is all. I could literally c&p that onto basically every chapter couldn't I and it would remain true for ALL TIME BECAUSE THESE BOOKS ARE AMAZING.


    I may have been a little carried away with fear there. But that is the effect Mrs Coulter has on me, she is possibly the scariest villain ever.

  16. Ellalalalala says:

    Because you know cats totally have an information network.


    • flootzavut says:

      I have a WIP in which cats being All Knowing and Knowing All Things inside books is basically a plot point… 🙂

  17. Ellalalalala says:

    That monkey will forever haunt my nightmares.

    Lyra and Will, you are awesome.
    Not-Moxie, you are awesome too.
    Lord Boreal and Mrs Coulter, you are un-awesome. You snooze you lose. HA.

    Golden monkey. Die in every fire there ever was.

  18. Laurel says:


    Mark, I remember I first started reading this series when I heard that the Catholic Church had their collective panties in a twist over it. As I read the books, I could see why. And you are seriously not prepared. Can you imagine reading this book as a young teenager? (they were published after I already was growed up and had some kids of my own) Even as an adult it is blowing your mind. Pure awesome.

  19. eleniel says:

    First of all, Sarah Brand TOTALLY WINS for guessing that Charles is Lord Boreal:

    My copy of this book has a drawing of a monkey as the icon for this chapter, so I wondered if Mrs Coulter would show up. But I still gasped when she did!

    • Sarah Brand says:

      I was so excited when that turned out to be true! But not as excited as I was when the cat came out of nowhere and attacked the golden monkey, like a boss. 😀 😀

    • Jaya says:

      Having an illustration that ruins the surprise seems kind of silly. I wouldn't want that in my book… I think I'd feel cheated out of the shock!

  20. stellaaaaakris says:

    I want to know more about how this knife works. What if you open a window and you're in the middle of something? Like somebody's parked car. Or a couch cushion or something. I need details!!! Would it just not work? But these are things that can be moved. More info please, Pullman.

    • knut_knut says:

      I'm guessing if you cut a window into something like a cushion, if you moved the cushion the window would still be there. But can you hide a window by placing something in front of it? And what would happen if you started cutting a window and it happened to be where a person was standing in the next universe- like you're cutting into their stomach or something? o_O

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        What an experience that would be. One minute your minding your own business. The next, there is AN ENTRANCE TO ANOTHER UNIVERSE THROUGH YOUR STOMACH.

    • Darth_Ember says:

      Or a person or something. Portal Frag!
      It probably gets cut. Messy…

    • notemily says:

      Maybe the knife wouldn't let you cut a window there? We already know you can't cut a window just anywhere.

      • Ellalalalala says:

        That's what I was thinking – the air just wouldn't 'give' at that place?

        You said it; I believe it; that settles it!

        • momigrator says:

          Oh Ellalalalala, not only do you pretty much have the best username EVAR, but I thoroughly enjoy ALL your comments. Just thought I''d let you know 😉 and your pic is amazing as well. I think I have an E-crush on you. -sigh-

          • Ellalalalala says:

            Oooooooh I'm being E-courted! How delightful!

            Thankyou kindly – you have made my night 😀

  21. arctic_hare says:

    Oh, Mark. 😀 I knew you would love this series. That's why I was so excited when you announced you were going to read it, and so eager for it to begin. Because war against God and parallel universes? Totally up your alley, as I'd already known from your previous reviews. Plus, daemons. And armored bears. Who doesn't love those things? I'm really happy you're having such a good time with these books. <3

    Also, FUUUUUUUUUCK I HATE THAT DAMN MONKEY. AND MRS. COULTER. And on the subject of them not being coy and ambiguous… lol, I'm pretty sure Pullman even lampshaded that part of the trope with some of their dialogue, when Mrs. Coulter tells him he's "very frank" and he says that there's "no need to be coy; we're both grown-up." Has to be a lampshade hanging, just has to be. Which will never not amuse me.

    • momigrator says:

      I know, right? When I found out he had never read these I was like, "OMG, HOW? THEY ARE CLEARLY EVERYTHING MARK LOVES. HE MUST READ." I am honored to share this journey with him. 😀

  22. pennylane27 says:


    <img src=""&gt;

    ME TOO

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      • pennylane27 says:


        maybe an interview?

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        TinEye didn't bring up any results, but I know it's an Armie Hammer interview. Probably for The Social Network.

        ETA: Found it. He said that in connection to having to learn how to row for the movie.

  23. flootzavut says:

    "I feel like I am so close to figuring out what this all means, but the answer escapes me."

    I think this is part of Pullman's genius, that he gives so many clues… it's almost like you can see the shape of where he's headed, just enough to be totally intrigued, but it's (IMO anyway!) basically impossible to guess. And then when you find things out it's both simultaneously "I never would have guessed that" but also, "How did I not figure that out?"

    • cait0716 says:

      It's kind of funny, because re-reading them I'm constantly thinking "but it's all so obvious!" Then Mark is confused and I have to remind myself that everything is obvious when you know the answer. I was just as confused the first time I read this trilogy (possibly more so because I didn't understand a lot of the cultural and geographical references)

      • flootzavut says:

        Yes, it's exactly that isn't it – it's obvious when you know the answer. I think it's a real skill for any author to produce a storyline where the reader doesn't know what's going to happen, but looking back says, "But it's so obvious…" It's very satisfying as a reader to read a story like that because there's a sense of freefall and anything could happen, but also a very comfortable logic to the story as well.

        Anyway I'm waffling! I know I personally wasn't as keen on TAS, but I do recall both the first two books in the HDM trilogy definitely had a good helping of that "What on earth is happening/why didn't I figure it out" dichotomy. Kudos Mr Pullman 🙂

  24. katethebookworm says:

    In my copy of The Subtle Knife, there's a page in the front that confirms that Will's world is our world – it says something like "The Golden Compass takes place in a universe that is very much like our own. The Subtle Knife begins in our own universe," but I'm paraphrasing.

  25. Patrick721 says:

    By the way, I just noticed something when I was rereading the Golden Compass reviews. In chapter 6, when Tony talks about the ghosts and stuff up north. He mentions the Windsuckers, which "clump in trees and suck the power out of you". IIRC, they're supposed to look like a shimmer in the air.

    Exactly like the Specters, based on the chapter where the witches encouter them.


  26. Mauve_Avenger says:

    HDM research does tend to lead in interesting places. I remembered that when Lyra was planning on stowing away on the gyptians' boat to the North, she was worried about getting on the wrong one and "waking up halfway to High Brazil" or something along those lines. But in this chapter, Mrs. Coulter says that Lord Boreal was thought to be "in Brasil or the Indies" when he was actually in our own universe, but it's spelled with an 's' instead of a 'z,' and the "High" part is gone completely (is "high __insert place name here__" just an expression, though?). A part of me wondered if it was just Pullman's way of showing us how Mrs. Coulter's pronunciation differs slightly from others' (the way one of the Oxford kids said "cannaboles"), but I also wondered if perhaps Pullman just made a mistake here. So I looked it up, and apparently one or two reviewers equated "High Brazil" with Hy-Brasil, a mythical island off the coast of Ireland that I've never even heard of. So perhaps the Brazil Lyra was thinking of is this mythical island, but I'm more inclined (based on the fact that she also mentioned the Indies) to think that Mrs. Coulter was talking about the South American Brazil.

    Also, I don't think I've ever thought of him this way before, but the line about comfort means that I can't unsee…

    "I found my way here a long time ago," said Sir Charles. "It was too good a secret to reveal, even to you Marisa. I've made myself very comfortable, as you can see. Being part of the Council of State at home made it easy for me to see where the power lay here."
    "As a matter of fact, I became a spy, though I never told my masters all I knew. The security services in this world were preoccupied for years with the Soviet Union–we know it as Muscovy. And although that threat has receded, there are still listening posts and machines trained in that direction, and I'm still in touch with those who run the spies."

    Why hello there, devilish version of Horace Slughorn (with maybe a bonus dash of Severus Snape). Can't quite say that I'm glad to see you again.

    • Amazing E-ko says:

      The reason Brazil is called High Brazil in Lyra's world is because that's where the name comes from, in their universe and ours. Brazil was named by early Irish settlers, who thought it looked the mythical green island from their legends.

      Twisting around names is something Pullman does a lot in the first book to emphasise the oddities in Lyra's universe. A perfect example of this is Amber/Electrum. In our world, Amber comes from Anbar, the Arabic name for the fossilised resin, but its greek name, Electrum, is where we dereive the word for electricity (also electrons). In Lyra's world, the stone is called by its Greek name (she mentions it at one point), and elecricity takes the Arabic form. Hence the "Anbaric lights" in TGC.

      • flootzavut says:

        These are awesome factoids. Thank you!

      • momigrator says:

        That's interesting… I was just asking one of my Brazilian friends the other day, why it was named Brazil. He said it was named after Brazilwood, a type of tree from Brazilthat is nearly extinct, similar to our redwood trees. Of course, than I had to wonder how Brazilwood got it's name… Anyway, I wiki'd it, and it seems that there are a few theories of how Brazil got it's name, so it's still a bit of a mystery…

        • Amazing E-ko says:

          Actually, having double-checked my research, most people do believe it comes from the portugese for Brazilwood, but it is debated, so I will stand by my crackpot Irish naming theory. XD

  27. pennylane27 says:

    This is not the right place to post it, but I can't help myself. Did you watch the Harry Potter premiere stream? Did you cry like I did?


  28. Michel Heemskerk says:

    I so envy you. The first time I read HDM was pure magic. I still enjoy it at least once a year, but that first time.. wow.

  29. Kitzo says:

    "The Subtle Knife is the second part of the trilogy that began with The Golden Compass. That first book was set in a world like ours, but different. This book begins in our own world."

    In my copy of The Subtle Knife, at least, this is on the page before the table of contents. It got me soooo excited when I first read these books. Though I always just have to assume that people missed it, because it's size and where it is make it look like a dedication or something, so even if they see it in passing most people will skip it. Just wanted to point this out for any of those people who didn't notice it but catch this comment. And care. 🙂

  30. sabra_n says:

    AAAH that fucking monkey is so scary HALP. But I have to wonder what would have happened if Will had somehow closed the window while the monkey was on the Cittagazze side and Mrs. Coulter was on "our" side. Would that work like intercision?

    How did she travel to Ci’gazze and survive

    I was this close to making a snide joke about Mrs. Coulter having nothing for the Specters to take, but honestly? When I first read this I just assumed she scared the crap out of them with the sheer force of her Coulter-ness. Those Specters probably took one look and were all, "Screw this; I'm going to find someone else to eat."

  31. rissreader says:

    I read this series sometime after finding Mark Reads Harry Potter. So, when I read this chapter for the first time (gathering an army to make war on God!) I immediately thought of Mark and how much he would be delighted by this book. I'm so glad you're reading/reviewing this, Mark. Reading about your pleasure in this book gives me great enjoyment.

    Even though I'm a Theist, I find the idea of organizing a war against God to be very moving. I would like to visit the AU where this is possible. (I suppose one of the crucial components is to be able to talk to angels.) The idea of warring against and possibly killing God resonates with the part of me that is frustrated with the immense problems of our world and the un-understandablity of God. Pullman's creativity is stunning.

  32. ChronicReader91 says:

    Totally expected Mrs. C to show up again (she’s too evil NOT to appear at the most inconvenient moment), but was completely mid-blown to find out she knew Sir Charles AND that he was Boreal. And… basically everything else in this chapter.

    And I also guessed that the cat would have a bigger role, but maybe that’s because Will is holding it on the cover of my copy of the book. Spoiler cover, boo. 😛

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