Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 5

In the fifth chapter of The Golden Compass, OH MY GOD OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Golden Compass.



I don’t even know what to say. Holy shit, this got real so incredibly fast.

It certainly didn’t formulate into a full-fledged thought, but something bothered me about the way that Mrs. Coulter and Lyra interacted, but I’m at a point where I don’t want to start making these elaborate character guesses from little to no actual evidence. Except…well, this entire chapter not only provides that, but it actually spells it out and then everything is terrifying and weird and I hate that I have to read this one chapter at a time. What is wrong with me?

Pullman establishes the general pattern that Lyra’s life takes for the next six weeks as Mrs. Coulter not only helps raise her, but teaches her about the luxurious and glamorous life that she lives. As Pullman describes it, it’s dinner party after lunch meeting after shopping expedition, repeating in different locations and with different details, but all of it is otherwise the same. Mixed in with this, Mrs. Coulter also begins to teach Lyra, about geography and mathematics and astronomy, filling in the “piecemeal” education she received from the Scholars at Jordan College who, frankly, didn’t really know what to do with an eleven-year-old orphan. She doesn’t go to the school, so no one really had the proper amount of time to give her the education other children may have been getting. It’s during one of these lessons (in particular, one about electrons) that Lyra lets it slip that she knows what Dust is.

Immediately, Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon flips his shit. And Mrs. Coulter’s calm, controlled demeanor causes me to flip my shit. This was the start of me feeling that Mrs. Coulter was kind of shadier than I anticipated, that maybe I’d given her too much credit. She’s clearly fishing for more information and, given what we find out about her job later on, I think that she was trying to get Lyra to name a person. Obviously, that wouldn’t happen, since Lyra would never tell her how she came to learn about Dust. At the time, the main question swirling in my head concerned Mrs. Coulter’s sudden interest: Why was she so defensive about Dust?

As time passes, the two grow close, but I feel that it’s more of a superficial thing than anything else, and Mrs. Coulter is definitely running almost purely on Lyra’s sense of wonder towards the end of this here. Pantalaimon is the first to vocalize that creeping thought placed way in the back of my head: Mrs. Coulter is not Lyra’s friend. She is using the girl. Or, in Pantalaimon’s words, “She’s just making a pet out of you.”

Truthfully, Lyra cannot disagree:

She had been feeling confined and cramped by this polite life, however luxurious it was. She would have given anything for a day with Roger and her Oxford ragamuffin friends, with a battle in the claybeds and a race along the canal. The one thing that kept her polite and attentive to Mrs. Coulter was that tantalizing hope of going north. Perhpas they would meet Lord Asriel. Perhaps he and Mrs. Coulter would fall in love, and they would get married and adopt Lyra, and go and rescue Roger from the Gobblers.

I’m guessing that…this won’t happen? At all? Nice try, though, Lyra.

The afternoon of the cocktail party of this chapter’s title, Lyra finally finds a way to set off Mrs. Coulter. Inadvertently, of course, but it feels like Mrs. Coulter had been waiting a long time for this moment. Everything up until this point had been manipulation through happiness and interest, and what happens here….jesus christ.

Lyra had decided to use a little white shoulder bag to hide the alethiometer in so she could keep it with her at all times. Mrs. Coulter decides that it is absurd for Lyra to carry it in the house during the party. Mrs. Coulter is not having and snaps at Lyra, causing Pantalaimon to turn into a polecat (a weasel, for all of us here in America) as Lyra tries to convince Mrs. Coulter with charm.

It doesn’t work because Mrs. Coulter’s golden monkey dæmon flies to the floor, pins Pantalaimon to the floor with a paw around his neck and then makes as if to pull his ear off.

Not angrily, either, but with a cold curious force that was horrifying to see and even worse to feel.

WHAT THE FUCK. Can Lyra actually feel harm done to her dæmon???? (You can answer that.)

After this, Lyra stomps off to her room and slams the door, but Mrs. Coulter follows behind her and gives Lyra one of the most unsettling scolds I have ever read, particularly this:

“Now, the first guests will be arriving in a few moments, and they are going to find you perfectly behaved, sweet, charming, innocent, attentive, delightful in every way. I particularly wish for that, Lyra, do you understand me?”

“Yes, Mrs. Coulter.”

“Then kiss me.”

She bent a little and offered her cheek.

Literally the creepiest kiss ever. Just ever. Gone was my desire to have Mrs. Coulter be this conflicting moral villain because now I just want Lyra to get the fuck out of that house. Holy shit, this seriously makes my heart frown. 🙁 🙁 🙁

What is so spectacular about this chapter is that this is not even remotely the worst part. I know that I said I was excited to see the two of them travel together, but Pullman has so rapidly pulled the rug out from under us that now I’m intrigued to see what Lyra does without her. But my primary thoughts turn to Lyra surviving this awful cocktail party.

On a positive note, to start things off, we do find out that Lyra’s parents, a “count and countess,” died in some “aeronautical accident” in the North, and that Lyra’s last name is Belacqua. Neat. AND THAT IS THE ONLY GOOD THING THAT HAPPENS. Because from here on out, shit is really fucked up.

It begins when Lyra manages to overheard a few Scholars discussing Dust with a pretty young woman, and Lyra cannot resist overhearing the conversation. At first, it’s nothing new: Dust is some sort of elementary particle that doesn’t interact with any other particle, yet is attracted to adults and not children. But one of the Scholars let us know that the Oblation Board, mentioned by the Master in chapter two, was set up because of the Dust. Oh, and MRS. COULTER CREATED IT AND RUNS IT. What. WHAT???

Lyra (bless her heart) becomes involved in the conversation and is asked if she is “safe” from the Oblation Board, wherein she proceeds to list all of the other things that are clearly more dangerous than the Oblation Board: the gyptians, the werewolves, the Gobblers–

“That’s what I mean,” the man said. “That’s what they call the Oblation Board, don’t they?”

ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME. Are you telling me that people are aware of the fact that Mrs. Coulter is kidnapping children?

“In the Middle Ages, parents would give their children to the church to be monks or nuns. And the unfortunate brats were known as oblates. Means a sacrifice, an offering, something of that sort. So the same idea was taken up when they were looking into the Dust business…”


The young woman in the group reveals herself privately to Lyra as a journalist, Adéle Starminster, who clearly was trying to get information from the Scholars about Dust, and is now interested in how Mrs. Coulter and Lyra are connected. But they don’t get very far because Mrs. Coulter herself finds them and gives the journalist a terrifying threat:

“I don’t know your name,” said Mrs. Coulter very quietly, “but I shall find it out within five minutes, and then you will never work as a journalist again. Now get up very quietly, without making a fuss, and leave. I might add that whoever brought you here will also suffer.”

WHO IS THIS WOMAN. SHE IS JUST SO RIDICULOUS. My god, she frightens me. (Note: Why does Lyra keep saying that Mrs. Coulter smells like metal? IS SHE TERMINATOR. omg SKYNET IS HERE.)

Narrowly avoided one disaster, Pantalaimon hops on Lyra’s shoulder to whisper in her ear that Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon had been in their bedroom. Spying. And he probably knows about the alethiometer.

I’ve lost all coherency. It was at this point that my brain went FFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU at that very thought that Pullman decided to drop all of this into one single chapter. We are barely a quarter of the way through this book and I feel like my heart is going to explode.

Lyra continues to move through the party, taking moments to stop and talk to various people or listening in one what they’re saying. At one point, she has a bizarre conversation with Lord Boreal, where Lyra takes a chance in bringing up the Dust and the Oblation Board. It’s seriously like the magic word on Pee Wee’s Playhouse or something, because the mere mention of it makes people act really fucking strange. Lord Boreal gets all quiet and concentrated, wanting to know what Lyra knows and how she came upon such knowledge. Once he’s satisfied that she knows just enough, and for the right reasons, he tells her that Mrs. Coulter probably took her on because she is “ready to help her in that work.”

“That work” is undefined briefly, until Lyra reveals she knows the “work” deals with children being sacrificed.

“Sacrifice is rather a dramatic way of putting it. What’s done is for their good as well as ours. And of course they all come to Mrs. Coulter willingly. That’s why she’s so valuable. They must want to take part, and what child could resist her? And if she’s going to use you as well to bring them in, so much the better. I’m very pleased.”

what. what. what. do you mean. i. i can’t. i just can’t.


my brain is dead. Mrs. Coulter wants to use Lyra to help her kidnap kids to “sacrifice” them in the North. what?!?!?!?!

As Lyra and Pantalaimon stumble away in slow horror, they overhear someone else say Lord Asriel’s name, and as they come closer, they find out that he is being “held” somewhere.

“In the fortress of Svalbard, I’m told. Guarded by panserbjørne–you know, armored bears.”


Is this why the Master wanted to kill Lord Asriel? To prevent him from being captured? Also: ARMORED BEARS OH MY GOD THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER

The conversation that she hears is fractured and broken, as she only able to pick up slight bits of information at this point, such as:

“The last experiments have confirmed what I always believed–that Dust is an emanation from the dark principle itself, and–”


I can’t believe how this chapter ends, though it’s about one of the most sensible things imaginable at this point. Both Pantalaimon and Lyra are convinced that staying here at Mrs. Coulter’s house is a certain disaster, and Pantalaimon is no longer basking in the joy of reading Mrs. Coulter correctly. It’s so sudden, but Lyra rushes upstairs while Pantalaimon keeps watch. She packs what she can and using Pantalaimon as a guide, she makes a break for the door.

She slipped though the door and into the hall, and in less than three seconds she was opening the front door of the flat. A moment after that she was through and pulling it quietly shut, and with Pantalaimon a goldfinch again, she ran for the stairs and fled.

Unbelievable. Completely unexpected, liberating, and electrifying all at once. WHY MUST I END HERE.

About Mark Oshiro

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

139 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 5

  1. Brieana says:

    I love this chapter! Shit got so real.
    "I hate that I have to read this one chapter at a time."
    I hate that the weekend is coming up.

    • Mey says:

      I hate the Weekend-Break, too. It is always right when shit got real…

    • pica_scribit says:

      Same here. I'm re-reading along with Mark, and as soon as I finished reading this post, I thought, "YAY! Now off to read Chapter 6…" And then I realised today was Friday. Where does the week go?

  2. Sparkie says:

    Wow! I have literally have no idea how you might have been able to put this down at the end of that chapter!

    • @Shoganate says:

      I'm reading along with Mark and let me tell you, IT WAS SO EFFING HARD TO PUT DOWN!!! I started reading the first sentence of the next chapter without even thinking about it because I was so into what was happening, but stopped myself. I then picked up the book at least five different times during the day and was like "Screw it, I want to know what happens next!!!" But I regained my self-control as I thought to myself, "If Mark can do it, so can I!" but seriously, it's TORTURE!!! *cries*

      • Pixie says:

        Hang in there! I just bought the book yesterday to read along, too (and if my best friend spoils me I WILL SCOLD HIM HARSHLY). At first, I thought, “I’ll only read through chapter five, since that’s what he has posted on the site.” Then I thought, “I’ll just read chapter six, since that’s what he’ll post on Monday!” I accidentally read the first page of chapter seven before stopping myself. 🙁 Reading along is so hard!

  3. Brieana says:

    WHAT THE FUCK. Can Lyra actually feel harm done to her dæmon???? (You can answer that.)

    yes, she can.

    • @sab39 says:

      I'm slightly disappointed that you let us answer that one, Mark. I rather like the slow discovery of the characteristics of dæmons through the course of the book. The ability to feel what your dæmon feels is strongly hinted at here, certainly, but it still feels slightly spoileresque to confirm it outright rather than letting you wait for other things to make it 100% explicit…

      • Brieana says:

        I don't see that as a spoiler. Lyra felt pain when Pan was hurt. That seems pretty explicit to me. This seemed more like a confirmation than an answer.

      • pica_scribit says:

        I think it is explicit in this chapter when Lyra says "Stop hurting us!" even though she herself is not being touched.

  4. leighzzz31 says:

    In The Cocktail Party Phillip Pullman moves the plot forward by finally giving us some answers to questions that have started building up. AND EVERYTHING GETS CONFUSING AND HORRIFYING AND VERY, VERY FAST. And my respect for your powers of patience grows enormously, Mark. One chapter a day? I would have died.

    One that particularly interested me is that of experimental theology; Lyra finally gives us enough clues to figure out that experimental theology is essentially what we call physics. Which intrigues me like nothing else – their theologians are our own scientists! DOES.NOT.COMPUTE.(I also love the detail that, in this universe, there are five planets other than earth revolving around the sun!)
    We also get to learn more about the Mysterious Dust. Elementary particles discovered by a Muscovite (Russian?) that are attracted only by adult humans. And, as Lyra heard in passing, they seem to be an ‘emanation from dark principle’, which is confusing and fascinating and OMG, TELL ME MORE, PHILLIP PULLMAN! On second thought, this chapter probably made me question what Dust was all over again.
    Perhaps the most intriguing thing is what we find out about daemons. Pan, throughout these chapters, seems to have a mind completely of his own, even occasionally arguing with Lyra about the best course of action. Their intrinsic connection is confirmed though, when Mrs. Coulter daemon attacks Pan; Lyra feels physical pain when he’s pinned down. Later on, when Mrs. Coulter appears without her daemon, she seems more on edge than usual; instantly relaxed, though, when he comes closer.

    Finally, this chapter is when Lyra herself manages to see Mrs. Coulter’s true colours and learns about her being one of the Gobblers. The scene where the two argue about Lyra’s shoulder bag is endlessly disturbing. Mrs. Coulter’s sweet façade falls away as she forces Lyra to be subordinate; she becomes abusive and controlling, physically threatening Lyra by harming Pan. Pullman’s description of a ‘a hot smell, like heated metal’ conjured very specific feelings from me; Mrs. Coulter instantly became less human, a strangely mechanic, all-powerful figure in the story. And creepy. SO CREEPY. I was relieved when Lyra finally became aware of Mrs. Coulter as a central part of the Gobblers or the Oblation Board, which we’ve already learnt is a part of the Magisterium. The word ‘sacrifice’ comes up again and, though we have no idea what happens there, everything becomes more sinister. Her decision to run away comes easy to her; I think I actually gave a sigh of relief as she escaped.

    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      For some reason I chose to read the six planets thing not as Lyra living in a universe with only six planets, but living in a universe exactly like ours in its "celestial geography," but at a time when only six of the planets had been discovered. Probably your view is more likely, since we already know that the year 1898 has passed (probably several years ago). By that time in our own universe all eight planets had been discovered, and in some respects this society seems more scientifically advanced than ours was at the same age.

      • cait0716 says:

        This is how I read it, too. It's possible that this world hasn't invented the telescope yet, so they wouldn't have discovered Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto. Their history of technology certainly isn't the same as ours. They have zeppelins and nuclear power plants, but seem to have missed the invention of the car.

        • notemily says:

          I bet they have telescopes, just not telescopes powerful enough to pick up on the outer planets. Or to distinguish them from stars.

          • cait0716 says:

            The thing that distinguishes a planet from a star is how it moves across the sky, not what it looks like. (Well there's that too). Early civilizations made the distinction because planets followed different and more complex patterns than the rest of the stars. Hence the name, planet means wanderer.

            I don't think you need a particularly strong telescope to see Uranus. Depending on our relative orbits, there are times it can be seen with the naked eye. But they may have just not turned their telescopes to the right place in the sky to see it. I think we went looking for it because we noticed the effects of its gravitational field on Saturn.

            • notemily says:

              Planet means "wanderer"–I didn't know that, that's neat.

            • Mauve_Avenger says:

              It was Neptune that was discovered because of its gravitational effect, not Uranus. Apparently, Uranus was discovered quite a few times before it's *official discovery* (all discoveries seemingly by chance), but the people who found it kept writing it off as just another star. 🙁

              After Uranus's was designated a planet and its orbit was mapped, scientists realized that its orbital path didn't make sense given the gravitational pull of the other known planets. They decided there had to be another planet affecting its path, and used the orbits of the known planets to mathematically extrapolate the location of Neptune. It turns out that their projection of Neptune's orbit was fairly wrong, but they happened to observe the planet pretty close to its projected location, anyway.

              This site says that Galileo would've discovered Neptune's planetary status two centuries earlier, if only it hadn't been so cloudy.

        • stellaaaaakris says:

          They have cars. Or at least vans and trucks. Part of the myth with the Gobblers involved putting kids in white trucks and driving away. And they have food vans that sell snacks and meals and the like. I just don't think it's the preferred method of travel. If I had a choice, I would totally pick zeppelin over car.

          Unless they're horse drawn, in which case I would call them wagons, but, hey, not my fictional world. Pullman and Lyra can call them whatever they like.

          • hazelwillow says:

            I have a sense they may be horse drawn, but I could be wrong.

          • Mauve_Avenger says:

            I've been looking for possible discrepancies in world-building for a while now and how did I completely miss the fact that there are things called vans? It doesn't say whether they're self-propelled or pulled by an animal, but it would seem weird for Pullman to have something like a horse-drawn caravan and call it a "van" without doing something to establish that it's different from the ones in our world.

  5. redheadedgirl says:

    I loved the way Pullman describes the lessons about how to judge if colors suited one, and how to say no so charmingly that no offense was given, and especially the lessons about makeup- I think that's ultimately how those lessons should be taught (observation and experimentation).

    I also love that Lyra doesn't take a lot of time to decide on a course of action- once it's clear to her that the shit and the fan are about to make a close acquaintance, it's TIME TO GO. So she does what every kid I have ever known dreamed of doing at least once- pack up some stuff and TAKE THE FUCK OFF.

    (I will admit that when I was reading last night, I jsut couldn't stop after this chapter.)

    WHAT THE FUCK. Can Lyra actually feel harm done to her dæmon???? (You can answer that.)

    Yes, she can. I don't want to get to much further into it, but yes.

  6. monkeybutter says:

    Isn't it great how quickly this book moves? Pullman doesn't bother keeping Lyra in the dark about Mrs Coulter's nature for too long. I loved how the monkey reacted while Coulter was calm; it's the exact opposite of the female scholars becoming alert while their daemon's quickly side-eyed each other. It's good that you mentioned that here a polecat is a weasel; in parts of the US, polecats = skunks. That's quite different from the ferret-looking thing Pan takes the form of!

    This is an exciting place to stop on a Friday!

    • Quandary says:

      Polecats are members of the weasel family, yes, but they are essentially ferrets (the European Polecat is the ancestor of the domesticated ferret), which means they have scent glands that they won't hesitate to use – which is probably why Pan chose this as his fighting form. He was no match for that monkey, sadly. ): (But I love how he devises strategies for their next confrontation!)

    • knut_knut says:

      I totally thought a polecat was a bobcat or something but it makes sense that a weasel = very long cat

  7. stellaaaaakris says:

    I was doing a really good job of rereading along with you until yesterday. Then I decided I'd read another chapter, that wouldn't be too bad. I'm now on Chapter 15. I feel for you Mark.

    I think you said everything I could on this chapter. A few things that stood out to me:

    One of my favorite lines in this chapter: "Thinking it only natural that people should wish to talk to her, Lyra said simply, 'Yes.'" LOL I love it. Lyra's sense of self-importance is oddly endearing to me.

    A polecat is a weasel? Interesting. I must learn to speak British (or Pullman since he has an entirely different language that I'm finding simply lovely), I just assumed it was a bobcat. But my google search reveals polecats to be among the cutest looking, non-bobcat creatures ever.

    Gah, I would hate to have a butterfly as a daemon. What use is it? (Really. I know nothing about butterflies except that Monarch butterflies exist.) Do they do anything except be pretty? If you're ever running away from something, they'd probably slow you down since they move so slowly. Maybe they can be used to distract people? That could be useful, but I would totally rather have something with teeth or claws as my daemon.

    And yes, what your daemon feels, you feel. But I don't think it's as intense as if it happened to you. There is definitely some sort of connection between humans and their daemons.

    • cait0716 says:

      I was thinking about the butterfly. Pan turns into a moth when Lyra wants to hide her feelings because it's not a very expressive form. From this perspective, I think a butterfly makes sense for someone who needs to present a blank face. It would be important for a journalist to come across as neutral no matter what and a butterfly daemon would help her do that. So it's not useful to fight, but it is to maintain a level of privacy

      • ldwy says:

        Amazing thought.

      • Avit says:

        Seems to me butterflies are far from the only or most unexpressive possibility — but on second thought, it probably works better than most of the rest at putting people at ease and lowering expectations. Hm.

      • Partes says:

        I like this interpretation. It implies that a daemon understands the needs of their human to such a lovely degree.

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        Ooh, I like that idea. I thought a moth would be better because, not only does it hide expressions, but it can literally hide. But a journalist would need people to open up and having a butterfly as a daemon could put people at ease in a way a moth can't. Who hates butterflies? Nobody, they're so pretty and nonthreatening. If I lived in Lyra's world, I'd probably feel much more comfortable talking to somebody with a butterfly daemon than a snow leopard or a raven.

        • Butterflies would make fantastic spies, if no one noticed them or realized they were daemons. Pretty useful for a journalist to have.

          [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  8. On a positive note, to start things off, we do find out that Lyra’s parents, a “count and countess,” died in some “aeronautical accident” in the North
    And now, the sickest, pinched-up mouth of a journalist lets out that Lyra's parents did not die in an aeronautical accident, but were, of course, destroyed in a much cooler way: a dæmons' fight.

    • ldwy says:

      What? Must reread, apparently I missed something because I have no idea what you're talking about.
      NVM I see.

  9. Brieana says:

    (Note: Why does Lyra keep saying that Mrs. Coulter smells like metal? IS SHE TERMINATOR. omg SKYNET IS HERE.)

    I asked a similar question to my brother when I first read this. Maybe it's like this: to Lyra, Mrs Coulter once smelled of glamour and now she smells of HATE!

    "“Then kiss me.”

    She bent a little and offered her cheek.

    Literally the creepiest kiss ever. Just ever. "
    Really Mark? You've read all those Twilight books.

  10. hallowsnothorcruxes says:

    I can't believe I was right about the sacrifices. This is insane, Mrs. Coulter is sacrificing children and people are actually okay with it. And even though Mrs. Coulter is a creepy manipulative person I can't help but be fascinated by this character.

    Perhpas they would meet Lord Asriel. Perhaps he and Mrs. Coulter would fall in love, and they would get married and adopt Lyra, and go and rescue Roger from the Gobblers.

    This is a bit strange. Lyra doesn't like Mrs. Coulter but doesn't have any problem with her becoming her mother.

    (Note: Why does Lyra keep saying that Mrs. Coulter smells like metal? IS SHE TERMINATOR. omg SKYNET IS HERE.)
    Hahah..that explains so much.

    • James says:

      "This is a bit strange. Lyra doesn't like Mrs. Coulter but doesn't have any problem with her becoming her mother."

      Even though she hates her she finds her fascinating, is how I thought of that. She doesn't seem to like Lord Asriel that much either as much as she respects him enormously. I think the thought of a glamorous, powerful family appeals to her, and I suppose she just assumes that all the good of a family (love, affection) would come after. She has no real parents as a reference point, after all.

    • Brieana says:

      I don't have my copy with me, but didn't Lyra like Mrs Coulter when she fantasized about becoming her daughter?

      • Quandary says:

        Yes, as far as I'm aware it was before the big fallout. Lyra may have felt a bit reined in and smothered by this new world she was essentially still a stranger to, but she found it appealing all the same. And Mrs.Coulter would have been good at flattering her; Lyra never had much of that, being allowed to run wild as she was most of the time, with (rather half-hearted) attempts being made to discipline her now and then.

        James has a fair point, too, when saying that the thought of a glamorous, powerful family would appeal to Lyra.

  11. roguebelle says:

    Here in the South, we call skunks polecats. It took me a good long while to figure out that was probably not what Pullman meant that Pan turned into. 😉

    • SporkyRat says:

      Yeaaah. I had to call my cousins in England when I first read this (yay for calling cards!) and they laughed at me.

  12. Saphling says:

    This being one of my favorite chapters and the original reason why I stayed up all night to finish this book in one sitting when I was 12 and first reading it… my answer to your review is simply: Yes.

    Holy shit, this got real so incredibly fast.

    Why yes, yes it idid. ^_^

    Can Lyra actually feel harm done to her dæmon???? (You can answer that.)

    Yes, yes she can. >_>


    Yes, yes they are. ^_^

    Is Mark completely unprepared?

    Why yes, yes he is! ^_______________^

  13. knut_knut says:


    I've read this book many many times but this is the first time I realized it's the Oblation Board NOT Obliteration Board. The whole oblate explanation makes SOOO much more sense -_-

  14. Darth_Ember says:

    Lyra is so decisive – no hesitation at all when she realises it's time to act. I like that about her.

  15. Kaci says:

    Wow. I felt like I was going to get whiplash or something from how fast this chapter was moving. Way to grab my attention, Pullman! But now I'm kind of terrified for Lyra and what might happen to her once someone notices she's gone missing. :((((

  16. rumantic says:

    "She had been feeling confined and cramped by this polite life, however luxurious it was. She would have given anything for a day with Roger and her Oxford ragamuffin friends, with a battle in the claybeds and a race along the canal."

    This realisation of Lyra's is so weird to me to read through now. I've read these books a lot of times, but probably not since I was a teenager, and definitely not since leaving an abusive/controlling relationship. Her time with Mrs. Coulter takes on a whole different dynamic now I have that experience to relate it to. Actually I'm thinking there are going to be various points in the book that upset me more as an adult than they did when I read it as a teenager. But this was one of them. I'm glad Lyra takes the initiative to run as soon as she realises, though!

    • cait0716 says:

      I agree. I like how proactive Lyra is. The second she recognizes the abuse for what it is, she gets out of dodge. That really endeared me to her. It's a great message to send

      I'm sorry you found yourself in an abusive/controlling relationship, but I'm glad you were able to get out of it.

  17. Anseflans says:

    "Why does Lyra keep saying that Mrs. Coulter smells like metal?"

    Obviously Mrs Coulter is secretly President Snow, and she smells like metal because of the bloody sores in her mouth, which she tries to cover up with gratuidous amounts of roses at the party.

  18. Maya says:

    Man, you have waaaaaay more self-control than I ever could have. No way could I have stopped reading after that. Even just the mention of ARMORED FUCKING BEARS would have made me keep reading.

    Seriously. Armored bears. *high fives Pullman*

  19. psycicflower says:

    Oh Mark, your unpreparedness is such a wonderful thing to behold.

    I love how good Lyra is at lying. Aside from her usual stories, she's great at thinking on her feet and twisting the truth to fit her needs and that really shows in this chapter especially in her conversation with Lord Boreal where technically she never actually tells a lie.
    It's fascinating to see the differences between her life in Jordan College and her life with Mrs. Coulter. In a way it's good that she's getting the individual attention and education she needs but it's so confining compared to all the fun and adventures she had at Jordan and really doesn't suit Lyra's wilder, more adventurous side at all.
    I love all the tidbits we get as we slowly learn about daemons. I still want one.

  20. Mauve_Avenger says:

    So, things….

    We get the first unambiguous confirmation that humans can feel their daemons' pain. Lyra says, at a point when she's panicked (to say the least) and not in a position to mince words, "You're hurting us."

    We get Lyra laughing in the face ofat the idea of a heliocentric universe.

    We get Lyra showing actual joy, "glowing at a sense of her own prettiness," when dressed up, suggesting her earlier distaste for it had nothing to do with not liking the act of dressing up in itself, but rather the teasing and other bother that comes with it.

    Unless both my paper book and my ebook have the exact same typo, we have the word "gentle" used as a verb, which while perfectly correct still seems very strange to me.

    Maybe it's because I read the Redwall books when I was much younger, but I'm from the South (well, Mid-Westy South, I guess, which probably makes a difference in this context) and I've never heard the word polecat used for anything but the weasel.

    And I thought that there was a tiny in-universe vocabulary error here, but it turns out I was mistaken. Whereas there's been at least one case of the narrator and a character using different terms (Asriel calls the northern Amerindians "Eskimo," while the book and other characters use the Viking term "Skraeling"), it seemed that the narrator called what Lyra, Hugh, and Simon were smoking at the boatyard a "cigarette," and then called the same thing at the party in this chapter a "cigarillo." It turns out, though, that I was wrong. Apparently, both terms are used in the real world, but Lyra's cigarette ≠ the partygoers' cigarillos.

    • Billie says:

      Almost all my understanding of small rodents comes from Redwall 😛

    • Brieana says:

      "Unless both my paper book and my ebook have the exact same typo, we have the word "gentle" used as a verb, which while perfectly correct still seems very strange to me."

      Maybe in this world, gentle is used as a verb a lot more often.

  21. Eliza says:

    Okay now I'm super confused…

  22. TreasureCat says:

    Sometimes you can put two words together and it makes something so beautiful and so exciting that rainbows spontaneously burst across the sky and kittens appear from nowhere to roll around your feet. 'Armored bears' are two such words.

  23. FuTeffla says:

    Mrs. Coulter's monkey daemon = scariest thing ever in the history of ever. EVER.

  24. eleniel says:


    First of all, Mrs Coulter's cold cruelty comes up again in her abusive behavior toward Lyra the moment she puts up any resistance. Scary as hell.

    The cocktail party scene is amazing, with Lyra being her inquisitive, clever self and figuring out some important information without ever letting on that she's anything but Mrs Coulter's loyal assisstant. The growing sense of dread culminating in the rapid snips of conversation (I can see the movie quick-cuts in my head!) as Lyra puts it all together and decides she has to GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE is so, so intense, omg.

    The way the General Oblation Board is such an open secret among the adult "elites" at the party makes me think the Scholars and Asriel know exactly what is going on there. But Asriel has been captured?! BAD NEWS

    Clearly the metal smell is the smell of Mrs Coulter ACTIVATING HER CREEPY MIND POWERS that she uses to make kids like her and make journalists' daemons faint. And by "clearly" I mean "I am completely making this up", but she DOES seem to have some kind of ability to affect people and their daemons, somehow. It seems to have to do with the metal smell but it's probably not just "psychic powers."

    And finally: ARMORED BEARS DO WANT!!!!

  25. cait0716 says:

    I love how fast this book takes off.

    I read all the conversation snippets at the end as being indicative of Lyra's state of mind at this point. She's confused and receiving far too much information, more than she can possibly process. I saw her weaving through the crowd at this point, catching bits of conversation because she was alert for various keywords but not being able to make sense of anything and only knowing that she had to get out.

    It's interesting, there's probably just as much information being thrown at the reader as in the first couple of chapters, but it doesn't feel nearly as overwhelming. I think it's because the world is starting to take shape and things are at least beginning to fall into place.

    • cait0716 says:

      Also, I really like that Lyra's natural reaction to adults questioning her is to lie. She never tells the whole truth. I value honestly quite a lot, but for Lyra I think this is a really good character trait, if only because she is surrounded by manipulative people on all sides.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        "She never tells the whole truth."

        Truth. She seems to have managed to convert the story of Gobbler-napped children being enslaved by the Tartars into "I'm not afraid of Gobblers, why, where I come from the gyptians steal kids and sell them to Turks."

        Hopefully, the fact that she included a werewolf story at the same time would make the adults a lot less likely to believe it.

        • cait0716 says:

          You know, when I got to this passage, I was thinking about the comment thread earlier this week that talked about the similarities between Irish Travelers/Roma and the Gyptians. I thought that maybe the "Gyptians kidnap children and sell them as slaves" being compared to a werewolf was meant to show the reader that both of these statements are utterly ridiculous and clearly not true. Especially since they're coming from the mouth of a known liar

          Or maybe I was reading too much into it.

  26. @Shoganate says:

    Omg, YES!!! I love you so much for that quote!!! I would upvote you A MILLION TIMES IF I COULD!!! You made my day! xD

  27. elusivebreath says:

    Don't worry Pluto, you'll always be a planet to me 🙂

  28. cait0716 says:

    I know, but it was thought to be one for a long time, so they'd probably have gone through the same history as us and considered it a planet before reclassifying it as a member of the Kaiper Belt (which also includes and asteroid named Buffy. If the Pluto not being a planet means he gets to hang out with Buffy, then I'm totally cool with that). Also, when these books were written, it was still thought to be a planet. In any case the people of this world are ignorant of it.

  29. arctic_hare says:



    Mrs. Coulter is so fucking creepy and scary. Something else that stood out to me, in between the bit with her monkey daemon flipping his shit and the fight over the shoulder bag, was this little mention in a passage about other stuff she's been teaching Lyra: "how to say no in such a charming way that no offense was given". That set off major alarm bells in my head: because in our society, there is a very narrow idea of how women are supposed to act, only certain ways that we're "supposed" to behave, and we tend to be treated badly if we transgress those rules set in place by the patriarchy. Now, combine that with what we saw Mrs. Coulter doing in the last chapter, of trying to put up a wall between her and Pan with the bathing incident, and take into account the fact that Lyra is normally anything but ladylike and sweet; and I find myself glaring fiercely in Mrs. Coulter's direction, because she is clearly trying to mold Lyra into a person like she is, who has internalized all the ideals of what a woman "should" be as set forth by a male-dominated society, instead of letting her be who she is regardless of her conformity or lack thereof to those strict rules for feminine behavior and mores.

    And then she pretty much makes it explicit in that scolding: she "particularly wishes" for Lyra to be "perfectly behaved, sweet, charming, innocent, attentive, delightful in every way." But it's not just for her cocktail party that she wants that – she wants it all the time. She wants to change her into a smaller version of herself. And she probably would have used Lyra to kidnap more children eventually, once she'd turned her docile enough. It's a chilling thought.

    Of course, possibly the most fucked up thing here is that people are aware of what she's doing and have no problem with it. WHAT. I'm so glad that Lyra doesn't waste any time getting the hell out of Dodge once she finds all this shit out – she's smart and decisive and I love her for it. I also love how smoothly she lied to everyone. You go, Lyra! <3

    • Avit says:

      I don't see a problem with teaching those things, per se — they're strategies for survival in a world that punishes social transgressors, sometimes very harshly. But yeah, taken in context rather than in isolation, it's definitely hinky.

      • arctic_hare says:

        It disturbs me because those ideas go hand in hand with the fact that we're expected to accept unwanted male attention without objection, being interrupted in conversations, being browbeaten into not arguing something, etc. I hate to see that sort of thing perpetuated and passed on.

    • notemily says:

      Yeah, I kind of wanted Lyra to go "FUCK YOUR GIRLIE SHIT" and refuse to learn, but she was too enchanted with Mrs. Coulter for that. Which makes me relieved that she figures out TEH EVIL by the end of the chapter.

      • arctic_hare says:

        Yeah, Lyra was essentially having a carrot dangled in front of her – a trip to the North – and once it was clear that sinister stuff was actually going on, she just cleared the hell out. Much love to her for that.

    • rumantic says:

      You said this so much better than I did 🙂

  30. Andi Blac says:


    Omg that is all I can think right now

  31. Emily Crnk says:

    My god, I forgot how long these chapters are! After the Book Thief's little two or three page deals, these reviews seem downright expansive! (not that that is a bad thing)

    • cait0716 says:

      Yeah, I was flipping through the book to see how long it would last, and I noticed that it only has 23 chapters! The Book Thief had 88. This trilogy is going to go a lot faster than I initially thought it would.

  32. vampireprincess2468 says:

    That is what I found so interesting about the human daemon connection Sort of frighting as well

  33. warmouth says:

    I remember reading this book for the first time. I tend to get bogged down in details so the first couple were something of a drag for me. Then shit started getting real and HOLY GOD ARMORED BEARS WUT.

    Maybe Lyra should recruit Colbert, just incase


    Yeah, I remember clutching my head from all the words and stuff I didn't know "Oblation Board? Dust? Altheiometer. Bligbgjowiebo? Wut." But then armored bears got brought up and everyone thought got metal.

    <IMG=" gif/Ephok/Gatti GIF/cat-metal.gif?o=32">

    So yeah, I kept on keeping on for the hope of armored polar bears….oh yeah and that plot thingamajig.

  34. Heather says:

    See, I always pictured him as a skunk, because polecat is another word for them here. Apparently they are also a separate critter that is more ferretlike? Ooh, this one is pretty. I'm going to assume Pan is this.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      I suppose there are multiple names for what a polecat is. I always thought it was a weasel!

  35. luzzleanne says:

    With regards to the metallic scent, I might have this completely wrong, but didn't a lot of older cosmetics use lead (or some sort of harmful metal, at least) in them? Then the "heated metal" part would be Mrs. Coulter heating up in anger. If I'm not misremembering that it would be an interesting contrast; the terrifying scent Lyra's noticing would be a direct result of Mrs. Coulter's genteel femeninity.

  36. Ms Avery says:

    I have been so looking forward to seeing your reaction to the ARMOURED BEARS. 😀

  37. @Leenessface says:

    I want to read this with you, but I'm reading Game of Thrones right now, noooooo. I'll be done for Subtle Knife, though, so I'll pick up there. 😀

    Mrs Coulter is super scary in these beginning chapters. I also loved this whole part in the movie.

    • pica_scribit says:

      Yay, Game of Thrones! I want Mark to read those books, too, someday. His head will literally explode.

  38. rumantic says:

    Polecats have a special fondness for me. I vaguely remember some dude coming to our school with one when I was about 6 or something, because in my "news" book for that day I wrote "The aniemal man came. I liyked the polecat. It smelled funneye."

    • Shanna says:

      That’s so cute. A couple weekends ago I finally went through all my boxes of school stuff (from pre-school to grad school) that were in my parents’ attic. Finding and reading my elementary school journals was illuminating and hilarious! Kids write (and spell) the darndest things. I wrote a lot about the Gulf War in my grade 3 journals – because my uncle was in the navy and I was worried that he’d have to go to war. (Eventually he did set sail on a warship, but halfway there it was all over so they came home).

      Also, my roomate had 2 pet ferrets in university. Norman and Dexter. They were adorable. They were such funny little guys and they loved to play/chase our dogs and cats. Their favourite thing was to be (gently) ‘thrown’ (more slid) on a tiled floor. Like a slip n slide. They’d get up and happily scamper back to us. But yeah, they were stinky little beasts (and I think they’d even had their stink glands removed).

  39. Partes says:

    I love that Lyra is great at lying; the fact that she is just so good about it and yet feels no shame, I feel, tells us a lot about her as a character. For one, she never lies over things that she feels are wrong; secondly, that what she feels is wrong in no way matches up to everyone else's preconceptions, making her a far more interesting and rebellious figure. It also makes her a fantastic unreliable narrator, as half the time even the readers can't tell what she's saying and what she's not.

    I feel she tried to enjoy the glamorous life with Mrs Coulter at first more to impress Mrs Coulter than for any other reason, truthfully. But the differences between her rambunctious ways and the more elegant existence of the last two chapters were bound to eventually cause resentment, which we saw the fallout of in this chapter. I'm almost impressed with how Mrs Coulter handled the situation. She gave Lyra a feeling that she was doing everything of her own volition, all the while steering her actions completely. The stark contrast in how she treats adults between Jordan College and the dinner party shows just how drastic a change merely acting as an example allowed Mrs Coulter to create. It was just the right amount of pressure, and never gave Lyra any complete figure of authority to resent as she treated her like a young adult rather than an old child, giving her a sense of individualism which Lyra probably didn't get before, even when she was doing exactly what she wanted to in Oxford by running around rooftops.

    Until that awful moment when she snaps, of course. ULTIMATE CREEPINESS TO THE MAXIMUM..

    God, I wonder how Lyra will survive now though? She's in a place where she's never been before, and is on the run from one of the most well connected women in the city. Shit is getting so real.

    And YAY, now I've posted this I get to read the next chapter!

  40. Aimee says:

    It's been far too long since I've read this book, but all I have to really say is that

    a) I've been really enjoying your reviews and reliving the book… and
    b) Your site was down earlier today and I wanted to kill myself, I wanted to read your review for this chapter so badly.

  41. notemily says:


  42. Adam D. Bram says:

    You can read more than one chapter a day when we get to read more than one review a day. This is just as hard for us. 🙂

  43. Ellalalalala says:

    There is just too much to digest and daemons are fighting and a nasty golden monkey haunts my dreams and Mrs Coulter is a robot and armoured bears are coming and basically I'm just rocking in a corner waiting til Monday.

  44. Billie says:

    This chapter man, I don't even….one at a time you say? I just…*mumbles incoherently*

    p.s. Armoured bears <3
    p.p.s I liked that earlier in the chapter Lyra describes herself as almost being Mrs. Coulters daemon in that she follows her everywhere, but daemon turns to 'pet' when things start getting scary.

    • GCSKAS says:

      Ahh I really want to comment on that parallel, but I can't without having a spoiler. 🙁

  45. bookling says:

    FUCK YEAH, PANSERBJORNE! God, I am so excited for you to read this book. I also need to get my hands on a copy so I can re-read it.

  46. fakehepburn says:


  47. fakehepburn says:

    Some of the things you said in this review, Mark. Not all of them — and I'm not saying which parts at all — but some of them. One day, in the near near future, you've going to come back and read them and laugh, because OF HOW UNPREPARED YOU WERE.

  48. majere616 says:

    I'm kind of baffled with the idea of anything Mrs Coulter does making her any shadier. I mean seriously, in her first appearance she kidnaps a bunch of children. THIS IS ONE OF THE WORST THINGS A HUMAN BEING CAN DO. From that point on I had already written her off as a horrible monster.

    • erin says:

      Haha this is what I've been thinking. People are like "OMG I can't believe she'd flip out like that!" and I'm like "REALLY?? She burns the letters of kidnapped children! I can!!"

  49. Darth_Ember says:

    Notemily pointed out an interesting thing about the golden monkey, that we don't get its name.. It's like… of course its name is never given. It's Mrs Coulter's. It's part of who she is, and she keeps secrets. She is holding back so much of herself from the sight of others that it's little wonder no-one has ever been granted the intimacy of knowing her daemon's name.
    It's like… the sort of person who won't introduce themself to you, because your uncertainty puts you at a disadvantage, and they don't consider you worthy of being on any name basis with them.
    Names are control. Look at all the 'I know your true name' stuff that crops up in various literature. Mrs Coulter is holding back her daemon's name, and no-one can therefore interact fully with that sly secretive part of who she is.

  50. notemily says:

    Well, you don't want to get on Lyra's bad side, either. 😉

  51. Patrick721 says:

    Armored. Motherfucking. Bears. Oh god mark you have no idea how unprepared for the awesomeness of the panserbjørne you are.

    • Puppi says:

      They are indeed awesome.
      I've gotten people to read these books based solely on: ARMORED POLAR BEARS- even cooler than it sounds.

  52. enigmaticagentscully says:

    Mrs Coulter, you are officially one of the creepiest villains ever

  53. Stephalopolis says:

    "You're hurting us!"

    Okay, I need to know more about the demon/human relationship right now. What connects them? Are they the same? Is the demon like his/her subconscious? Conscience? I need more info right away about their relationships to each other!!

    And the metal smell, that… changes?… with different emotions? All I know is that I can smell that smell vividly and it kind of terrifies me.

    And when the monkey attacked Pantalaimon, I was SO ANGRY. YOU DO NOT HURT HIM! I don't know much about him, but I recognize him as one of the few characters so far that I know I like and is "good."

    For some reason… I still don't trust Asriel. So the fact that he's locked up… I don't know. I have no feelings about it either way. Although, since he's apparently an enemy of the oblation board… perhaps he is good? I don't know.

    The entire time Lyra was planning on running away, I was expecting her to get caught. So happy she actually made it out! Well… so far 😛

  54. Mayme says:

    The jury is still out.

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  56. dcpierce says:

    The first time I read "That's what they call the Oblation Board," I re-read it twice just to make sure I didn't misunderstand. I mean that is just MESSED UP. I'm glad that Lyra doesn't pull the "stupidly curious" card and keep hanging around – at a certain point she just decides to hightail it out of there. Good girl!

    Since you mentioned her last name… I've been wondering if her first name will turn out to have special significance? And last but not least-


    I mean seriously, WHAT?! (admittedly it made re-reading parts of chapter two more understandable. At this point I think I started re-reading those few pages at the end of every subsequent chapter to remind myself what answers I had gotten and what questions remained. Currently the scale is still heavily tilted towards the latter side).


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