In the twenty-eighth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Lord Asriel prepares for the battle against the Authority, and Mrs. Coulter grieves for a possibly grim future. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: MIDNIGHT
I still think Lord Asriel is one of the biggest douchebag characters in all of literature, but I’m fascinated by how Pullman is able to show him in a different light than we are used to. It helps that even his interactions with Mrs. Coulter are drastically different in terms of what we’ve seen, and the events at the end of The Golden Compass finally make sense to me. (That’s a long time to explain character development, by the way.)
It’s also strange to view both these characters in moments of exhaustion and dread, especially since we’ve only really seen them as strong, forceful, manipulative, and confident people, yet throughout “Midnight,” it seems that this is finally slipping away. We begin with Mrs. Coulter in a state of heartbreak and loss, as she has no idea that Lyra has survived Father MacPhail’s attempt on her life. There’s no doubt on my part that she loved Lyra towards the end of her daughter’s life, and I imagine she is full of regret and guilt over a lifetime of treating her so terribly.
Yet she learns only a while later, from Asriel alethiometrist, that Lyra has not only survived the bomb, but she’s gone to the world of the dead and opened it. Her daughter is alive and has done yet another seemingly impossible thing.
Mrs. Coulter suddenly felt exhausted. She wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep for months, for years.
WELL, IT IS NOT OVER YET. I mean, I feel like chapter twenty-eight is Pullman repeatedly teasing us with how real shit is going to get, as well as providing us with a lot of information about the logistics of how this battle is going to pan out. I do love the character growth here in both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter, so I don’t want to ignore that. But seriously…a war against God. How the fuck is that going to happen?
Well, it all starts with the Clouded Mountain/The Chariot. If this wasn’t so tense, and if it didn’t have a great base in Abrahamic theology, the idea of a clouded mountain in the sky that sort of floats about would make me laugh. I suppose it still sort of makes me snicker if I think about it too long, but that’s not Pullman’s fault. My brain starts thinking of video games and I wonder if there’s a Super Smash Bros level in the cloud and how fucking awesome it would be to slaughter Metratron with Kirby, and then he’d whine and cry about how it’s not fair that I used Kirby, because Kirby is the character not-so-good players use because he can float when he’s kicked off the platform, and now I’ve put all these ridiculous thoughts into a review, and you’ve all seen what my mind is like. So. Again. Not Pullman’s fault.
I’d honestly forgotten about Metatron, to be honest, but we haven’t really heard about him since The Subtle Knife. As stated before, he’s now in charge of the Kingdom of Heaven, and God is off…vacationing? Is there an Angel Resort or something? Are we ever going to actually see him? For now, though, it’s more important to deal with Metatron, who is planning to begin intervening in human life (and ostensibly every form of life in every world) if he wins the battle against Lord Asriel.
“Imagine that, Ogunwe–a permanent Inquisition, worse than anything the Consistorial Court of Discipline could dream up, staffed by spies and traitors in every world and directed personally by the intelligence that’s keeping that mountain aloft…The old Authority at least had the grace to withdraw; the dirty work of burning heretics and hanging witches was left to his priests. This new one will be far, far worse.”
It’ll be overkill this time, an even worse punishment than the Fall. But to what end? What is the point of this? I’m guessing that it’s a way to quell rebellion, to send the message that any insurrection like this in the future will never stand a chance. But is it also possible that this is something the Authority always wanted to do before? I’m interested to see if there is some history or precedent behind this.
Actually, is there a precedent for the Authority to use weapons from the Kingdom of Heaven? King Ogunwe gets a glimpse of some “gun emplacements,” and I imagine there’s a whole lot worse than just guns. Metatron will have to fight a wide variety of creatures, and I don’t think it’s hard to imagine that he has figured out the weaknesses of any of the beings he is fighting. Lord Asriel, though, is quite confident that they won’t lose at all, and part of that reason? His daughter.
I can’t ignore how…slimy this is? I mean, yes, Lyra is a wonderful badass who can do things that very few people (let alone adults) can pull off, and yes, she’s done far more than Lord Asriel could ever do, but the only reason he is praising her is because he benefits him. She is helping his war, and while the war is moral and noble in this sense, it doesn’t really occur to him to think about it in any other terms aside from what helps him the most.
GOD HE IS SO ANNOYING. This is your own goddamn daughter. JUST. Christ, please, dude, after you win this war, get eaten by the earth. I would not be at all sad if Lord Asriel died. THERE. I SAID IT. I WILL COMMIT TO THIS. It’s probably not going to happen, but seriously, I have HAD IT.
But I’m going to have to wait to find out what happens to Lord Asriel because the battle against the Authority is going to happen lot soon than I expected. As darkness descends on the fortress, reinforcements begin to arrive, one of them IOREK BYRNISON. OMG. IOREK. OMG. OMG. OMG. Ice bears will win all the battles. Oh god, I really hope that Lyra and Iorek get to see each other once more before this series is over.
At the very least, there’s a good chance of it happening, since the main task of Lord Asriel’s forces will be to protect Lyra and Will. Through the alethiometrist, they know that the dæmons that belong to these two are in Lord Asriel’s world, and that Metatron is trying to capture them in order to control their owners. Again, I am unsure how this all works, but I’m sure it will make more sense when we see it acted out. We know that Metatron is a powerful angel, but we still don’t even know what he looks like. And how exactly do you kill an angel like that? Lord Asriel means to use the abyss, found in the world of the dead, that was opened up by the bomb that Father MacPhail used. sooooo IS THAT THE WORLD OPENING UP TO EAT SOMEONE. Because I’m pretty sure that counts, and I’m pretty sure that is fucking amazing, and I’m pretty sure this will become the greatest novel ever if that happens.
After all this planning and set up from Pullman, he pulls away a bit from the details to give us what is easily my favorite scene between Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel. I have said before that it’s obvious these two loved each other at one time, and that they still probably deserve one another to this day. I am irritated by Lord Asriel’s refusal to show the slightest bit of regret or empathy for the situation, but I think there’s something in his silence that shows he may agree with what Mrs. Coulter tells him, both about her regret of not raising Lyra herself, and her utter confusion at why he hates his daughter so much. But this part struck me particularly hard:
“You said: Come with me, and we’ll destroy Dust forever. You remember saying that? But you didn’t mean it. You meant the very opposite, didn’t you? I see now. Why didn’t you tell me what you were really doing? Why didn’t you tell me you were really trying to preserve Dust? You could have told me the truth.”
“I wanted you to come and join me,” he said, his voice hoarse and quiet, “and I thought you would prefer a lie.”
Even getting Lord Asriel to admit this much is huge. He genuinely wanted her to come along. But why? In that moment, when he opened a bridge to another world, did he feel some rush of emotion or love that he’d not felt in a long time? Was he remembering what it was like when they first met? What changed since then? But Asriel says nothing, and it feels like his silent nature is finally too much for her:
Moving like someone in a dream, she got to her feet, picked up the rucksack that lay in the corner of the room, and reached inside it for her pistol; and what she would have done next, no one knew, because at that moment there came the sound of footsteps running up the stairs.
WHAT??? What is she going to do? Or was going to do? Is the despair, the thought of life being extinguished, too much for her to bear?
Lord Asriel learns that the two dæmons have already been located, and he leaves in a rush to deal with this news, leaving Mrs. Coulter behind.
Her eyes found the eyes of her dæmon. The golden monkey’s expression was as subtle and complex as it had ever been in all their thirty-five years of life.
“Very well,” she said. “I can’t see any other way. I think…I think we’ll…”
He knew at once what she meant. He leapt to her breast, and they embraced. Then she found her fur-lined coat, and they very quietly left the chamber and made their way down the dark stairs.
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!!! oh my god what