Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 23

In the twenty-third and final chapter of The Golden Compass, Lyra discovers just how wrong she is about almost everything and how that plays out with tragic consequences. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish The Golden Compass.



At this point in the story, this is now about a solitary journey. I suppose Lyra would always have had to face this alone. (Well, relatively alone. Of course, she still has Pantalaimon with her at all times.) After discovering the identity of her parents and now learning that both of them are rather selfish, violent people, bent on causing suffering for their own ends, this is a confrontation meant to be acted out by the most fucked up family I think I’ve ever come across in fiction.

No, seriously: Lyra was willingly “orphaned” by her parents, and they have both used her in order to lure in children to SACRIFICE in the name of science or religion.

my god.

Yet even though Lyra knows this is a journey for herself, she is also distinctly aware of what an extreme disadvantage she is at for all of this. She expresses that to Pantalaimon in the form of fear: She is terrified that she will not be able to save anyone, that she’s in too far over her own head, that even if she stops her father from killing Roger, her mother will just take him back to Bolvangar anyway. Out of everything though, she cannot reconcile the absurdity of her parents: they are causing children to suffer. It’s something that Lyra knows is innately wrong, something that everyone just accepts as a definite act of immorality, and yet they do it anyway.

How on earth do you process that?

“I wish…” she said, and stopped. There was nothing that could be gained by wishing for it. A final deep shaky breath, and she was ready to go on.

That is how you process it. She moves on. (Is this a subtle jab at prayer on the part of Pullman? I wouldn’t be surprised.)

Part of me thinks it’s a tad odd that Lyra is able to just walk through the Arctic tundra so easily and not…you know…FREEZE TO DEATH. But I suppose that’s not the point. We know this is difficult for her in both a physical and emotional way, and if she hadn’t frozen by now, perhaps she’s just properly dressed? why am i even thinking about this

Almost a sign of the bleak confrontation to come, the seemingly endless expanse of the Arctic spreads out before Lyra and the way that Pullman describes it all, it gives me a sense of futility. As he elaborates on the flat ice slabs and the thrusting mountains and white plains of nothingness, I can just imagine a tiny speck of a human with her dæmon almost disappearing amidst the massiveness of it all. Pullman makes it appear that Lyra is standing up against the impossible. And really, doesn’t it feel that way? How can Lyra succeed at this point?

Pantalaimon flew high, and swooped back to her wrist in his owl form.

“They’re just beyond the peak!” he said. “Lord Asriel’s laid out all his instruments, and Roger can’t get away–”

And as he said that, the Aurora flickered and dimmed, like an anbaric bulb at the end of its life, and then went out althogether.

Like intercision, it must be commended that Pullman can write about something that has no real bearing in our world (we can’t see a city in the aurora and it certainly doesn’t hold the same meaning to us) and do so in a way that we can understand how terrifying this. We know now that this flickering means that Lord Asriel is very, very close to cutting Roger’s dæmon away. Lyra has almost no time left. She hears the terrified cries of Roger, calling after her, and she stumbles to make it over the peak. It’s also a telling sign that Pantalaimon cannot seem to hold a single form because he is so agitated by the tension of the entire situation.

But the hope we had that Lyra would be able to rescue Roger dissipates quickly when she finally reaches the peak and takes in the situation. At least for me, I felt doomed: If Lord Asriel’s dæmon was clutching Roger’s, how would Pantalaimon be able to wrestle her away from the snow leopard? How would Lyra be able to fight a man thrice her size?

How upsetting is this?:

He tried again, crying and pleading, begging, sobbing, and Lord Asriel took no notice except to knock him to the ground.

For Lord Asriel, a suffering child is just a mere nuisance. What the hell.

All this Lyra saw by starlight alone; but then, as Lord Asriel connected his wires, the Aurora blazed all of a sudden into brilliant life. Like the long finger of blinding power that plays between two terminals, except that this was a thousand miles high and ten thousand miles long: dipping, soaring, undulating, glowing, a cataract of glory.

He was controlling it…

Or leading power down from it; for there was a wire running off a huge reel on the sledge, a wire that ran directly upward to the sky. Down from the dark swooped a raven, and Lyra knew it for a with dæmon. A witch was helping Lord Asriel, and she had flown that wire into the heights.

WELL, THIS CANNOT END WELL AT ALL. Is this why a group of witches attacked the bears in the last chapter? Did Lord Asriel attain their services to protect him while he opened the bridge to the parallel world? Either way, I’m aware of just how one-sided this is: Lord Asriel has virtually all of the power and Lyra has none. You can see this acted out when Lyra cries out in fear when Lord Asriel finally beckons for Roger to come to his side and the child obeys, desperate to get close enough to his dæmon. It’s pure chaos from here on out, as Pantalaimon manages to snatch Roger’s dæmon away from the snow leopard and the two begin to fight with Lord Asriel’s dæmon. Lyra manages to pull Roger away from Lord Asriel.

But here’s what is so striking about this: Lyra has journeyed to the North Pole, survived countless attempts on her life, and has learned how awful both of her parents are. She’s gained the confidence and respect of an armored bear, a witch, a Texan ballon man, and the gyptians. She has chosen, time and time again, to help other people when it might have a negative effect on her own life.

And after all of that, it doesn’t matter.

As the snow slips out from underneath Roger and Lyra, as Roger’s dæmon is captured once again, Roger’s body goes limp. It doesn’t matter. Lyra failed.

A jet of light, a jet of pure energy released like an arrow from a great bow, shot upward from the spot where Lord Asriel had joined the wire to Roger’s dæmon. The sheets of light and color that were the Aurora tore apart; a great rending, grinding, crunching, tearing sound reached from one end of the universe to the other; there was dry land in the sky–


Even in a moment of pure tragedy, there’s a beauty to this: Lord Asriel has successfully created a bridge to the parallel universe and sun is seeping into this world from it. But it is a beauty stained by the heinous act of a selfish man.

Sunlight shining on the fur of a golden monkey….

YOU. ARE. KIDDING. ME. But she’s too late, right? Lord Asriel has succeeded in creating the bridge. He’ll control it, right?

And thus begins one of the most shocking and confusing endgames I’ve read. If you’d figured out that Lord Asriel was actually working against Lyra’s interest, I’m convinced that it would have been virtually impossible for anyone to guess what Pullman does with that and what he does right here. I imagine each of you expected Lord Asriel’s and Mrs. Coulter’s dæmons to immediately begin to fight one another, and I imagine each of you were flabbergasted when they greeted each other with affection. AFFECTION!

And when Lyra looked up from them, Mrs. Coulter herself stood there, clasped in Lord Asriel’s arms.



As these two previous lovers begin to speak to one another, every line aching with subtext and unknown meaning, I felt more and more confused. I felt more and more betrayed. I realized that I had bought a simple explanation for these characters, mostly out of my own desire to organize them into two-dimensional people. And now Pullman is rapping me on the head with a rolled-up newspaper, scolding me for thinking he’d write characters without depth as he’s done here.

You were absolutely right. There was absolutely no way I was prepared for this.

I can’t claim to understand this all. Or most of it, I should say. Now I know there are huge chunks of the story between Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter that are flat out missing. These two characters speak to each other with a sense of power, of mutual respect, of almost adoration. We were led to believe they despised each other, but this is clearly not the case.

So what gives??? Asriel says this to Mrs. Coulter:

“This will mean the end of the Church, Marisa, the end of the Magisterium, the end of all those centuries of darkness! Look at that light up there: that’s the sun of another world! Feel the warmth of it on your skin, now!”

And Mrs. Coulter’s immediate reaction is not complete anger. This leads me to believe Lord Asriel’s claim that, at heart, Mrs. Coulter got involved with the Magisterium to gain power is true. Does she not actually believe the things she is fighting for? Or are her beliefs half-hearted thoughts brought to fruition through the control she wields?

That’s when Lord Asriel surprises me yet again: He invites Mrs. Coulter to come with him into the parallel universe.

“Then come with me, away and out of this world!”

“I daren’t–”

“You? Dare not? Your child would come. Your child would dare anything, and shame her mother.”

WHAT THE FUCK! I am just so lost. Is this Asriel’s messed up way of admitting that he sort-of, kinda, maybe respects his daughter? I feel he’s a pretty detached person as it is, but….what??? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHEN GROWN UPS ARE TALKING.

“You want her, still? Twice you’ve tried to hold her, and twice she’s got away. If I were her, I’d run, and keep on running, sooner than give you a third chance.”

I MEAN….RIGHT??? But this is so confusing to me! One minute he’s embracing her, then inviting her to COME TO A PARALLEL UNIVERSE WITH HIM, and now he’s insulting her?

His hands, still clasping her head, tensed suddenly and drew her toward him in a passionate kiss. Lyra thought it seemed more like cruelty than love, and looked at their dæmons, to see a strange sight: the snow leopard tense, crouching with her claws just pressing in the golden monkey’s flesh, and the monkey relaxed, blissful, swooning on the snow.

I UNDERSTAND ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL. I have never been so confused by a book during Mark Reads. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON. Why do they act this way? What am I missing? What is with the unbelievable sexual tension that ripples through the pages? Lord Asriel flat out tells Mrs. Coulter that she should come with him, that he can imagine no greater feat that she would enjoy being a part of than destroying Dust, and he gives a hell of a line about how she constantly lies to everyone, including herself:

“Lie about everything else, lie about the Oblation Board, lie about your lovers–yes, I know about Boreal, and I care nothing–lie about the Church, lie about the child, even, but don’t lie about what you truly want….”

GODDAMN. He is putting her on BLAST.

And yet…even after he tells her that the only way he will stay interested in her is if she comes with him, she declines. Part of me sort of feels bad for Mrs. Coulter? Which is a weird emotion for me because I cannot ignore her past. But to have someone so ruthlessly set up a dichotomy like that is not easy to deal with. So she walks away, genuine tears on her face, and Lord Asriel turns and walks away into the light, and Lyra and the limp body of Roger are all that are left in that cold expanse.

She felt wrenched apart with unhappiness. And with anger, too; she could have killed her father; if she could have torn out his heart, she would have done so there and then, for what he’d done to Roger. And to her: tricking her: how dare he?

There’s something so remarkably sad about this, that these two children are left alone in the Arctic, no friends or parents to care for them or protect them. Iorek is miles away, and Lyra may never see him again. But Lyra is never truly alone, and Pantalaimon reminds me of this when he speaks up, right at the height of Lyra’s despair, to suggest something I’d not even remotely considered.

“Because if they all think Dust is bad, it must be good.”

oh…………..oh my god. WAIT. WAIT THIS IS TOTALLY POSSIBLE. As Pantalaimon describes, both he and Lyra, just like us, were meant to believe that Dust was bad in all situations. However, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter proved to be rather awful people about it. What if they were not trying to do something good and heroic? We’ve seen them both exhibit the most supreme capacity for lying to those around them. What if Dust was actually good???

The end of The Golden Compass is a gorgeous, haunting message of personal morality, of the determination to do what one believes is right. Assuring themselves that they will not accept knowledge without doubt, that they will not trust those with power, who have proven they cannot be trusted at all, they know that there is only one choice left:

They must leave the world behind.

She turned away. Behind them lay pain and death and fear; ahead of them lay doubt, and danger, and fathomless mysteries. But they weren’t alone.

So Lyra and her dæmon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky.

Lyra and Pantalaimon just walked into a parallel universe. HOLY SHIT!!!! Best cliffhanger ever, or best cliffhanger ever?!?!?!

And here I am, at the end of one of the most exciting and enriching journeys I have ever taken through a book. I know it’s silly, but this book feels so specifically catered to me that it’s ridiculous. It’s exciting; it’s beautifully written; it’s challenging. And the ending is one massive surprise; but that’s not why it ends so well.

This book ends with Lyra shedding away the concerns for her own safety and instead deciding to take a personal stake in righting what she sees as wrong. She is leaving behind the (apparently) dead body of her best friend, who she feels she failed, in order to rectify the damage done to her world. In the process, she’s going to enter into a parallel universe to stop her father from betraying all of humanity, instead of only herself.

What an empowering message.

If the date is all right with everyone, I’d like to hold the liveblog for The Golden Compass on Mark Watches on July 2nd, 2011, at 11:00AM PDT. I did not want to split up the reviews to have the final one on a Monday like I always seem to do, but I am volunteering most of this weekend at SF Pride, so I don’t want to host a liveblog that I cannot attend myself.

I will begin The Subtle Knife on Monday, June 27th and will include predictions for the second book of the trilogy before the review actually starts. Oh god I am going to have AWFUL PREDICTIONS.

Since this is something I do whenever I end a book, I’d like to continue the tradition:

The Golden Compass is easily one of the greatest books I have ever read and I hope the trilogy will be (somehow) better than this.

Happy reading!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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144 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Golden Compass’: Chapter 23

  1. @cleolinda says:

    NOW I can show you the movie footage that got cut when they chopped off the ending. See, it WAS filmed.

    Lyra falling out of the -happy ending- airship:… (not sure what this was about)

    Lyra finds Asriel

    Asriel and the machine:… (three pages, last few pictures are amazing)

    Asriel, Coulter, and Lyra:… (three pages)

    You'll have to dig up the trailer–I can't remember what Lyra's screaming at Mrs. Coulter, but it's something badass like "I'm not yours, I'll never be yours!"

    I also have pictures from the beginning of the next book (presumably that was filmed as part of the cliffhanger), but I'll save those for when you get to that chapter.

    • Becky_J_ says:

      WHAT THE FUCK. You mean, not only did this movie have the POTENTIAL to be good, they ACTUALLY DID EVERYTHING TO MAKE IT GOOD AND THEN DIDN'T??


      • @cleolinda says:

        THIS IS WHY I DO NOT BLAME CHRIS WEITZ FOR ANYTHING. He still talks about how much he loved these books and how he wanted to be faithful to them and then New Line took the movie away and chopped all the "controversy" out of it and made everyone cry.

        Depending on which full-length trailer you can dig up, you can see all of this in action. I think I may have screencapped all this from two different trailers.

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          MY GOD.

          I AM SO FURIOUS

          it could have been glorious.

          So I assume that this footage is gone? It's not on the DVDs or anything?

          • @cleolinda says:

            I have the DVD, and I've never seen the footage presented as an extra or cut scene unto itself. It's scattered through on the trailers on the DVD, though. I've only been able to cobble it together through pictures I capped or found on the interwebs.

            And it just breaks my heart because I loved the casting. Watch the movie again and imagine the actors actually getting to do what was in the book. OH! you know what'll really break your heart? Go back and watch the earliest trailer and listen to Iorek's voice. Weitz found someone he just loved to get the non-humanness of panserbjorne across, and New Line was like, nuh-uh, he's not a name actor, go get Ian McKellen and do it over.

          • @cleolinda says:

   Asriel and the machine, "I'll never be yours!," Pan and the golden monkey (who I believe is named Ozymandias a play adaptation?)
            (Notice that "golden compass" is dubbed over "alethiometer.")


            • pennylane27 says:

              It's — it's just — WHYYYYYY? RAGE RAGE RAGE

            • fakehepburn says:

              They tried to do it right. My god.
              I think I'm feeling closure, you guys.

        • Becky_J_ says:

          ….This is the closest thing to chopping away daemons as we can get in this world.


          ….literally. They cut it off.

    • @sab39 says:

      Waitwait… cleolinda as in m15m cleolinda? I didn't know you posted here – I feel like I bumped into a celebrity I really like while walking down the street and trying not to go all jibbering fanboy…

      … I'll spare you the "omg I loved m15m Prisoner of Azkaban so much" speech, but thank you for introducing "I think I saw a porno like that once" and "OMGWTFHORSYBIRD" and "have some chocolate" into my vocabulary. Even if I always do have to try – and fail – to explain to people what the hell I'm referencing and why it's funny…

    • Mmsljr says:

      I feel cheated. Completely and utterly cheated. The whole point is that exact ending.

    • vattna says:

      A lot of these deleted movie clips, apparently, have been used in the PC game which held much truer to the book. I suddenly have a desire to buy the game and play it just to see all the deleted scenes. XD

  2. Anseflans says:

    I'm so glad you posted the final review before I embark on my journey to internet-less England. I mean, I'm probably still going to miss the entire second book BUT I DON'T CARE EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL AND NOTHING HURTS.

    As for the plottwist? Holy shit, it's been quite a few years since I've read the first book, but I'd forgotten all about the Asriel/Roger situation, and also the REALLY STRANGE AND CREEPY Asriel/Coulter situation.
    I'm so excited for you to read the rest. You are just so very unprepared.

    Question time: If you'd somehow find a bridge to another world (and it looked friendly, like with the sunny bits and stuff), would you go take a peek?
    I know I would.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Heck yeah, I'd take a peek! Even if it was the muddy, dark, spooky part, I'd have a look. Have fun on your excavation!

    • pbellosom says:

      Would anyone not?

    • Darth_Ember says:

      I'd probably spend a long time regretting that I hadn't, and wondering what it was like. I'd have been tempted beyond measure. But I would have thought 'how will I get home?' Because as blegh as I can consider my life to be sometimes, and as few true and close friends as I have… they are my friends, and they mean more to me than the chance to go look at another world and potentially be stranded there.

  3. Jenny_M says:

    WE ARE NOT PREPARED! Mark, you're amazing.

  4. SybillTrelawney says:

    I knew it!!!!!!!!!!!!! I knew you'd post a second review today!

  5. ELFCY says:

    You don't have to read this… It is just my personal , very possibly incoherent, ramble regarding your recaps of the GC…
    You know Mark… during this whole read of the GC, I could tell that you were worshipping Lord Asriel, that you were literally blind to all the signs about him, all the things Pullman spelled out about him that indicated that he's also very driven AND ruthless in achieving whatever goals he set for himself… that he was very selfish in his desire to discover and that it was more important for him perhaps to achieve his goals because he believes in them rather than because it will benefit humanity… In short, he is a brilliant scientist who thinks the scientific end discovery justify the scientific means, regardless of ethics.
    I don't know if it was because I was a child when read this but I was extremely sensitive to oppressing characters, noticing every little word that would indicate a possible dark side to a character, whether or not it was brief or spelled out… and I have never felt less potentially oppressed by Lord Asriel than by Mrs. Coulter throughout the book whenever he was mentioned…
    Instinctively, Pullman made me know Lord Asriel was someone to be feared for good reason even right from the first chapter of the book… I think the reason you are so shocked now is because right from the beginning, you expected a clear distinct good vs bad side that would fight each other, as in any conventional book… and since what Mrs. Coulter and the Oblation board are doing was evidently heinous (despite somewhat sincerely well-meant intentions), and since Lord Asriel is an opponent of them, I think you'd rather automatically jumped to the conclusion that he is good without recognising the signs of otherwise, or at least, without focusing much on them… you also ascribed every action and word from Mrs. Coulter as purely evil, and devoid of any possible sincerity.
    In short, you saw and filtered what you wanted and expected to see rather than what was displayed for you to see… or perhaps, you lived much more as Lyra than as a reader throughout this book… While I was reading your reviews these past few weeks, I saw all the signs of your tendency to WANT to be extreme in your reactions and emotions MORE than actually really dissecting. In reading a Golden Compass, (not so much in HP) if something was supposedly evil, you dismissed the good motivations behind it to insult the whole thing… if something was supposedly good, you worshiped it and spazzed about it, and ignored a bit too much the silver lining presented too you even while quoting it in a dismissive manner as in "yes, that's a sign that he's not perfect, though it is not perhaps a bad thing" and I couldn't help but wanted to yell at you to NOTICE the nuances in what you just wrote/read instead of SPAZZING on how evil or good or awesomely mindblowing something is or how you can't even function anymore (I think that was also partially the cause for you to dismiss the signs… since Pullman dropped bigger revelations in each chapter, it was easy to just focus on those instead of details. It is certainly credit to Pullman for such brilliant writing. Perhaps I was merely too sensitive when I was young. Actually to clarify, I was sensitive to emotions and subtlety in characterization in literature as well as hints more so than to underlying themes or theological message. Although I knew about the Church controversy and knew as I read what message Pullman wanted to convey, I have to say that unlike you, I very little focused on it. I was a bit too young to ascribe importance to those. So in a way, I was dismissive as well. All I thought at the time while reading the passages related to Church was "Oh, this is one of those things adults focus and debate on. It is there but Lyra's story interested me more." I was indeed a child.)
    Of course, I didn't yell at you because I wanted to give you as natural of a reading experience as you could… no one helped me notice things and i wanted you to have the choice of not noticing things. Except for once, I didn't comment here since the time I wrote recommendations for books for you to read in my wife's stead but I was sorely tempted with the GC recaps. So as you can see if you're reading this, this outpouring is the result of my restraint.

    • ELFCY says:

      In general, I guess you were right… though Pullman is all about nuances… Lord Asriel would be Gryffindor, but gone dark and ruthless rather than caring… or perhaps the young Tom Riddle that everybody loved except for Dumbledore who saw more to him but also much less darker and selfishly evil, though certainly self-entitled (by the way, I am NOT comparing myself to Dumbledore.. May that unrivaled man rest in peace.) Mrs. Coulter would be not only a regular Slytherin, but Lord Voldemort, but still not without the hope for remorse, good intentions, and occasional unselfish feelings still underlying there, somewhere… You know, in a way, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, are alike in the fact that because they believe in their cause, they also believe that they are justified to do whatever in their path towards that cause, be it manipulation, lying, or trampling on others in a cold way and care only when things become personal. Even Lyra is a very little bit like that, stoic even when lying, or faced with rather upsetting or difficult choices for any other child of her age. Lyra, of course, is different in the fact that she has natural ethics regarding individuals and how to treat them, and a bigger heart that is capable of compassion, and caring for things not related to herself only which makes her care perhaps more for the actual action and stepping stone rather than the supposedly good grand result and destination that is to be achieved by walking up the steps.
      In a way, perhaps I sort of envy the way you are reading since I tend to be able to predict a bit too well when reading since I tend to notice all the subtle hints dropped (though I have to say JK R is a master at revealing hints and details such as names, and objects I notice without being able to predict what they will be used for). While this makes my reading experience more full of tension as I am aware and waiting throughout my read for the conflicts to be revealed to be more than what they are, I feel that your way of reading brings more passionate "OMG… I EVEN CAN"T… I LOVE YOU… THIS IS THE MOST WONDERFUL/FUCKED UP/EVIL THING EVER" responses… Although I felt what you wrote when I read, it was perhaps much more toned down, except for the main climaxes and reveals in the books.
      Should I give up noticing every detail and foreshadowing when I read? Reading your recap, I start to wonder if I would enjoy it more that way rather than live in a sense of dread and suspense with few respites throughout a reading…
      Hmm.. this was quite a lengthy ramble, even more so than I predicted. Pardon any incoherency. I wrote this more out of the overwhelming feelings I felt while reading your recaps than any deep thinking through. As I said, I FELT more than I was analysing this book like I would back when I took English classes since I read it as a story rather than a piece of literature to be analised so all my feelings and descriptions about the characters might be very shallow.

      This trilogy is probably one of my most memorable ones every from childhood… it made me a life-long pullman fan, he's brilliant. Even his Sally Lockhart series was brilliant even though it wasn't fantasy.

      Mark, thank you for all those recaps! They were extremely enjoyable to read.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        Aw shucks, thank you!

        I think that reading this is such a pedantic manner splits up these realizations. When you recall a revelation or slight hint about Lord Asriel, for you it might be two hours ago. For me, it's three weeks ago, and it is much more difficult to remember such things. That's why these reveals might also be more dramatic. I feel like I started this book a lifetime ago, and this is far less of a natural way to experience a novel.

        Thank you for this wonderful comment. 🙂

    • hassibah says:

      Oh I totally felt this way about Asriel right off the bat. I had no idea what exact form his screwed-up-ness would take of course but I definitely didn't trust him for a second, you're not alone.

  6. hayley says:


    thank you mark. *goes to read the review because DFJPAEIGPITNGI*

  7. monkeybutter says:

    I like the excitement of going off into another world, and Lyra's determination to see this through, alone (it's hard watching her break down and cry), but I laugh and cringe and roll my eyes through Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter's operatics. I appreciate the added depth to their characters by showing that they still have strong feelings for each other — complicated feelings — but, my god, the dialogue. For instance:

    “Then come with me, away and out of this world!”

    “I daren’t–”

    I feel like they should be cartoonishly exclaiming "John!" "Marsha!" Pullman creates fantastic worlds, but his romantic dialogue feels so over the top. The schmaltz. I can't take it. I just WTF throughout their scene. And the daemons petting and caressing each other is such an odd image, even though it makes sense since they're souls.

    But, yay, new worlds!

    • hassibah says:

      Totally agree about Pullman and romance-esp how he thinks adult men and women interact. I was just reading the review from two chapters ago and Asriel's mad scientist monologue I'd totally forgotten about and thinking how awesome it was (awesome in terms of storytelling because obvs he's an ass) then getting to this and just ugh.

      I'm glad someone else said it cause otherwise feel like an ass cause since I haven't been around to comment on all the good parts and then just show up to complain. I like this book, I swear!

    • theanagrace says:

      my god, the dialogue. For instance:

      “Then come with me, away and out of this world!”

      “I daren’t–”

      Heh, like in 'Singing in the Rain' when they're showing the newly-dubbed movie;
      "No! No! No!"
      "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
      "No! No! No!"
      "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

      That's what I saw in my head for that precise part, just now as I read it. 😀

      • monkeybutter says:

        This comment made me giggle the first time I read it, but I watched Singin' in the Rain last night and I laughed so hard at that scene, partly because I couldn't stop thinking about Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter. Now the two are going to be forever linked in my mind! THANKS.

    • Partes says:

      I actually kind of like it, but that's more because I barely ever feel like male and female romantic dialogue is done well. Because I'm invested in the two as characters I kind of got in to the drama of the whole thing. I mean, these two are larger than life themselves, and one of them just split the universe open; it's a pretty theatrical setting, and so I liked that they chewed the scenery a bit.

      Any less and I'm not sure I would have believed they care for the other. While they both stay contained in just about every other situation, around each other they just kind of… melt, and for a moment show their true feelings. Sort of. Maybe.

      I also liked the image of the two daemons, especially since it's vaguely creepy but also kind of romantic (wat wtf am I typing). Their souls were touching with affection, and that demonstrated their intimacy even while their human selves are engaged in a power battle of words.

    • Ellalalalala says:

      I so completely agree with you!
      "…lie about your lovers – yes, I know about Boreal, and I care nothing… "
      OH PLEASE. Who even talks like that?

      So glad you picked up on this, because it really did jolt me out of what was otherwise a spectacular denouement!

  8. Jenny_M says:

    Now that I actually have time to come up with a comment over the sound of my squees, all I've got is:

    “Because if they all think Dust is bad, it must be good.”

    That, right there, is one of the greatest lines ever written. Thinking about all the possibilities of what Dust is and does and could be still sends a shiver down my spine, even rereading it for the umpteenth time.

    • hummingbrdheart says:

      And even divorced from the context of the series, etc., the idea that if a bunch of people say X is bad but they are bad people, maybe X isn't actually bad, that's such a phenomenal game-changer for so many children (i.e. me).

      • Jenny_M says:

        YES. I wish, wish, wish I'd had these books when I was in fundie school and my teachers were telling me awful, awful things about gay people and feminists and other "sinners" of that ilk. It would have made it easier to stand up and say, "you're wrong" to them, which petrified me at that age, because I'd also been taught that Authority was Not To Be Questioned.

    • eleniel says:

      YES, omg. I totally flailed at that line, because that is what I had started thinking in the previous chapter. I was like, Pan you are saying exactly what I'm thinking!

  9. bradycardia says:

    She turned away. Behind them lay pain and death and fear; ahead of them lay doubt, and danger, and fathomless mysteries. But they weren’t alone.

    So Lyra and her dæmon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky.

    When I read this last line, I just had to read it aloud. It is just … inspiring! Despite all the horror and pain that Lyra has gone through, she and Pan catch sight of something greater than themselves. She has always followed the path she believed to be right, at risk to herself, and here she takes it to a whole new level.
    Awesome! (in the "full of wonder and awe" sense that seems appropriate here given the religious [under/over] tones)

  10. Becky_J_ says:


    I have been waiting for weeks for you to get to this chapter!! One of my favorites of the whole series…. filled with confusion, beauty, evil, sadness, and a little bit more confusion.

    I loved the daemons of Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel. Their interactions were much more interesting than anything their humans were doing. This may be the only time in this book that I actually had a moment of pity for Mrs. Coulter. Only a small one though.

    "So Lyra and her daemon turned away from the world they lived in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky."

    This is my absolute FAVORITE last line in a book. Ever. And yes, you're right…. BEST CLIFFHANGER EVER.
    And as much as you weren't prepared for this book…. you are even less prepared for the next two! I CAN'T WAIT.

  11. Roonil wazlib says:

    I am so glad you decided to read this series. I knew you would love it! I remember the ending of this book being so unexpected and tragic when I first read it in like 5th grade. Anyways, I can’t wait for you to read the next two books because that’s when shit gets real – you ain’t seen nothing yet, Mark!

    Also thanks for posting two reviews today! That would have been a horrible weekend cliffhanger, plus they greatly improved my train ride this afternoon!!

  12. stellaaaaakris says:


    No, seriously, I was feeling incredibly uncomfortable that we would have to wait a whole weekend for the final review, like physically uncomfortable and anxious, despite the fact that I've read the entire trilogy almost a dozen times and actually just finished TAS last weekend.

    How awesome is Lyra? I wish I was more like her. I think Lord Asriel respects Lyra. If you are as much of a badass as he is, you would probably recognize some of those qualities in others, especially your own daughter, no matter how much of an ass you actually are. He may not really want her as a daughter but I think he recognizes that she is pretty special.

    Mark, I enjoyed how in the midst of all the mind melting revelations and twists, you take the time to comment on Lyra's clothing. I'm pretty sure she's been bundled up pretty well. Her furs smell but they're warm if I remember correctly.

    I LOVE parallel universes. I'm so excited for you! And The Subtle Knife is my favorite of the trilogy for…various reasons. I know others disagree but it's the book I always took to school with me when we had enforced reading time (which was AWESOME).

  13. TreasureCat says:

    Second review today? WE WERE NOT PREPARED <3
    This is probably the most confusing yet visually and morally (on Lyra's part) beautiful ending to any book I have ever read. What a brave, incredible young girl, and seriously what a great role model. LYRA NEVER STOP BEING A BAMF? KTHNX, LOVE YOU LOTS. It all just makes you want to start the next book immediately.
    And never have I been so excited for one of your prediction posts Mark, your capabilities as a ~true seer~ will be put to the ultimate test!

  14. Partes says:

    Everything's changed.

    The thing that really struck me was that Pullman never actually states that Roger is dead; we know it only from the explosion from the Aurora, and Lyra's cluthing of his body. Somehow that made it strike harder for me, and underlined another point: Roger's fate was horrible, and crushing for Lyra… but something of immense importance just happened, and to most people all they will know is that at this day in the North Lord Asriel opened the gateway to other universes.

    But not to her. The desire to go into another world is fueled by the knowledge that Roger is gone, and she wants to stop something like that from happening again; she wants to help Dust.

    I'm so happy you're reading this trilogy Mark. 🙂 YOU ARE NOT PREPARED.

  15. Hanah_banana says:

    OH GOD IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL :'D Like everything has gone horribly wrong, Roger is dead when we all (well, I did at least because little ten year old me was naive and innocent and thought happy endings were the only option) thought he'd survive and Mrs Coulter is there and a hole has been ripped in the universe and Lyra is far from everyone she trusts and Asriel just ripped a hole in the universe and Lyra just decides I CAN DO SOMETHING AWESOME and walks into the sun of another universe. Most beautiful image ever or most beautiful image ever? <3

    Can I just say again I'm so happy you're reading these books? They are SO PERFECT for you and so perfect for me and all of us and everything is BEAUTIFUL AND WONDERFUL and the flaily squee I had today at seeing you'd written another post today may be even greater than the amount of flaily squee I had when you used to post Harry Potter reviews. THIS IS THE BEST EVER.

    And I cannot wait for you to start Subtle Knife and to read your predictions and LAUGH AT HOW WRONG YOU ARE GOING TO BE. YOU COULD NEVER BE PREPARED.

    • RoseFyre says:

      "And I cannot wait for you to start Subtle Knife and to read your predictions and LAUGH AT HOW WRONG YOU ARE GOING TO BE. YOU COULD NEVER BE PREPARED. "


  16. burritosaurus says:


    Maybe you can find Iorek!!!!

  17. Shanna says:

    I can’t wait to see what kind of wacky predictions you come up with!

    The Subtle Knife was my favourite book in the series – looking so forward to reading your reviews!

  18. Ryan Lohner says:

    It's not every first part of a story that leaves open the possibility of ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING to happen in the next part, but that's exactly what we've got here. What will the world Lyra is journeying to be like? How many worlds will she enter over the rest of her journey? How many new allies and enemies will she make in the process in these other worlds?

    It's actually pretty dangerous to write like this, as once the real story is revealed there's a very real chance of disappointment that things didn't end up as big and grand as you were expecting from such an open-ended cliffhanger. But this, let me just say, lives up to expectations and then some.

  19. monkeybutter says:

    Wait, I have a question for you Mark. Does your copy of the book have a section entitled "Lantern Slides" at the end? And if so, will you be talking about them? They're not terribly important, but they're a nice glimpse at the characters that Pullman added to later editions (or at least to mine).

  20. roguebelle says:

    This! This is the scene that just makes my heart ache, and it's a large chunk of the reason I am so.goddamn.fascinated with Asriel and Marisa. There is clearly SO MUCH between them, so much history and competition and tortured emotions and gaaaaahhh. I adore complex antagonists, and these two are about as twisted-up as you get.

    And it's the reason I will never forgive them for ending the movie early, because omg Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman would've knocked this out of the freaking park and they FILMED IT but did not INCLUDE IT. >.< It upsets me almost as much as the missing parts of the Sirius/Bellatrix duel in OotP.

    • rumantic says:

      Their relationship fascinates me too. I wish there was more HDM fanfic 🙁 Most of it all seems to be several million variations on the same theme (which we haven't got to yet so I'll ssssh).

  21. Ronni says:

    SO NOT PREPARED!!!!!!!

  22. PeacockDawson says:

    Uhm, wait. Doesn't Roger fall off a cliff? Kind of an important bit that you missed there?

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      Does he? But isn't Lyra holding him in her arms? There are those lines about his limp body, right?

      • hazelwillow says:

        As I understood it, Lyra was hanging on to Roger while Stelmaria was holding Roger's daemon. Part of the cliff slid away beneath Roger and Lyra, and they fell to a lower ledge. The drop brought Roger too far away from his trapped daemon and this broke their bond, releasing a ton of energy through Asriel's apparatus and opening up the sky. The shock of separation killed Roger and his daemon.
        So sad. I wonder how Asriel and Stelmaria were going to do it anyway. They can't separate far enough themselves to pull another human apart. Ug why am I thinking about this… 🙁 🙁 🙁

    • monkeybutter says:

      The snow on the cliff slides down, but I think he just dies in her arms after Asriel hooks up his daemon to the aurora. I'm pretty sure she's holding his body throughout Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter's soap opera.

      • theanagrace says:

        I personally always read it as; Lyra and Roger are trying to get away even though Salcilia is still being held by Stelmaria, Lord Asriel hooks up the machine to Salcilia, Lyra and Roger get too close to the edge of the cliff in their confusion and desperation, the weak edge gives way and they slide down to a lower shelf, the fall suddenly puts too much distance between Roger and Salcilia and tears them apart abruptly and they die, the energy of the tear travels up the cable into the Aurora and rips it open.

        A lot happens in that very short time, but that's how I see it in my mind. And it's a shitty way for Roger to die, because as he died, all he felt was terror and fear and the horror/sadness/love of pulling too far from your daemon.

        • monkeybutter says:

          I prefer your reading of it; Roger jerks in Lyra's arms when he gets far away, and Asriel never sliced them apart, so it must have been the separation that released the energy, and then they died. From how painful being separated from your daemon is described, it sounds like a terrible way to die.

    • rumantic says:

      I always thought his daemon fell off the cliff, and that he died from the shock of being severed so roughly, but I think I missed the part where Asriel had her. I'll reread tonight anyway.

  23. nanceoir says:

    Random question — Was this the first time Pantalaimon is called Pan in the book? I feel like it is. Maybe?

    • PeacockDawson says:

      I really don't think so. Lyra has been calling him that the whole time.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        DO I MISS EVERYTHING. I didn't notice this at all!

      • nanceoir says:

        You're totally right. I don't know why I missed it earlier, particularly because I was weirdly conscious of it. Excuse me while I go facepalm over there.

  24. @cleolinda says:

    I KNOW RIGHT. It just breaks my heart. I think they really did get what the books were about, and Philip Pullman was very supportive, and Chris Weitz fought for YEARS to get the directing job, and then THIS HAPPENS. THEY TRIED, Y'ALL.

  25. Emma says:

    I think Asriel and Marisa love each other as much as they themselves can love- they're both so clever and decietful and evil that I think for them they have each other as equals., Marisa spends her whole life lying, and I think it's a relief for her to have Asriel to see her for who she really is, even if that person is bad. They don't have to pretend with each other. And because of that, they know they can't trust each other, and they will go up against each other, yes, and love each other at the same time and just take it as a given that the other will treat them as an ememy if the situation requires it. Their wickedness is bigger than their love, and they just accept that.
    This is just my opinion, but this is how I see these two.
    They're such a great, 3 dimentional couple! You'll enjoy the next two, I promise:)

  26. pennylane27 says:


    RIGHT? It's think that's the feeling you're supposed to get, that there are a lot of things that we and Lyra do not understand yet. There are some adult stuff going on that obviously Lyra has no way of knowing, and yet she makes the brave decision of going into a new alternate world she knows nothing about. And I think it's awesome. I know I probably would have died way before Lyra got to this point, but faced with this situation, I like to think that I would have entered the "portal" too.


  27. Kate says:

    So… continuing on the religious views on daemons from the other chapters of daemons and dust being a link to sin, would they have gotten the name 'daemon' to refer to their soul animal from the bible? And if so do all people in the world refer to their soul as a daemon? And do other religions agree that they are a source of dust and sin? FOOD FOR THOUGHT (unless I am missing something obvious here.)

    I remember how when I first reached the end of this book and felt awed and impressed and then when I saw the end of the film with the ~Sunset Ending of Hope~ and all I could do was laugh out loud. Oh New Line, you putz.
    For some reason I have never read past the first book though, so I am nervous that the next two wont add up to this one in terms of awesomeness. *fingers crossed!*

    • fantasylover120 says:

      You laughed? I did a whole half hour rant. My Mom who saw the movie with me (but never read the books) just sort of left me alone while I seethed at how they ruined the movie due to censorship. And no one will ever convince me that wasn't censorship. They were deliberately trying to appease a certain group of people who were never going to see the movie in the first place.

    • Starsea28 says:

      Basically what New Line needed was Peter Jackson to tell them "No, we're not going to cut out the most important part of the book." I feel sorry for the director, really. I remember hearing a radio interview and he was really passionate about the book and the film.

  28. leighzzz31 says:


    I don't have the book with me right now so I can't comment extensively but I do want to say that the image of Lyra leaving the world she was born in behind to go into the unknown and fight for what she believes is good, really gets to me. I caught myself tearing up last time I read this because it's such an unbelievably beautiful image and message.

    Also, Mark, just want to say, I'm really glad you've come to love this book as much as I do. It's weird how invested I've become to you liking things I love in your reviews. I honestly can't wait to see what you think of what's coming. And, just because it has to be said : YOU ARE NOT BE PREPARED!

  29. theanagrace says:

    A SECOND REVIEW!!!!! Yaaaaay!!!!!

    I randomly decided to re-check the page one last time before I left work and there it was!!! I'm sooooo relieved! (especially after Partes, Saphling and Nanodragora had me convinced you were going to troll us on Monday, lol)

    The ending of this book is possibly the most suspenseful I ever read as a child. I remember being absolutely crushed that Roger had died, and confused by Lyra's parents and excited for Lyra to explore the new world. I don't remember how long it was for me between the two books, but I know it was longer than a weekend.
    I am sad I won't be available for the liveblog, I haven't managed to be a part of even one somehow, but I will be on a plane at that exact moment, heading to L.A., stupid vacation. 😛

    I'm glad you enjoyed this book Mark.

  30. tethysdust says:

    I've been deliberately not commenting, though I've been reading the reviews, since it has been so long since I've read these books. I really liked the Golden Compass, though most of the details about it have not really lingered in my mind. I think maybe the series was less tailored to my particular interests than it is to yours.

    That whole plot twist, where Lyra ended up betraying her best friend to be her father's sacrifice, was my favorite part of the book. I don't mean that I _like_ all the suffering, but that particular plot twist was incredibly effective and memorable for me.

    Now I'll go back to hiding in my "not spoiling Mark" cave until you finish the next book :).

    • flootzavut says:

      "That whole plot twist, where Lyra ended up betraying her best friend to be her father's sacrifice, was my favorite part of the book. I don't mean that I _like_ all the suffering, but that particular plot twist was incredibly effective and memorable for me."

      Yes, for me too. Very effective and memorable and moving.

  31. frogANDsquid says:

    Oh mark…you are not prepared

  32. Me, too! I can't say why for spoiler reasons, but I love Spyglass best of all. I'd rate them in the order of 3, 1, 2, although maybe the Subtle Knife reread will change my mind.

  33. Danielle says:

    "And now Pullman is rapping me on the head with a rolled-up newspaper, scolding me for thinking he’d write characters without depth as he’s done here."


  34. eleniel says:

    YAY surprise second review! I stopped commenting on every chapter because I never really had anything to add and was content to read everyone else's comments. But now I find I have a few things to say.

    First of all: "I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHEN GROWN UPS ARE TALKING." RIGHT??? At first I was so frustrated because I didn't really understand what they were talking about or why. But when you put it that way, I realize that's probably purposeful, because it's probably exactly what Lyra is feeling. Now, after thinking about it some more, I wonder if they always had feelings for each other (Mrs Coulter certainly still seems to be in love with Asriel, based on her daemon's reactions), and they just had very strong disagreements about what should be done about Dust and how. This final conversation makes it seem like they are almost on the same side.

    About their daemons… I love how Pullman uses them to show how characters are really feeling. During the conversation between Asriel and Mrs Coulter, the descriptions of their daemons actually kind of creeped me out. I felt like I was witnessing something very intimate that is none of my business to be watching. It made me uncomfortable, IDK!

    The last two pages, holy crap. They are just. What an amazing ending. When Pan points out that, if all these terrible people are frightened of Dust and want to destroy it, maybe it's actually an awesome, good thing? I was like YES, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS THINKING. It was like they had finally found the right key and the door opened and the way forward became clear. Daemons settle into a form that suits the person's personality; Dust is what makes a daemon settle; Dust is also where knowledge and free will and passion come from; Dust is what makes people human. It is a great thing. To destroy it would destroy humanity.

    I love this book.

  35. xynnia says:

    I sense that there will be RAGE in this liveblog. XD I mean, we all know the film adaptation is pathetic in comparison to the book, and after remembering just how beautifully crafted the book is… yeah, this will be a disappointment.

    But I can't WAIT for you to start The Subtle Knife! 😀

    • sabra_n says:

      For me it was less rage, more snoring. Good lord that movie was mutilated, to the point where it wasn't telling some alternative story; it was barely coherent.

  36. rumantic says:

    I agree! I don't know if I should say why just yet. But I definitely prefer knife and spyglass, though NL is indispensible for setting up purposes, etc.

  37. @Leenessface says:


    I love the ending to this book, ugh. Turned away from the world they were born in, looked toward the sun and walked into the sky. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

    A few people are discussing the whole "how exactly did Roger die", and I agree with people that the daemon was too far away, Roger and Lyra accidentally slid away and the distance caused Roger to die/the sky to open, etc. That was always the interpretation I had.

    I'M EXCITED FOR SUBTLE KNIFE. Though I'm more excited for Amber Spyglass. I love AS.


  38. Brieana says:

    My brother's like that. 321 for him. It's 123 for me.

  39. Patrick721 says:

    Yeah, when I first read this, I remember exactly where I was. Summer after 3rd grade, I was sitting by the pool with the book, and I just finished it and…I'm pretty sure the ending didn't hit me that hard, but I remember thinking that finishing the book, with such a twisted ending, like it shouldn't have been sunny out or something.

    And Mark, you are so unprepared.

    I honestly think these books are better than Harry Potter. Partly because they have ARMORED POLAR BEARS WITH OPPOSABLE THUMBS THAT HAVE MACHINES TO HURL BURNING SULFUR AT THEIR ENEMIES, WHICH IS JUST ABOUT THE MOST METAL THING EVER. THAT'S MORE METAL THAN DETHKLOK. And all the deep subtext and stuff, and the fact that they start out really well written, whereas the first HP books were a bit iffy.

    Also, I just realized this. Lord Asriel's name is similar to Azrael, the Angel of Death in Judaism and Islam. (I think. Anyone from either faith can feel free to fact check/correct me on that.)

  40. Brieana says:

    The members of bridge to the stars are reading The Hunger Games now!
    Obviously, I suggest you don't go on the website unless you've read all the books.

  41. Brieana says:

    "Did my original comment disappear? That hurts my feelings."

    Glad that my comments did eventually show up. I was beginning to feel like a ghost.

    • hazelwillow says:

      Oh… I wonder if anyone here has the text from the UK version. I have the Canadian version, which is probably the same as the American, I don't know… But in it, it's quite clear to me that Roger dies from falling away from his daemon. Lyra falls with Roger, and the shock of separation kills him. The separation is what opens the hole in the sky.
      Anyone's version different than that?

      • Becky_J_ says:

        That's interesting…. for some reason, I have always assumed that Lord Asriel cut away Roger from his daemon in his machines…..I never thought that it was from Roger falling. But now that I reread it, it does appear that he dies from falling on the sliding cliff.

  42. Ryan Lohner says:

    I was happy to check my copy of The Subtle Knife and see that it has fifteen chapters, meaning that it should now fit perfectly into three weeks. Unless Mark wants to tackle more of My Immortal…

  43. Mauve_Avenger says:

    Well, I am supremely late to this party (curses to my unconventional sleeping schedule), but I thought I'd post something interesting about the title of this series that sort of becomes relevant in this chapter. I don't know whether or not the epigraph to this book is up for discussion yet, but I think this is interesting even without the added context.
    His Dark Materials…

    "…the Aurora flickered and dimmed, like an anbaric bulb at the end of its life, and then went out altogether. In the gloom, though, Lyra sensed the presence of Dust, for the air seemed to be full of dark intentions, like the forms of thoughts not yet born."

    "[Stelmaria] slashed left-right with needle-filled paws, and her snarling roar drowned out even Lyra's cries. Both children were fighting her, too; or fighting the forms in the turbid air, those dark intentions, that came thick and crowding down the streams of Dust–"

    This led me to do a cursory search in my e-book, and it appears that Pullman was very careful that the word "materials" only be used in context of Lord Asriel's research:

    "…One of the conditions of [Lord Asriel's] exile in Svalbard was that he give up his philosophical work entirely. Unfortunately, he managed to obtain books and materials, and he's pushed his heretical investigations to a point where it's positively dangerous to let him live…"

    "…There he dwelt, a prisoner acting like a king.
    Then he set about assembing the materials for a laboratory.
    With furious concentration he sent for books, instruments, chemicals, all manner of tools and equipment. And somehow it had come, from this source or that; some openly, some smuggled in by the visitors he insisted he was entitled to have. By land, sea, and air, Lord Asriel assembled his materials…"

    Lord Asriel has spent the entire book assembling the materials needed to create the dark intentions in the sky that would herald the creation of a path to a brand new world.

  44. flootzavut says:

    You can now see why people kept telling you you were not remotely prepared, huh?? 🙂

    "…a cataract of glory."

    I know it's appalling what goes on, but I adore this particular little phrase in Pullman's description of the aurora.

    Given your reaction to this book, I'm thinkin' you're gonna love the other two as well… 🙂

  45. flootzavut says:

    The first one is my favourite, too.

  46. Starsea28 says:

    I was so infuriated by the ending of this book that I stopped reading, which has never happened before. I felt like Pullman had sacrificed Roger like you'd sacrifice a pawn in a chess game, and although I thought Lyra was amazing, I didn't start reading His Dark Materials again until The Amber Spyglass was about to come out. Which says a lot about how angry I was.

    BUT NEVER MIND THAT! The Subtle Knife! My favourite Pullman book! Yes!

    • hassibah says:

      Hmm that's weird your reply isn't showing.

      Anyways yeah, I'm not gonna lie: I liked and enjoyed this series for the most part when I read it and recognize it's well crafted but I'm not really in love with it or a huge fangirl for Pullman or anything. But I mean the problems I'm picking on here are really tropes that exist in like 99% of the entertainment I consume.

      I was looking forward to eventually reading the Sally Lockhart books though, damn.
      I've never thrown a book across the room. Yet. Usually when I run into something that deeply annoys or offends me I just put my "what the fuck were they thinking" hat on and keep going. I only stop completely when I when bored.

  47. Persona says:

    And we all should have guessed what Lord Asriel was planning and soon as it was said that he pretty much invented that huge intercision blade thingy. How would he have been able to invent a way to cut a person daemon without testing it out someway himself.

    And next book looks like it's going to be awesome ^_^ Parallel universe! Yay!

  48. MichelleZB says:

    I think this is a great ending–one of the best twists.

    I felt sorry for Mrs. Coulter in this chapter–it showed a whole new side of her character. She's clearly still in love with Lord Asriel, and you get the impression he doesn't feel as strongly the same way. He's against everything she stands for, or thinks she stands for, and you get the sense that she keeps away from him because he's like a drug for her. He gets her to do things she regrets. She has to walk away (and go be evil in a different way).

    And Lord Asriel? Is a jerk and a murderer. But he fights for righteous causes? I mean, he's off to kill the Church or whatever and save humanity, etc. But he killed a kid in the process. Was it worth it? OH GOD I DON'T EVEN KNOW. SO CONFLICTED.

  49. monkeybutter says:

    Here Mark, I'll c+p from the site I linked since you can't go to it.

    Sometimes it becomes possible for an author to revisit a story and play with it, not to adapt it to another medium (it's not always a good idea for the original author to do that), nor to revise or "improve" it (tempting though that is, it's too late: you should have done that before it was published, and your business now is with new books, not old ones). But simply to play.

    And in every narrative there are gaps: places where, although things happened and the characters spoke and acted and lived their lives, the story says nothing about them. It was fun to visit a few of these gaps and speculate a little on what I might see there.

    As for why I call these little pieces lantern slides, it's because I remember the wooden boxes my grandfather used to have, each one packed neatly with painted glass slides showing scenes from Bible stories or fairy tales or ghost stories or comic little plays with absurd-looking figures. From time to time he would get out the heavy old magic lantern and project some of these pictures on to a screen as we sat in the darkened room with the smell of hot metal and watched one scene succeed another, trying to make sense of the narrative and wondering what St. Paul was doing in the story of Little Red Riding Hood – because they never came out of the box in quite the right order.

    I think it was my grandfather's magic lantern that Lord Asriel used in the second chapter of The Golden Compass. Here are some lantern slides, and it doesn't matter what order they come in.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Jordan College, like a great clockwork mechanism with every part connected ultimately to every other, and all slowly and heavily ticking despite the fur of dust on every cog, the curtains of cobweb draped in every corner, the mouse dirt, the insect husks, the leaf skeletons blown in every time the wind was in the east… Rituals and habits whose origins no one could remember, but which no one wanted to disturb. The great wheels and the small, the pins and the levers all performing their functions despite the wheezing and the creaking and the groaning of ancient timber. Sometimes the individual parts (a servant or a Scholar) forgot precisely what their function was in relation to the whole, but never that the whole had a function; and it was enough to do again what you had done yesterday, and every day before that, and trust to custom.

      Lyra hanging about the Castle Mill boatyard. Each Gyptian family had their particular patterns for decorating their boats, based on simple floral designs but becoming more and more complex and fanciful. Lyra watching old Piet van Poppel touching up his boat one day and laboriously copying the rose-and-lily pattern he was using, and then back in her room trying to paint it on her second-best dress before realizing that it would be better embroidered. And very soon after, having pricked her fingers countless times and snapped the threads and lost all patience with the task, throwing it away in disgust, and having to explain its absence to Mrs. Lonsdale.

      Lee Scoresby, attracted north by the money being made in the gold rush and making none, but acquiring a balloon by chance in a card game. He was the lover of a witch from the Karelia region, briefly, but she was killed in battle – "She spoiled me for women younger'n three hundred"; but he had plenty of lovers all the same.

      Asriel among the bears: "Iofur Raknison, I'm going to be entirely frank with you," followed by a string of confident and overbearing lies – had he noticed the bear-king's doll-daemon, the clue that he was unbearlike enough to be tricked? Or was it just luck? – but he knew the bears well enough. He was very like his daughter.

      Mrs. Coulter selected her lovers for their power and influence, but it did no harm if they were good-looking. Did she ever become fond of a lover? Not once. She could not keep her servants, either.

      Lyra had a crush on Dick Orchard, the older boy who could spit farther than anyone else. She would hang about the Covered market gazing at him hopelessly, and cover her pillow with clumsy kisses, just to see what it felt like.

      Every year the Domestic Bursar at Jordan would send for Lyra – or have her tracked down and caught – and have a photogram taken. Lyra submitted indifferently, and scowled at the camera; it was just one of the things that happened. It didn't occur to her to ask where the pictures went. As a matter of fact, they all went to Lord Asriel, but he would never have let her know.

      Benny, the pastry cook at Jordan, whose Dæmon was male, sitting in the warm cabin with his cousins the Costa family and listening to the story of how Lyra hijacked their boat, and their demand that someone discipline the brat. Their indignation was too much to bear without laughing. In return, he told them about how she rescued a starling from the kitchen cat, only for it to die anyway, and of how she plucked and gutted it clumsily and smuggled it into the great ovens, hoping to retrieve it when it was cooked. But the chef sent her packing, and in the bustle the starling was sent to table with the rest of the Feast, and was eaten with relish by the Master. The truth came out when the doctor had to be summoned to deal with the poor man's suffering. Lyra was unrepentant. "It wasn't for him," she said. "He's obviously got a delicate stomach. I could have eaten it." She was banned from the kitchens for a term. "Seems to me we got off lightly," said Tony Costa.

      Serafina Pekkala on her cloud-pine would find a still field of air at night and listen to the silence. Like the air itself, which was never quite still, the silence was full of little currents and turbulence, of patches of density and pockets of attenuation, all shot through with darts and drifts of whispering that were made of silence themselves. It was as different from the silence of a closed room as fresh spring water is from stale. Later, Serafina realized that she was listening to Dust.

  50. lindseytinsey says:

    Ok I just finished the book today and I AM SO CONFUSED! What the hell is exactly going on between Asriel and Coulter????? Grrrrrrr! On to the next book now dammit! Best ending ever though, really.

  51. Ash says:

    This is good isn’t it, and not even normal good this book is phenomenal and I can’t imagine how the next two books won’t be. I’m excited.

    Good luck with the prediction, I can barely give a guess as to what will happen next. I mean damn, there’s almost nothing to work with; we are entering a whole new universe (how awesome is that), anything we have learnt may not apply, and apart from Lord <insert rage face and splutter> we can’t really say Lyra will ever see any of the other characters again. This is about as new new territory can get without being a different series.

    I will make one prediction though; we can never be prepared for whatever Pullman will throw at us after this point, we weren't even prepared for this one book. I mean dear lferoigerngdlkjrr, the main character/protagonist just lost, she bloody well lost (I’m saying this and it's both amazing and terrifying), and she got up and strolled, like a boss, into a different universe.

    My body is ready, my mind is not prepared, and the rest of the weekend will not move fast enough.

  52. fakehepburn says:

    "I UNDERSTAND ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL. I have never been so confused by a book during Mark Reads. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON. Why do they act this way? What am I missing? What is with the unbelievable sexual tension that ripples through the pages?"

    Straight-up, my 10-year-old brain could not fucking handle this stuff. I was prepared to accept almost every level of otherworldly action in these books — the alethiometer, daemons, the armored-bear fight, the witches, the parallel-universe scheme — but when it hit human drama, I was just like "what the shit is this?"

    Oh childhood. Although, with books meant for grown-ups (that is, not YA fiction) I've encountered plenty of stories centered solely on emotional turmoil between characters, and every once in awhile it's just like "you know what this needs? A fucking polar bear fight."

  53. Kelly says:

    Clearly it's just me, but I enjoyed Golden Compass as a movie on its own. I saw the movie BEFORE I read the books though….but one good thing it did was make me run right out and buy the trilogy and read it because I did like the movie. So although I would have LOVED to see a Golden Compass that would be faithful to the book, I can separate the two and enjoy them both.

    one question I do want to ask you Mark….having read the first book, do you like The Golden Compass or Northern Lights better as a title?

    • Kira Wonrey says:

      This is exactly was happened to me! I saw the movie and I bought the books right after I came out the cinema, because I loved it…

  54. @ronnachu says:

    I just read the whole book review in one evening, I've enjoyed it so much! Reliving one of my favorite books ever, which I actually read for the first time when I was ten years old (and honestly, I don't know how I wasn't forever scarred by it — oh wait, I TOTALLY WAS, even if I didn't understand many of the implications until I started my many re-readings), has been amazing. I'll never understand how this trilogy isn't more famous and revered as a masterpiece, both for style and content. How Pullman manages to transmit everything he does in such a powerful, poetic way is beyond me, and if you've fallen in love with this book, I can't wait to see you explore the *universes* that are to come in the second and third books (in my opinion, each one is better than the last, so there's that =P).

    Thank you for this experience, and enjoy your reading!

  55. Andrew (Chagrin) says:

    Oh wow I didn't check back and was waiting for Monday to talk about this chapter.

    Okay well. So. I was INCREDIBLY PISSED OFF by the reunion of Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter. It just made so little sense to me that I struggled to finish the last chapter of this book which I had loved. Ultimately, I didn't start The Subtle Knife until months later because it left such a bitter taste in my mouth. And as much as it was mostly an irrational response, there was logical reasons it bothered me too: thematically, it didn't seem to gel with everything that came before it, and the fact that she turned down his offer left me kinda wondering.. well what was even the point? How did it affect the story in any way? It just felt like a twist for the sake of a twist and annoyed the shit out of me.

    But as I've said in several comments, at some point – hopefully I'll have time before your readthrough of the trilogy ends – I want to go back and reread the books from a more detached perspective and see if softening my reactions to things won't give me a better grasp on the issues that caused me such consternation.

  56. hassibah says:

    Oh that's not a spoiler. I was just looking forward to trying that series out and I'd never heard the sexism complaints before, but it won't stop me from reading them. The religious themes in these books just aren't that interesting to me and I liked the companion books a lot so I thought I'd enjoy a lot Pullman more if I read some of his other stuff. Weirdly enough, finding out there are problems/isms in a book or movie makes me want to check them MORE not less. It's actually the sole reason I watched Sherlock.

  57. Ellalalalala says:

    Mine didn't have the lantern slides (want want want!), but it had 'Appendix: Some papers from the library at Jordan College' – about 15 excerpts of Lord Asriel's notes. Does yours have that at the end?

  58. Ellalalalala says:

    Man alive, I need to get me one of these interweb-on-phone things (to go with my dinosaur bridle) so that if I go away for the weekend I can keep abreast of SPECIAL BONUS REVIEWS! Coming home late on Sunday night to MOAR MARK READS does not make going to bed easy, I can tell you!

    What a great finale! (Marred, for me, by the Asriel/Coulter histrionic dialogue because really, what was all that about?) Devastating about Roger, thrilling about new worlds… And I love how Lyra/Pan's they-say-it's-bad-but-they-suck-so-it-must-be-good revelation is so perfectly childlike. Simplistic and logical and straight up. And then, yeah, we're totally gonna find Dust before Asriel and then we'll figure out what to do, yeah? No probs. Lyra and Pan are on the case.

    Cannot. Wait. For. Subtle. Knife. And the best thing is, I get to read the first chapter now!! 😀

  59. Meg says:

    i like the ridiculous over-the-top dialogue between lord asriel and mrs. coulter, because lyra gets straight to the point and her speech is plain even when she's lying her ass off, so it's a nice contrast. as the story progresses it's fun to compare lyra's close relationships, which are so real and honest, with those of the adults in her life who behave and talk like assholes. they don't actually get it, and she does, and it shows in the way they talk to each other and about lyra.

  60. steph says:


  61. steph says:

    thanks mark 😉 <3

  62. Quincy Morris says:

    Okay. I re-read the first 138 pages. This book is not that good. They keep getting worse. Trust me on this.

  63. Stephalopolis says:

    Wow. Just… Wow.

    Reading that last chapter… I seriously thought I was missing a few paragraphs out of my version. Coulter just..shows up? And they're embracing? SO MUCH CONFUSION!!! Glad to see it was actually written that way though.

    Although I'm not as in love with the book as you are, Mark, it was still very very good. I'm not getting the sense that it was "written just for me", but it was an enjoyable read and I can't wait to get started on the second book. Perhaps this time I can actually keep up with you! 😛 (I say that every time, and I never do…)

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