Mark Reads ‘The Subtle Knife’: Chapter 15

In the fifteenth chapter of The Subtle Knife, I am filled with endless terror and dejected sadness. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Subtle Knife.


I don’t even know what to say. I thought the loss of Lee Scoresby/Hester was bad enough.

If anything, it’s a sign that this war against God is not going to be easy, will not be without casualties, and that nothing and no one is safe anymore. And we still have an entire book left to go.

I must admit that, through all the sadness and shock and horror at the events I just read, Pullman is remarkably talented. There are so many moments in chapter fifteen that bring about such strong emotions in me. Hell, at one point, I even had to walk away from the book for about twenty minutes because it just felt so real to me. This book had drawn me in with its ideas about God, but I am hooked because of the characters. It’s that simple. I’m growing to love what Pullman is telling me about the Abrahamic God, but I cannot ignore that it is his detailed, empathetic writing that has me hooked. Lee’s death felt so personal because it was like losing an uncle. Christ, HE IS NOT EVEN REAL. WHAT AM I DOING.

Still, it’s so sad when Serafina “hears” Lee’s call and leaves to go help the man because we know it’s a pointless effort. She will discover his body and she will have wasted time. Maybe what happens here would not have happened had she stayed behind. What’s done is done, though. There’s no sense in thinking about what could have been.

This chapter is also drenched in Will’s loneliness, the longing he feels for his mother, and to hear the approving words of his father. Never did I think I’d be wishing for a character to have their own dæmon, but that’s how I feel about Will. That’s all I want for him.

I was also surprised that Pullman would introduce a new narration focus when he switched to Lena Feldt, a witch who offers to go scope out the oncoming group of people who are behind the group of witches. It’s the first time we see the dæmon-less zombies that Mrs. Coulter commands, too, and they closely resemble the way that people act when they are attacked by Specters. Lena feels an instant revulsion for Mrs. Coulter (BECAUSE WHO WOULDN’T), nearly drawing her bow and sinking an arrow in to that waste of space (SHOULD HAVE DONE IT), but instead chooses to go invisible to spy on her.

I’m sort of done whining about characters overhearing others and learning of crucial information because it just has to happen sometimes and being invisible in the same room is pretty awesome, so you’ll hear none of the sort out of my mouth. Plus, I just want to talk about the incredibly awkward and mind-blowing revelations we learn from Lena’s spying. First of all, Mrs. Coulter can control the Specters now. GREAT. THIS IS AWESOME. But really, what does this revelation matter when Mrs. Coulter begins to seduce Lord Boreal? Jesus, it is so painfully awkward and bizarre to read. Do people’s dæmons always show affection when their owners are being affectionate? I mean…am I being a bigot here. This is just weird to me! But I suppose I don’t care, mostly because I just want a dæmon of my own.

Anyway, the whole point of this is that Mrs. Coulter is clearly trying to get Lord Boreal to tell her why he’s chasing after Will Parry. It seemed really obvious to me that this was all that she wanted. But I suppose Lord Boreal was caught up in the moment, too taken in to realize he was being played for a fool. So he finally tells her what she wants to know, admitting that Will has the subtle knife. Also known as Æsahættr.

WHAT. WHAT. So it’s not Lyra! Will has what Lord Asriel needs! THIS IS TERRIBLY EXCITING, RIGHT?

No. NO, IT IS NOT. Because in the span of a page, everything turns completely awful. Mrs. Coulter poisons Lord Boreal, turns to face Lena and outright says she knows how she turns invisible, Lord Boreal dies, and Mrs. Coulter orders a Specter to suck the soul out of Lena’s dæmon.

SOMEONE HOLD ME, PLEASE. THIS IS TOO MUCH!!!!!!! And it’s still not even the worst thing to happen. Using her control of the witch’s dæmon as a bargaining device, Mrs. Coulter gets Lena to spill everything she knows about Lyra, Will, and, unfortunately, what the witches’ prophecy is. Which….CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS?

“Name her! You are saying everything but the most important thing! Name her!” cried Mrs. Coulter.

“Eve! Mother of all! Eve, again! Mother Eve!” stammered Lena Feldt, sobbing.

THIS BOOK WILL DESTROY ME!!!!!! Oh my god, HOW CAN THERE BE A SECOND EVE???? Does that mean Dr. Malone is going to be the one to “tempt” Lyra somehow? HOW DOES THIS EVEN WORK. Oh, seriously, THIS IS MAKING MY BRAIN HURT. This book…THIS BOOK.

Just when I try to comprehend this mind-melt of a revelation, Pullman allows the reader to experience “death” by  Specter, as one descends on Lena:

Her last conscious thought was disgust at her life; her senses had lied to her. The world was not made of energy and delight but of foulness, betrayal, and lassitude. Living was hateful, and death was no better, and from end to end of the universe this was the first and last and only truth.

Thus she stood, bow in hand, indifferent, dead in life.

WILL I EVER BE OKAY AGAIN. I mean…is this the bleakest sentence ever written in the history of words? THIS IS SOME GOTH SHIT, Y’ALL. And I poke fun at it because it seriously, this is just some fantastic writing. How else would Pullman convey this experience to us? I mean…not only is this horrifying, but as Mrs. Coulter controls the Specters and we learn she can make them fly, I suddenly realized that there was no possible way that this could end well.

The Specters head towards Will and Lyra’s location and the narrative switches to Will, who continues to feel that he is quickly losing hope at ever getting out of the mess that he’s in. I just cannot imagine a more depressing scene in this book than when Will thinks about his mother’s affection and silently cries to himself in that cold night air. I feel for Will, at the very least because I understand what that sensation is like.

Unable to sleep and still consumed by the pain on his hand, Will begins to climb the mountain, as if some unknowable emotional force is pulling him there. In hindsight, it seems that perhaps there was a force pulling him there, for once Will reaches the top and surveys the world below, a hand grabs his right arm. The struggle is fierce, but Will is unable to grab his knife or break away, and I suddenly feared the worst. One of the men with Mrs. Coulter had captured Will, and this book was going to end with his capture. But suddenly, the man’s grip weakens, and he asks to see Will’s hand.

His other hand let go at once, and he sat up.

“You’ve got the knife,” he said. “You’re the knife bearer.”

ONLY ONE PERSON WOULD SAY THAT. OH, VICTORIOUS DAY! John Parry found the knife bearer AND IT IS HIS SON. THIS IS AMAZING. And John Parry begins to heal Will’s wound with BLOODMOSS. oh my god this is so perfect and everything is wonderful and gorgeous.

John Parry wastes almost no time in telling Will that he has a task he must complete and as quickly as possible. And holy cow, WHAT AN INTRODUCTION:

“We’ve had nothing but lies and propaganda and cruelty and deceit for all the thousands of years of human history. It’s time we started again, but properly this time…”

I love this. Lord Asriel is restarting human history. What I can’t figure out is what exactly they are going to do differently this time. How do they fight the battle against the Authority and replicate the original Fall? Mrs. Coulter wanted to prevent Lyra from doing this at all, so I’m confused about the order of what’s going to happen. However, John Parry finally reveals what Æsahættr is:

“They had no idea that they’d made the one weapon in all the universe that could defeat the tyrant. The Authority. God.”

I can’t even deal with this book. Now I see why people could potentially be turned off by this trilogy, but now I’m completely enamored with it. So: Will has to kill God? Lyra has to be Eve? Dr. Malone is going to be the serpent? I DON’T GET THIS. Oh, I don’t even care that I don’t understand this anymore. THIS IS SO EXCITING. Even further, we get a much more explicit statement about what this war is about:
“Every advance in human life, every scrap of knowledge and wisdom and decency we have has been torn by one side form the teeth of the other. Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stranger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit.”

Oh, just marry me already, book. Given the currently political climate in the United States, I could not imagine a more relevant point to be spoken by a character in this story. This fight is not even about religion, or even the belief in God. This is about both social warfare and theological rebellion. In the sense, what Pullman is writing here is certainly modern, as people still act in the name of God or God’s teachings to bring about acts of supreme horror. At the same time, by making this about the origins of God, he’s dealing with the being Himself. There’s only so much you can do going after the people involved with a belief system. People will be selfish and oppressive and bigoted and downright malicious independent of any religion or ideology, and we have to accept that. Instead, it seems that Pullman is saying the source itself is flawed, and that even if there were no people acting out atrocities in the name of God, this system would still be inherently immoral.

Ugh, I love where this is going so much.

We are simultaneously so close to the discovery of the obvious. Will is completely resistant to the idea of doing anything with the knife, but his father points out just how brave he has been up until this point. It’s a subtle affirmation, unknowing of course, that Will’s father is proud of him. Which is what makes the next section all the more heartbreaking to me: John Parry looks upon his son, sees those eyes full of curiosity that remind him of his wife, and he has a flash of recognition, suddenly aware that he is standing before the impossible.


SERIOUSLY? SERIOUSLY? It wasn’t enough that Lee Scoresby died, or that Lena was turned into a zombie, or that Lord Boreal was poisoned, but now Will finally meets his father, only to watch him murdered right in front of him? BOOK, WE ARE BREAKING UP. THE ENGAGEMENT IS OFF. YOU JUST SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.

Understandably so, Will is in in such a rage that he grabs the witch’s dæmon. I know that he doesn’t understand not to do this naturally, but it’s still a terrifying moment. He screams at the witch, telling her that he had just recognized his father and she had killed him. I’m kind of fascinated by the idea that she doesn’t really explain why she did this aside from saying she loved him. It’s an issue of two cultures colliding: We know to refuse a witch is tantamount to the greatest offense imaginable, but would Will ever understand that? I wonder if this will be explored in the future.

Well, it won’t be explored by Juta, I mean. Because she immediately kills herself with her own knife. SERIOUSLY THE BODY COUNT FOR THIS BOOK IS RIDICULOUS. At this point, like Will, I was simply in shock. How do you process this? With all of the new information about the war against God, how am I supposed to deal with the tragic irony of Will Parry? All I know is that Will has now met his father, and, as his mother told him, he will take up his mantle to finish what he started. It makes the goodbye so painful to read, too, because all his life, Will just wanted the comfort of his father. And now he’ll never get it.

jesus goddamn christ

The whole situation gets even weirder when Will returns to camp to find two angels waiting for him, known as Watchers. (Are all the rebel angels known by that? Don’t answer that.) I found it a tad callous that they didn’t intervene to save Jon Parry’s life because his task was “over” for them. DUDES. Not gonna win me over to your side with that. Still, Will has agreed to do what his father ordered him to do, so he decides to follow along with the angels after getting Lyra.

I sort of figured that it would be inevitable that The Subtle Knife would end on a cliffhanger. When doesn’t the second part of a trilogy do this? But as will comes upon the witches that have either fallen to their deaths or suffered the zombification from the Specters, he realizes that Lyra has been captured. It becomes clear to me now that Lee Scoresby appears to have saved Serafina’s life by giving his own, and that by distracting Will, John Parry betrayed Lee’s order to protect Lyra.

The last thing we read from The Subtle Knife is a moment of shock to reflect our own. I hear nothing the angels say. Lyra is gone. That’s all that matters.

But this is a book full of complexion and difficulty, and it’s obvious that I should have expected this sort of tragedy. Lord Asriel has undone the world, and he is about to destroy the most powerful being in all of existence. They were going to be met with violent force any way you look at it, especially when you consider how willing the Magisterium was to use violence in The Golden Compass.

This entire experience has obviously been a great deal of fun for me, and it’s no secret that I’m planning on ruining the sanctity of marriage by taking The Subtle Knife up to the alter with me. I love that even though I’m (so far) on board with the idea of a theological rebellion, I adore this book because of the characters and the story. I don’t know how the deaths of Lee Scoresby or John Parry will be dealt with in The Amber Spyglass, and I must admit I am sad that this journey will continue on without them. But their characters both played such an integral role in the story, so that makes their deaths anything but pointless. None of this could have happened without them.

As we move into the final book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, I am excited to further discuss theology, to find out what the hell is going on, and continue to be impressed by the wonderful world-building. Are we going to see more universes??? Well…I’ll save that for my prediction post. I’ll start The Amber Spyglass on Monday, July 18, and it looks like it’ll be a nearly two-month journey. UGH. SO MUCH READING AHEAD.

Oh, right, I need to do this.

The Subtle Knife is ;kaa ;KLdsjf ds;hf ;akafjs f :@OI$R#W:DSLJKF D:FKLJDS FLJDSH D:lfkj :LKDFj a;kjasdas;dfjkl.

Happy reading!


About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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154 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Subtle Knife’: Chapter 15

  1. Tilja says:

    This time I'm commenting first because I'm off to try and get tickets for Harry Potter. I'll read and comment properly later.

    First chapter of TAS will give you plenty of room for all the predictions you'd ever want to make. I say this because I want to read a kilometric list of predictions on Monday from you. This will be the last book, don't hold anything back, go wid with predictions! I think that's the best part of the reviews I want to see after all 😀

  2. Partes says:

    I agree. j;lpokasfl;S.ljvchuir335kldauhjnfd

    As tempting as it is to make that my whole post, as it pretty much encapsulates my thoughts on this ending, I want to address the issue of Mrs Coulter; in this chapter she said that she would now kill Lyra, as her daughter's destiny as replacing the origin of original sin sort of puts them at odds. I remember wondering when I got to this chapter just why she had captured her, then. Surely there would be no better way to end her than on that mountain top, to allow the creatures who devour consciousness to consume Eve? But clearly Mrs Coulter has bigger plans. Will she try and give her over to the Magisterium? Throw her off a rock after saying goodbye, in her last and first personal act as a mother? These are IMPORTANT AND HORRIFYING QUESTIONS to me.

    John Parry's death was something we all knew was coming, as he admitted he was sick in his introduction. So that it managed to shock me like it did is a testament to the strength of that scene. Will's longing for his father ended in tragedy, but he at least was acknowledged by the man he adored from a distance before he lost him again, even if they didn't know each other's identity at the time. Will's actions gained praise, not just his genetics, and I found it nice that he got to show his worth and bamfness to the person he wanted approval from.

    The Spectre scene was horrific, though. THEY CAN FLY. Beings that feed on consciousness needed someone to make them aware of their capabilities; this makes sense, and explains how the Spectre controlled by Parry reached the zeppelin in the last chapter. I wonder if they have other latent abilities that a strong will could unleash, though?

    This book's been a fun ride to go through with you all, and I can't wait for the next one. I do feel we should embark onto The Amber Spyglass appropriately, however.


  3. stellaaaaakris says:

    I am literally BURSTING with spoilers I want to yell at you all because, clearly, YOU EN'T PREPARED. But I will restrain myself.

    I think it makes sense for daemons to interact with one another when their counterparts are seducing each other. They're the people's souls. Can you imagine, you're being seduced by somebody and their SOUL is clearly not in, that their daemon is staring into space or filing its nails or something? Wow, way to kill the mood.

    Lena makes me sad. Her last thoughts are heartbreaking. But I wonder, did she ever really make herself invisible, or at least partially invisible? She tested herself out on men who don't have daemons and, from Bolvangar, we've seen that adults who've had their daemons cut away are lacking curiosity. They just may not have cared that a witch was strolling among them. Lord Boreal/Sir Charles had his eyes closed and was facing the other direction. And Mrs. Coulter, we know, can be quite the actress.

    And now we finally have real hints about the controversy. Can't wait til you get to TAS, oh the discussions we all will have!

    • flootzavut says:

      I assumed she used the same technique that Serafina used when she killed the witch Coulter had been torturing back in TGC. So, not invisible, just a way of not being noticed. I figured that (given Mrs C was fooled by this in the previous book) either Serafina was better at doing it, or Mrs Coulter had, having been fooled once, found some way of alerting herself to the witches' presence. Either by attuning her own awareness, or… oh I don't know. Anyway, like I said, I assumed Lena was using the same technique, it's just that for some reason it didn't work that time.

      Thought: maybe the Spectres could not be fooled and they alerted Mrs C?

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        Oops, I mistyped! I agree, it was the same invisibility spell that Serafina did. I just wanted to know if it really worked, if she was able to hold herself in the proper frame of mind. She didn't really have anybody to test it on like I said because adults with their daemons cut away aren't curious or truly just can't care anymore. I kind of figured she wasn't as good at it as Serafina Pekkala, but I want to know for sure because that's me and she didn't have anybody to really test it on who would react appropriately except Mrs. Coulter.

        Although I wouldn't put it past Mrs. Coulter to figure out how to detect a witch's invisibility spell. But I really don't want to give her or the Specters any more powers than they already possess. She taught them to fly after all; I don't need them to be a messenger service/bodyguard for her as well. 🙁

        • flootzavut says:

          Ahhh right, now I see where you're coming from.

          And yes, Mrs Coulter using the Spectres that way is pretty horrific now I come to think about… I feel like I should apologise for coming up with that idea now…. *shudder* that goes to show I was not thinking when I typed that, as it isn't till you pointed it out that how awful that idea is has come home to me…

          Yeah it would be interesting to know for sure. Mrs Coulter does mention her invisibility, which makes me think that Lena did hold herself in the frame of mind but either isn't that good at it, or Mrs C. is able to see through it, or some combination of both. Otherwise I'd imagine Coulter would have made some comment on Lena failing at doing it.

          I can understand wanting to know for sure, I'm often like that! 🙂

  4. cait0716 says:

    I don't like this book nearly as much as the first one. I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to put my finger on why, and I just can't do it. The characters are interesting and wonderful, especially Will, Lee, and Mary (I will never forsake you, Oxford Comma). The pace is a lot slower than the first book, but that doesn't generally bother me (American Gods is one of my favorite books, after all). The character POVs switch more than in TGC, but I'm loving ASOIAF, which has a similar structure. The theology appeals to me. Though it does bother me that absolutely no one seems to question whether they should kill God. Well, except Mrs. Coulter, who is clearly evil. The book is pretty black and white, and Pullman's beliefs come across very strongly. It's not that I don't agree with him, but I'd like to see one or two sympathetic characters disagreeing with him. I think it would make his argument stronger.

    I like all the pieces of this book, but somehow they add up to less than the whole for me.

    I will say that the entire Juta Kamainen story line feels very forced to me. She gets introduced back in the second chapter, but her sole purpose is to kill John Parry at that moment. It feels like she got added during the editing process because someone didn't want Parry to just die from his failing heart. She never gets developed beyond her relationship to John Parry. It's like she's Juliet, except Romeo is still in love with Rosaline. She's bound and determined to have her tragic romance, and her entire existence just makes me mad.

    I am excited for The Amber Spyglass to start. I haven't ever re-read that book, partly because I don't like the way this book ends. I am looking forward to discussing it and reading everyone's thoughts.

    • eleniel says:

      I agree with many things you say! I definitely liked TGC better, and also have a hard time pinpointing why. One thing that annoys me is how Lyra takes a major back seat to Will; at first it makes sense, but when their relationship doesn't really even out in terms of being active, I was disappointed. If they're treated evenly in Spyglass, though, I will forgive it, since it was important to establish Will's character (which is super interesting!) in this book.

      It's interesting to me that Asriel is Not a Good Dude but he seems to be on the side of Right here… this is one of the reasons I think things are more complicated than they appear to be right now. The major thing with me is, even though humans having knowledge and an interest in the world is clearly a good thing, Dust/angels/etc. kind of creep me out, the way they've intervened and are basically controlling humans to some greater end. Even if it's for humans' own good, it's… IDK, something feels not right! So I'm willing to wait and see where things go on this.

      Totally agreed about Juta. I'm not sure what the point of her was. I mean, it's ironic that she was taken away from the world Parry/Grumman was in so that she wouldn't kill him, and ends up killing him anyway, but… why? What does that mean to the story, other than a way for Will's father to be taken away from him a second time?


    • flootzavut says:

      I like the book (though TGC remains my favourite of the trilogy), but I know what you mean. I doubt Mark will feel this way, though he could surprise me, but I adored TGC (or Northern Lights as I know it), liked TSK and felt very let down by TAS.

      I think you may have a point that it weakens his argument that no one even questions that the authority should be killed – it is very black and white on that point, and I think the preachy tone that comes through in parts of the story (as a whole) really spoiled the later books for me, although as I said elsewhere, Pullman's ability to make me care for his characters and be engrossed in his storyline even while I disagree with the way lots of things are portrayed, etc, is impressive.

    • monkeybutter says:

      It's funny, I actually like the pace of this book. I can't really choose a favorite between the two, but I agree that this one could have been better. It could definitely use characters who question Lord Asriel's rebellion and its philosophical underpinnings, but I don't take all of his words or Grumman's as Pullman's (though Grumman seems closer) because they aren't completely sympathetic characters. I think it's black and white between Coulter and Asriel, but the sympathetic characters inhabit the grey area in between as they try to figure out what's going on and what path they should take. I guess it's because I never really cared for Coulter or Asriel that I was convinced neither of them are right.

      I think I'd rather Grumman/Parry had died of his heart condition than Juta making a couple of sudden appearances, though.

    • t09yavors says:

      I think Juta was also introduced to add to Parry's character in addition to being around to kill him. The book specifically says that it is deadly to spurn a witches advances so the fact that Parry stays true to his wife no matter what is really important to know in my opinion.

    • notemily says:

      Yeah, this book is my least favorite of the trilogy for reasons I can never quite articulate. I think one reason is that i love Lyra's world SO MUCH, and none of the book takes place there.

      • notemily says:

        (I just realized that some of the book does in fact take place there. BUT THERE IS NO OXFORD AND NO ARMORED BEARS, IS WHAT I AM SAYING.)

    • Ellalalalala says:

      It's really interesting to read your comment and the responses to it, and strange because I haven't felt at all that this is black and white. I don't have a very clear articulation of my thoughts on this yet (currently formulating!), but it's felt quite black-and-whitely grey to me. So it's fascinating to read such different impressions of the same source material!

  5. Wang Fire says:

    There's a fascinating parallel with the last chapter of the Golden Compass. Both books end with the protagonist finally reaching their father on top of a mountaintop only to encounter tragedy. And Mrs Coulter gets intimate. Ugh, she's an evil, evil woman.

    I loved this book so much more the second time around. The story leads into the next book but I can see more clearly how it stands as an individual chapter of the trilogy. The forefront of the book is Will's journey while Lord Asriel's plans remain as a constant piece of the background. Lee, John and the witches all have their own character arcs that come together by the end.

    I forgot so many details that I was taken aback by the great reveals. We have a far greater understanding of what is going on than at the start of the book. I was also much more touched by the death of Lee and Hester. I can't believe I didn't care for him the first time around. (I was also under the impression that Iorek made an appearance near the end of the book so yay for reading comprehension.)

    Now, if you excuse me, I just got my copy of "Once Upon a Time in the North" so I need to read.

    • notemily says:

      After this book was published I saw Pullman speak at a local bookstore, and he said the #1 complaint he got about it was WHERE IS IOREK. He promised that the next book's first words would be "King Iorek Byrnison." (LIES)

  6. Darth_Ember says:

    Juta bloody deserved to die. And I'm not sorry for saying so. A culture in which it is considered even remotely acceptable to hunt down and kill someone because they refused your advances is a culture that glorifies rape. It's that simple.
    No matter the gender of the participants.
    No matter if the powerful party tries to play the 'ah, woe is my vastly long and passionate life, it's simply TOO MUCH to expect me to have some basic decency and restraint' card.

    The witches have power; the men they seek, generally, do not.
    Juta's perspective is nothing more than "if you refuse to have sex with me, I'll hunt you down and kill you."

    I'm glad she died.
    /My anger, let me show you it.

    • cait0716 says:

      This! All of it. I hate her with a fiery passion. She doesn't make sense. Her motives and actions are equally awful and the only reason she exists is to kill John Parry, both in the book and in her own mind. She's an awful character

      • ghaweyriao says:

        I have to agree with both of you. The way John Parry died was really infuriating, especially coming so soon after Lee's death, which was so moving. But Lee's death had some sort of meaning; he died while trying to fight; it had purpose. John Parry died because . . . why? Because Pullman needed the father figure to die? And yes, what Juta does is completely morally inexcusable. I actually really like the idea of the witches having a system of morality different from humans; but the fact that it's never really acknowledged that witch culture *is* fucked up (the way, say, it's made obvious that Asriel does terrible things despite his justified rebellion).

    • Partes says:

      I feel like Juta was added to give consequence to Jopari's travel through a world which wasn't his own; what eventually killed him wasn't just sickness, but the barbaric act of someone whose thought process was so different from his that he couldn't have possibly predicted how it would come back to haunt him.

      Juta is a horrible person, but I think that's very different from a horrible character; if we could ever really accept her motivations, it simply wouldn't have the same impact. I don't think she was a representative of witch culture overall, either, considering the condemnation she received from her sister. She was zealous, arrogant and self-righteous, qualities which together this series has condemned many times, and that was the undoing of both herself and the man she claimed to love.

      I liked the subplot. But hey, that's just me.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        I think that Pullman makes it clear in that chapter that we're not supposed to like Juta, but I don't think he does nearly enough to establish that the other witches aren't supposed to like her, either.

        That scene gets all of about five paragraphs, and in it it's said that the elder witch who'd blabbed to Serafina Pekkala was compassionate because she "knew about love," implying that it's a fairly common way for the witches (or at least the younger ones) to feel. Even when Serafina Pekkala advises her to forget Grumman, it's largely worded in terms of "this guy is important to our mission so you'd better not screw this up," rather than "killing someone because he doesn't reciprocate your love is wrong."

        • Darth_Ember says:

          Exactly. It just comes across, as you said, as though her target is inconvenient to them but they perfectly understand "But he rejected me! I want him dead!"

          • FlameRaven says:

            My impression was that they all regard Juta as basically a teenager witch. And teenagers make rash and stupid decisions all the time. When you love someone and they reject you, you're upset and furious with them, and being a witch seems to crank that up to eleven. It seems like the older witches get over this and realize that these emotions, like everything else, are something that will pass, but for younger witches they're immediate and painful. If Juta were older, maybe she could have gotten over her anger, but she's not, so she makes a bad decision. The older witches are sympathetic because they remember the fiery emotions of youth, but are also fairly certain she'll get over it eventually.

    • Meg says:

      I'm not in love with the Juta storyline, but to be fair, it's…not about sex in this instance. She was in love with him and he didn't feel the same way because he loved someone else. She killed him and herself because she thought she couldn't bear to live without him, not because he wouldn't sex her. Still indefensible, but not necessarily symptomatic of rape culture within the witches.

      • knut_knut says:

        Just because it's not directly about sex doesn't make it any less creepy, at least to me. The fact that if a witch falls in love with you, you MUST return her love OR DIE is flat out wrong, even if it's not about sex. Maybe Pullman was going for the scorned lover angle, but I think it came off way more predatory than just unrequited love.

        I'm also a terrible person because I just said someone else's culture was wrong 🙁 but at least it's fictional? /fullofshame

        • Darth_Ember says:

          You said it's wrong because it is wrong. Not even "it's cultural!" excuses this sort of thing, especially since it affects people outside that culture, who have not chosen to live within those social mores.

    • flootzavut says:

      Yes, I have to agree. No amount of "it's my culture, dill with it" excuses her for that.

    • Darth_Ember says:

      Addendum to post, because my stupid net decided to drop out on me for hours while I was trying to edit:

      "But I loved him!" is no excuse. None whatsoever. Real love does not coerce. Juta wouldn't know the meaning of love, she's just dressing up her lust in pretty clothing.

      This makes me pretty damn lacking in any willingness to see the witches' side, because refusing a witch being "tantamount to the greatest offense imaginable" doesn't really strike me as an honest cultural clash, or anything Will really needs to "understand" in any way not involving preventing it or punishing those who abuse their power so.

    • Brieana says:

      Yes, I am not a fan of "love me or else".
      Which, by the way, is one of the reasons why I had such a hard time with Christianity.

      • Brieana says:

        Speaking of "love me or else" I am also not a fan of love me or else I'll do something to myself.
        Love me or else I'll crash my car.
        Love me or I'll drink this entire bottle of vodka for you.
        [Can you identify which melodramatic teen dramas those examples come from?]
        Just no.

        • flootzavut says:

          I knew someone at college who threatened to commit suicide if her boyfriend broke up with her. They're now married with two kids and appear happy, but it still concerns me that that is a major basis of their relationship…

          • muselinotte says:

            One of my exes threatened that he would lose the will to live if I ever left him…
            I did a couple of weeks later… not being a fan of feeling blackmailed.
            Haven't met him since then, as he lives in another country, but he seems fine (and alive!) enough…

            • flootzavut says:

              There's just so much wrong with that I can't even…

              Well done you for not being blackmailed. I appreciate some people who make those kind of ultimatums have serious mental issues, but that seems to me like a reason to try and help them to get treatment, not a reason to stay with them…

        • Nightfly says:


          • Brieana says:

            Ding ding ding! One of them is from Skins. In episode 8, Live says to Matty something along the lines of "I'd swallow razorblades just to see you smile" which 1. that was completely unromantic. take that back and 2. how would that make anyone smile?

        • rumantic says:

          Yeah manipulation =/= caring behaviour 0.o

          • rumantic says:

            um that was supposed to be a does not equals symbol. Not a face.

            • theanagrace says:

              You know, I kind of like how the face impacts the statement. It still kinda makes the = into a 'does not equal', but it's also a little cute. Still disappointed and disapproving, but cute. 😀

        • notemily says:

          I had a boyfriend once who said I HAD to talk to him RIGHT NOW or he'd go out and get drunk and "do something stupid." I was like "go ahead." The relationship did not last.

    • Ellalalalala says:

      I agree with you so hard right now.

  7. EmmylovesWho says:

    This book makes my heart hurt. ugh Pullman what do you do.

  8. eleniel says:

    I love that, after how Will is so set on "taking up his father's mantle", and talks to Lyra about how he doesn't even know what a mantle is, at the end of his book he literally takes up his father's mantle. Here we go…

  9. Ryan Lohner says:

    The Amber Spyglass is the longest book of the three, and it completely earns that length, being just as jam-packed with story and characters as the first two. I actually finished it within a week, just because I kept having to know what happened next, and the final fates of all these characters I'd grown to love, especially as the end of The Subtle Knife makes it clear that NO ONE is off limits.

  10. Mauve_Avenger says:

    The alternate name Lord Boreal gives to the knife, teleutaia makhaira, is Greek for "last knife," as Boreal says. Still don't know why it would be called "the last knife," though.

    “Behind him the sentry witch's robin daemon cocked his head, and she turned from the watch she was keeping to see Will clambering up the rocks. She reached for her pine branch and silently took to the air, not to disturb him but to see that he came to no harm.”

    I’m pretty sure my earlier conception of how she came upon Will and John Parry was just “a wild Juta Kamainen appears,” but Pullman actually hinted that she was the sentry witch; it looks like he was very careful that Juta’s daemon be the only robin mentioned in the entirety of the past two books.

    (Something it's safe to mention now: In the tenth anniversary edition of this book, there's an appendix that contains notes written by John Parry/Stanislaus Grumman. He lists Juta Kamainen as the queen of the Lake Visha/Visha Ozero witches. But she's not a Lake Visha witch, much less a queen. In the first chapter she appears, the only noted visitor at the witch meeting is Ruta Skadi (and given that Visha Ozero is halfway between Lake Inari and the Aral Sea, she would definitely count as a visitor). In the same chapter, Juta follows Serafina Pekkala's orders and humbly refers to her as "Queen." It looks like Juta Kamainen lied to him to make herself seem more important and irresistible; it's possible that the Lake Visha witch-clan doesn't even exist.)


    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      Pullman was also pretty careful in making sure that the only mentions of bloodmoss in this book were directly related to either Will's hand or John Parry. Foreshadowing for the use of bloodmoss to cure Will’s hand:

      From Sam Cansino, the fur trader, talking to Lee Scoresby on Nova Zembla:

      “’[Stanislaus Grumman] walked into a trap that fool Yakovlev laid,’ the fur trader went on, “and cut his leg open to the bone. Instead of using regular medicines, he insisted on using the stuff the bears use¾bloodmoss¾some kind of lichen, it aint’ a true moss.’”

      “And he was in some pain from that damn trap of Yakovlev’s; leg laid open, and he was writing the results of that bloodmoss, taking his temperature, watching the scar form, making notes on every damn thing…A strange man.’”

      From Lyra, just after Will realized that his fingers had been cut off:

      “’If only we had some bloodmoss,’ she was saying, ‘what the bears use, I could make it better, Will, I could.’”

      From Stanislaus Grumman, talking to Lee Scoresby in the Tartar village:

      “’[Despite my longing for my wife and son,] my work absorbed me. I sought other forms of knowledge; I was initiated into the skull cult; I became a shaman. And I have made some useful discoveries. I have found a way of making an ointment from bloodmoss, for example, that preserves all the virtues of the fresh plant.’”

      From Serafina Pekkala, talking to Ruta Skadi the day after casting the healing-spell on Will:

      “’And sister, we tried to heal his wound, but we failed. We tried the holding spell, but it didn’t work. Maybe the herbs in this world are less potent than ours. It’s too hot here for bloodmoss to grow.’”

    • notemily says:

      I think it's the same as the phrase "the war to end all wars." It's the last knife that would ever need to be made, because it cuts ANYTHING. Either that or they're implying that the knife would destroy reality itself by cutting it into little pieces.

      Interesting notes on Grumman's papers.

  11. pennylane27 says:

    Perfect description of book is perfect.

    Will read comments and actually comment later, I hate reading from my phone. Also my brain is not ready to form coherent thoughts at the moment. Midnight Deathly Hallows screening + mindfuck that is this chapter = not a good combination.

  12. enigmaticagentscully says:

    "Her last conscious thought was disgust at her life; her senses had lied to her. The world was not made of energy and delight but of foulness, betrayal, and lassitude. Living was hateful, and death was no better, and from end to end of the universe this was the first and last and only truth."

    Man, that passage just gives me chills every time. It is genuinely my favourite piece of writing in this trilogy. Has there ever been such a perfect description of what it feels like to be depressed? I mean I know Spectres do not so obviously equal depression in the same way as Dementors are meant to, but it's still a legitimate parallel IMO.
    This is obviously just my personal experience, but for me, this passage really feels as if Pullman has reached into my brain and taken everything I've felt in my darkest moments and put it right there on the page. It's a terrifyingly familiar feeling.

  13. flootzavut says:

    "I’m growing to love what Pullman is telling me about the Abrahamic God"

    See I think this is what shows that Pullman is a talented writer: I disagree with him on many, many levels, and don't agree with how he's portrayed the church (it may be accurate to some churches but by no means all) and so on, but I still love his characters and his storytelling and the detail of the worlds he created more than enough to enjoy the books. There are a few parts where (for me) the message overwhelms the story, but the fact that I can still enjoy his characters even while I disagree with many of the things he says is the sign of a good writer IMO.

  14. ghaweyriao says:

    In regards to the daemons showing affection: I think partly it's because, as daemons reflect adulthood and the "loss" of "innocence" (as the Magisterium sees it), they're going to be an important part of sexual desire/attraction. Doesn't make it not weird to think about, though.

  15. arctic_hare says:

    Oh, Mark. <3 I love your love for these books. And this is exactly why I was so excited for you to read them, because I knew they'd be right up your alley and you'd adore them the way you do. Alternate universes, daemons, the war against God, all the great characters? Yeah, this was bound to be something you'd dig, and so I kind of flailed happily when you announced your plan to read HDM. I'm so glad my prediction turned out to be right (not that I ever doubted it).

    Lee. 🙁 Still so sad. I always will be. I know exactly what you mean, Mark, that's how I felt after reading that chapter. Years later it still hurts, what is this. You'll probably end up having a similar experience with it, if our mirrored reactions to some stuff in the past are any indication. THEN ON TOP OF THAT, THERE'S THIS CHAPTER. Christ. The description of Lena being destroyed by the Specter is so goddamn terrifying and awful, and fucking JUTA KAIMAINEN, WHAT IS THAT. YOU ASSHOLE. HE JUST REUNITED WITH HIS SON AND YOU KILL HIM. THAT IS SO NOT ON. And Lyra is taken by Mrs. Coulter. 🙁 🙁 🙁 Plus the witches are all dead/Spectered (you're right, Lee did inadvertently save her life by calling her, I remember my first time through I was terrified that Serafina was among the Specters' victims until I remembered "oh right, she flew off to Lee"). The knowledge that they can fly thanks to her is one of the scariest things for me, it reminds me of like… finding out that Daleks can fly or something. They kinda remind me of Dementors, actually, so the thought of those things being able to fly is FUCK NO, DO NOT WANT EVER.

    I've really enjoyed going through these books chapter by chapter with you, the slower pace has made me appreciate them all the more. Looking forward to doing the same with Amber Spyglass! And, I don't know if you've been asked this already, but do you plan to read the two novellas Pullman released afterwards? I think you'd really enjoy them, and they could be tackled in 1-2, maybe 3 at the most, reviews, since they're so short.

    • ghaweyriao says:

      "They kinda remind me of Dementors"

      "That textbook is like a thousand years old! It still refers to Dementors as Ringwraiths!" Really, flying evil spirits bringing gloom and despair is a relatively common trope, isn't it? Is there a more concise word for it?

      • Partes says:

        "Is there a more concise word for it?"


        It's the scientific term.

  16. flootzavut says:

    oh and :

    The Subtle Knife is ;kaa ;KLdsjf ds;hf ;akafjs f :@OI$R#W:DSLJKF D:FKLJDS FLJDSH D:lfkj :LKDFj a;kjasdas;dfjkl.

    LOL *sniggers* 😀

  17. ComputerizedWoman says:

    I love the fact that John Parry refused to sleep with the witch and that is why she killed him. I didn't want him to die, but him refusing to betray his wife by sleeping with Juta Kaimainen even if he is in another universe made me happy.

    • flootzavut says:

      Yes – although I'm not keen on Juta's "you didn't love me so I'm gonna kill you" thing, I love what it says about Will's dad.

      • Patrick721 says:

        It's pretty much him saying "I said 'till death', not 'till I get stuck in another universe'."

        Damnit. Every time I think of anything involving marriage, I hear the Impressive Clergyman in my head. Mawwadge. Twoo Wuv. That dweam wivin a dweam.

        • flootzavut says:

          Oh I wish you could hear my squawk of laughter! That caught me totally by surprise. And I soooooooo badly needed something to make me laugh, so, thank you 🙂

          And yeah, that's pretty cool – he stayed faithful even though, as far as he could tell, one of other of them might as well have died. Gives another really good facet to his character!

          *still chuckling*… 😀

        • Ellalalalala says:

          It's pretty much him saying "I said 'till death', not 'till I get stuck in another universe'."

          If I ever get married/civilly partnered (which is unlikely), I'd like a form of this line incorporated into the vows.

          And also, 'I promise to stick around and keep playing the board game that just sucked you up even if bats come out of the chimney.' Jumanji, YOU HAVE SCARRED ME FOR LIFE.

  18. monkeybutter says:

    And as the golden monkey slowly ran his hands along the emerald serpent again and again, squeezing just a little, lifting, stroking as Sir Charles sighed with pleasure…

    Oh my. It is pretty awkward and bizarre seeing people's daemons in an intimate moment. I had a vague memory of the monkey and the snow leopard, but I somehow completely blocked out the monkey stroking the snake. I think this is the norm for sex (or seduction? or any sort of intimacy?) since it's happened twice now.

    I love this book, too! It went way too quickly, but at a perfect pace. The description of Lena losing her conscious mind after her daemon was drained is poignant. She loses her appreciation of life and the complexity of the universe — her spirit — as her daemon dies. And Mrs Coulter continues to get worse and worse as she continues on what she think is her heroic path. She has no respect for other people's daemons and how they relate to life, and I don't think it's accidental that her daemon's name is never revealed in the books.

    “Every advance in human life, every scrap of knowledge and wisdom and decency we have has been torn by one side form the teeth of the other. Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stranger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit.”

    Can I be your sister-wife (wait, how does the terminology work for different genders)? Because I want to destroy the sanctity of marriage with this book, too. That passage is amazing and perfect, and even though I don't agree with the whole "people do bad things in god's name so let's kill god" plan that Grumman and Asriel have undertaken, I adore the sentiment here. I blame humans for their bad acts, and I dislike organized religion (and most institutions) for enabling unquestioning faith in those bad acts and actors. I can see why, with the idea that man is created in God's image, that Asriel or Grumman would want to take down the Authority to completely upend an unjust and cruel system.

    I forgot one more thing: Will's fight with Grumman reminded me of Oedipus meeting his father on the road, and I was so afraid that Will would kill him in their fight. When he didn't, I was relieved and then completely caught off-guard when Juta killed him. I completely forgot about that bird daemon. It hurts seeing Will lose his father after all that time wondering and searching.

    • barnswallowkate says:

      It's especially awkward because "stroking the emerald serpent" sounds like a really odd euphemism =/

      • cait0716 says:

        How did I not pick up on that double entendre before? Now I can't unsee it

      • arctic_hare says:

        I can't stop laughing at this now, I can't believe I didn't see it before either. SO GOING TO USE THIS FROM NOW ON. xD

      • sabra_n says:

        Hee, I'll put it next to "uncapping the Sharpie" in my list of oddball sexy euphemisms.

      • Becky_J_ says:

        THANK YOU. I thought I was the only one. I literally read this part holding the book out from me at arms length because I was trying to find a way to avoid it while actually still reading it.

        Dear Characters with Daemons…. Please don't engage in any sexual activity ever, because it is just awkward and embarrasing for all of us. kthanks.

      • Ellalalalala says:

        I hate you for making me think these thoughts that now I am thinking and they are hurting my mind's eye and how very could you?

    • samibear says:

      I had the exact same thoughts about the Oedipus thing. Pullman has a remarkable knack for taking readers from complete relief one minute to complete horror the next. I still can't get over the fact that he was killed right in front of Will like that. It's been years, I should be over this.

      Also, this:

      She has no respect for other people's daemons and how they relate to life, and I don't think it's accidental that her daemon's name is never revealed in the books.

      It makes me feel a little bit sorry for her daemon who, to be honest, I've never given that much thought. What must their relationship be like? It certainly can't be as close and natural as the other daemon/human relationships we've seen. I wonder if that's why her daemon is so vicious; if there's not some serious self-loathing going on there…

  19. barnswallowkate says:

    DAMMIT JUTA. I HATE YOU. Before this re-read I'd forgotten about Lee's death in the last chapter, but I always remembered John Parry's death. It was so frustrating to me, partly on Will's behalf (noooo he just got his dad back and now he's dead!) and partly because it felt a little gratuitous, as others mentioned & discussed extensively above.

    LOL forever at the line "Her daemon's little black horny hands were stroking the serpent daemon." THE DAEMON'S HANDS WEREN'T THE ONLY THINGS THAT WERE HORNY AMIRITE LORD BOREAL.

    As a bird lover, I had a hard time reading about the various witch daemons getting eaten by Specters. Poor little birds 🙁

    Mark and Subtle Knife, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a panserbjorne in a baby carriage!

    (Sorry guys, I had caffeine this morning.)

    • flootzavut says:

      "then comes a panserbjorne in a baby carriage!"

      Bwahahahahahahaha!!!!!! Love it 🙂

      The description of the little horny hands is a bit unfortunate, makes me laugh and I'm not sure that was the reaction Pullman had in mind! heh

    • monkeybutter says:


    • notemily says:


      😀 LOLOLOL

  20. Mauve_Avenger says:

    I meant to ask earlier but forgot: Does anyone have the edition that has the Lantern Slides at the end? I know someone copy/pasted the slides for the first book and linked to a message board on where they were all posted, but I don't have that edition and for some reason the website is down for me. I noticed earlier that everything on their [spoilery name redacted] wiki shows up as a fatal error, but now everything else just shows up as 'page not responding.'

    • monkeybutter says:

      I do, and there's one that I'm not sure about (the second one might be a spoiler, but I don't know). They're here but don't read the top if you're worried about spoilers. I guess I'll c&p the ones I think are okay here:

      John Parry and the turquoise ring: how did he get hold of it? You could tell a story about the ring, and everything that had happened to it since it left Lee Scoresby's mother's finger; and you could tell a story about Lee himself, and recount his entire history from boyhood to the moment he sat beside the little hut on the flooded banks of the Yenisei, and saw the shaman's fist open to disclose the well-loved thing that he'd turned and turned round and round his mother's finger so long ago. The story lines diverge, and move a very long way apart, and come together, and something happens when the touch. That something would lead Lee to his death, but what happened to the ring? It must still be around, somewhere.

      All the time in Cittagazze, the sense of how different a place this could have been if it hadn't been corrupted; how easy it would have been not to make the knife, if they'd seen the consequences. A world of teeming plenty, of beautiful seas and temperate weather, of prosperity and peace – and still they wanted more.

      Will and his mother, visiting an elderly-seeming couple in a large house and getting a cold welcome. He was puzzled: he was too young to understand the conversation, the murmuring voices, his mother's tears. Later, all he remembered was the contempt on the older woman's face, the feeling that these two regarded his beloved mother as dirt, and his savage resolution never to let her be exposed to that brutality again. He was six. He would have killed them if he could. Very much later, he realized they were his father's parents.

      Lyra lying awake on the cold rocks, pretending to be asleep, while Will whispered to her Dæmon. How often did she think of that in the days that followed!

      • monkeybutter says:

        The window in Alaska. Natural that the people of the area, if they knew about it at all, would regard it as a doorway to the spirit world; and natural that the other windows into our world should be hard to find, and often neglected. People don't like the uncanny, and rather than look fully at something disturbing, they'll avoid it altogether. That house that no one seems to live in for long, that corner of a field that the farmer never quite manages to plow, that broken wall that's always going to be repaired, but never is…There is such a place on Cader Idris in north Wales, and another in a hotel bedroom in Glasgow.

        Sir Charles Latrom every morning applying two drops of a floral oil to the centre of a large silk handkerchief, which he then bundled and tucked into his top pocket in a meticulous imitation of carefree elegance. He couldn't have named the oil: he'd stolen it from a bazaar in Damascus, but the Damascus of another world, where the flowers were bred for the fleshlike exuberance of their scent. As it developed through the day, the fragrance of the oil rotted like a medlar; Sir Charles would lean his head to the left and sniff appreciatively, perhaps too frankly for the comfort of most companions.

        Cittagazze under the moonlight, deserted and silent and open: the colonnades drenched in soft shadow, the Casino gardens so perfectly clipped and swept, the gravel paths… Every house lit, every door open to the warm night. It was the first place where Will had ever felt entirely safe and entirely welcome and entirely at home. Lonely, yes, at first, but he lived in that condition like a fish in water. He would never know how inconceivably strange he appeared, at first, to Lyra.

        • notemily says:

          I really want to know if Pullman actually found a doorway to another world in a hotel room in Glasgow.


      • Partes says:

        I love Will's scene with his grandparents. He's so damn fiercely protective and caring to his Mother, it's both beautiful and terrifying.

      • @sab39 says:

        Wow, the very last sentence of the last one from The Amber Spyglass that's at the link you posted… wow. I was reading through them at work earlier (don't tell my boss) and I got to that sentence and that last sentence really took me by surprise and hit me right in the heart like a ton of bricks. I literally gasped and my eyes filled up with tears, and I wasn't expecting that kind of reaction at all.

        Most of them I thought were really cool and interesting, but the way that one little sentence could get to me even after so much time since I first read the trilogy is (yet another) testament to the power of Pullman's writing and the characters he's created.

  21. linguisticisms says:

    This is a bit random and pretty tl;dr, but I wanted to share/say this.

    I'm an atheist; I think I have been since I was younger, but I've only started to really comprehend my identity as such recently. For a long time I felt squeezed uncomfortably in the way you are when you're struggling to understand your own identity, and it didn't help that my mother (an on-again, off-again Catholic) frequently insists that when I'm "older," I will realize that I need religion in my life (I have religion btw and her name is Diana Wynne Jones thanks).

    I am not a science person. I have never been nor will I ever be a science person. Evolution (and I think the Big Bang maybe? Wow this is exactly how much high school science I remember) is scientifically proven, so I'm sure it must be true and all, but frankly I don't care about it. It's not interesting! But you know what is? Psychology, sociology, linguistics, literature, the study of human cultures, products of the human conscious. Studying the social sciences affirmed atheism for me.

    Recently I joined tumblr and I got all excited like, gosh I know! I'll follow some atheism blogs so I can interact with people who have this huge thing in common with me! …But no. No, the blogs were mostly angry (and I am trying to grow out of the whole "angry atheist" phase) and almost entirely obsessed with "rationality" or that weird and incomprehensible Science thing. I unfollowed all of the atheism blogs, and when I asked for recs, a couple of people suggested I follow the agnosticism tag. Which is great and all, but I don't deny knowledge of the existence of God or gods, I deny the existence of God or gods, period. I want the chance to exchange thoughts and stories with people who are like me.

    And after reading some of the theological discussions in the comments on here, I think I've finally found that. People like me! Atheists who are nerding out over religion! This is so cool.

    So, thanks, Mark. Thank you for reading His Dark Materials and assembling the reader community you have. It might seem like a silly, insignificant thing to be so glad for, but for me, I think it's helping me feel more secure with my identity and more confident in who I am.

  22. Julezyme says:

    “makhaira” … Tony Makarios … :)))

  23. Brieana says:

    "It wasn’t enough that Lee Scoresby died, or that Lena was turned into a zombie, or that Lord Boreal was poisoned, but now Will finally meets his father, only to watch him murdered right in front of him?"

    Who the hell cares about Lord Boreal? Nobody likes him.

    And I'm with you when it comes to those angels. They should have saved Will's father, not just out of the goodness of their hearts but it would have helped them win Will over. Because, really? "Yeah, we totally let that witch kill your father because he was no longer of use to us, but please do as we say now." That is not how you get an ally.

    • Partes says:

      "Who the hell cares about Lord Boreal? Nobody likes him."

      Well, there was– wait, they hate him…

      I think there was a mention of– nope…

      I'm pretty sure Mrs Coulter and him got on– wait, that's definately not right…

      Oh well. *snicker*

    • Ellalalalala says:

      Re the angels: I KNOW, RIGHT? WHAT THE ACTUAL WHAT?!

  24. I didn't get to check yesterday's entry, and I am really curious for the answer to this question so I'm posting it on this one.

    When Lee dies (tears! tears forever!) in the Alamo Gulch, that was like a massive lightning bolt because, growing up in Texas, OMG THE ALAMO. It's such a huge part of Texan culture; every elementary school class ever spends ages talking about the Alamo, and it continues to be majorly important in high school history classes. So the whole "last stand we know we're going to lose but we have to fight this fight anyway" vibe really comes through to me.

    Do people not from Texas get that same kind of reaction? I am not well versed enough even in American history to come up with any battles that may have been similar elsewhere (all I can think of is Sherman marching on Atlanta, which really is not in any way comparable). Is the Battle of the Alamo even taught outside of Texas, or is it just one of those "oh, yeah, and the Alamo happened" kind of things?

  25. PeanutK says:

    Directly after the tragedy that was the previous chapter, Pullman gives us a massive info dump and plays our emotions for tragedy again. 🙁 It's like being repeatedly punched in the face.

    And I have t say, I LOVE the idea that advances in human knowledge were handed down secretly by rebel angels fighting a cosmic battle. Makes me wonder how epic the battle over our knowledge of evolution would have been, actually. It's like the story of Prometheus giving fire to mankind, but expanded.

  26. LilithDee says:

    OMG HI.


    Lee Scorsby is one of the best deaths in any book, ever. It’s not that other characters don’t die like this in other worlds, but fucking Hester, pressing her broken self against his face and fgjhdfkghdfkgfvncmv there is NO DEATH in writing ANYWHERE that hurts me as much, not even Rue’s, and christgodandhell.

    The Amber Spyglass is my favorite of the three. I CANNOT WAIT to read your coherent and incoherent thoughts about it and I will definitely be sharing mine. Since all of my thoughts on TGC and the Subtle Knife are flavored by having read the whole trilogy, like, a dozen times, I will not post them here yet, because undoubtedly I’d leave some spoiler without meaning to and then I’d be a pariah or something instead of a HUGE EFFING FAN. Seriously.

    Eventually you’re going to get to Neil Gaiman – I know this because, the same way you say the His Dark Materials trilogy MUST have been written for you (I feel the same fucking way, when I read it the first time I just remember thinking, ohmygod PULLMAN KNOWS ME SOMEHOW), your reviews and your choices of what you review are clearly written with me in mind. Yup. ABSOLUTELY.

    The thing I remember most about this chapter is something you didn’t mention, which was Will’s reaction to the whole murder/suicide thing – the fact that he just is completely stumped didn’t make me feel like the issue wasn’t being dealt with, but rather it felt like a commentary on HOW VERY STUPID people can be. It was SO POINTLESS, these two people dying over a misunderstanding about pride and love. There is no further explanation needed. The WTF IS the explanation – people do WTF things and WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT and the only answers you ever get will NEVER make sense. It’s sort of like Katniss’s comment in Catching Fire when Finnick is trying to remind her what happens at the final eight to reassure her that their family members aren’t being tortured, and her response is, “Seven more people die.” It’s ABSURD, so absurd it would almost be laughable, if people weren’t dying POINTLESSLY.

    And… well where my thoughts go next is spoilery so OMG I can’t wait for you to read The Amber Spyglass. I know it’s not a lot of peoples’ favorite, and in terms of story I believe Subtle Knife is the best, but I reread The Amber Spyglass several times a year just because – kdfgfdkjhga. I have to.

    Exactly. I now need to watch Doctor Who, because if you are watching/have watched it and say good things about it, it must be amazing.

    • arctic_hare says:

      I edited your comment because it contained a spoiler for something Mark is going to read. Znex vf tbvat gb ernq Ybeq bs gur Evatf naq nznmvatyl unf abg ernq gurz orsber be frra gur zbivrf naq vf hafcbvyrq. Lrnu, V xabj, vg'f ovmneer gung ur znantrq gung, ohg. Lrnu. (

      • Brieana says:

        So… ner jr abg nyybjrq gb ersrerapr guvatf va Aneavn rvgure?

        rot13 hurts my eyes.

        • theanagrace says:

          As far as I know, nope. He's going to read those eventually.

          Also, am I the only one who almost tries to rot13 keysmashes because I think they're cyphered, and then I realize what they are? . . . Thought so. 😀

    • Ellalalalala says:

      YES YES YES YES YES re: Will's response to Juta. And I liked that the answer Juta gives and doesn't explain is so illogically adult. We all know how illogical child-logic can be ("I smashed his favourite toy because he laughed when I tripped over my shoe-lace, duh!") but it can be quite easy to forget how WTF-y adults can be too. Moreover, REAL ADULTS USE THIS AS A REASON FOR DOING AWFUL THINGS! In some ways, Juta's rationale felt hideously familiar to me (except, you know, the so I killed him part), and it was a relief to have Will be all what?!

      • Ellalalalala says:

        AND ALSO! I like the fact that this flawed rationale for awful behaviour stems around love/"love"/lust, which is such a key differentiation between adulthood and childhood. So it subverts the whole you grow up and gain knowledge of The World and put away the irrationality of youth with a big phat ADULTS BE CRAZY, YO.

  27. Jen says:

    Anyone else think Specters = Dementors? >.>

    • ghaweyriao says:

      Yeah, this got mentioned upthread. I feel like there should be a term/trope for this sort of creature (Dementors, Specters, Nazgul, etc.) but I can't think of it.

      • Darth_Ember says:

        I thought, but couldn't find anything better than vampiric wraiths. They may not drink blood, but they sure as hell drain the life and goodness from humans and the world.

  28. drippingmercury says:

    First of all, Mrs. Coulter can control the Specters now. GREAT. THIS IS AWESOME. But really, what does this revelation matter when Mrs. Coulter begins to seduce Lord Boreal?

    I heard, one time a Specter kissed Mrs. Coulter AND. IT. DIED.

  29. Ellalalalala says:

    No. NO, IT IS NOT. Because in the span of a page,
    everything turns completely awful.

    Mark, you couldn't have said this any better. What the HELL is this book doing to us all?? HOW CAN IT BE FINISHED?!

    It's weird, I think (think; jury's out) I liked it better than Northern Lights, but I can't figure out why because in some ways I feel like it never actually started. It was almost like a series of oh god, what next? How can this fit together? How can this be redeemed? and suddenly it's over and I can't remember what The Plot was.

    The Subtle Kife: a story about how easy it is to send the human brain into a tailspin of anguished tension.

    I've been fascinated to read about everyone's different responses to it as well, especially those for whom the premise of the story feels overly preachy. It's made me wonder what I'm missing/interpreting oddly, because I haven't come out of this book with any idea that there is a right side to be on — except the side of the people in the middle (well, slightly more on the Dust-angel side I guess) who are just trying to do right by the people they care about and minimise world-suck and survive whilst being dragged along or manipulated by other people's agendas. (John Parry was maybe the exception to this; I'm not sure how I feel about him.)

    Lee and Hester (sob) – I can be on their side. Will and Lyra – ditto. But I wouldn't want to choose between vengeful angels or the Coultersterium. THERE IS NO REDEEMING SIDE.

    The Dust-angels are more fascinating to me, certainly, and intellectually I am all in favour of knowledge being a good thing (that is a really, really stupid sentence; diaf, self), but it's not like the Dust-angels are all about Knowledge-For-Knowledge's-Sake. It's Knowledge-For-Revenge's-Sake. Which is an intriguing concept and narrative direction, but not exactly an Unequivocally Good Thing. And they've been shown to be equally as callous as Asriel (letting John Parry die once he's served his purpose, WTF?!), who didn't show himself to be much better than (or different to) Mrs Coulter, and basically AURGH THIS CAN'T END WELL. Mrs Coulter et al may be clear-cut villains, but Lord Asriel and the Dust-angels don't seem any better to me – and I don't feel that they've been written as being better, either.

    I've never felt that this book has been black and white or preachy about Philip Pullman's atheistic beliefs – and as an atheist, I'm incredibly relieved by this. I don't feel like his Authorial Voice has intruded much, because the beliefs that are usually ascribed to him tend to come from the mouths of extremely problematic characters who are depicted as fanatical and dangerous. It would have been very easy (and massively problematic) for him to have made this book straightforwardly Killing God Is A Good Thing, Yo – and I really don't feel that he has done so.

    Obviously I have no idea how this ends so maybe it all becomes more black and white and preachy, but for the time-being I don't feel preached at at all. I feel warned away from extremities of belief and behaviour.

    I also feel EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED. The Amber Spyglass better have some kittens frolicking at some point, that's all I'm saying.

  30. Ellalalalala says:

    Lord Asriel and the Dust-angels is surely a band-name in the making. Surely.

  31. Brieana says:

    I'm testing to see if I can put up pictures properly. They're relevant though, so don't worry.

    <img src=>


    <img src=>

    If it shows up, the second one is directed towards Mrs Coulter and that witch.

  32. Starsea28 says:

    When Juta killed Parry, I almost threw something at the wall. Lee's death left me bereft but Parry's death left me angry. The only thing that comforted me was that when Will screamed at Juta, she was suddenly brought to realise just what she'd done. She was snapped out of her own selfish quest for revenge and made to see the wider world, that Parry might have had a reason to refuse her. So her suicide satisfied me in a very basic way. BUT THEN LYRA WAS GONE. *falls down* This book is amazing.

  33. tahrey says:

    Holy crap, I'm glad I came to this one rather than looking for more than a couple seconds at the main HDM feed with all the amber spyglass epic spoilerage in.

    All I can say is I'm glad it seems there's a lot of other people including yourself who feel the same way about this, as I thought maybe I'd gone a bit overboard or slightly mad as I hadn't read any good books (apart from an incidental bit of pratchett) for a while. I never got into this series when it was first out, but was prompted to by a christmas showing of Golden Compass and some friends' recommendations.

    I'm currently about 1/4 the way into the leviathan of a book that is TAS (obviously, he started writing what was supposed to be "book 3 of the trilogy" and found there was actually 2 novels worth of material left, and no real leeway to do a Doug Adams) and still having my ass blown out on a regular basis, to channel Jack Black-ish enthusiasm. It's almost painful that I don't have enough time to invest in it right now and can only manage a couple of chapters a week.

    Such courage in presenting an almost unremittingly bleak, warts and all, but also highly intelligent and daring storyline to what was ostensibly a tween/young teen audience, no patronisation at all. The level of inventiveness, the characterisations, and committment to "anyone can die, any supposed important mcguffin can be instantly and permanently destroyed at any moment" rather than easy fairytale type plotting has utterly drawn me in.

    For anyone who has yet to read TAS, I will give you a warning as to how twisted things can get, and how skillful the writing is: You will start to feel pity, perhaps even sympathy… for Coulter. I mean, what…

    And that's all the spoiling I can do, other than noting how Philip takes the opportunities presented by infinite multiverses and runs with them in a way that would do most hard sci-fi authors proud. My usual line on this one is that last time I saw this sort of lateral, "what if" thinking was in Unicorn Jelly and Crystal Defender Heliotrope, a couple of fairly out-there early webcomics that toyed with similar ideas. Though – thus far at least, as I don't know what the next 400+ pages hold – we're spared the truly mindblowing (or often, just totally fatal) effects of universes where the very laws of physics, chemistry and base biological (& biological-esque) systems are drastically altered, which the comics' author came up with.

    Getting off my own loony analysis of the books themselves, I love the way your review is presented. I thought at first that this would be a youtube series along the lines of Angry Videogame Nerd and the like, but with this writing, it doesn't need to be. Such passion for the subject, and such great descriptions both of the storyline and the effect that is having on you … so much that I can identify strongly with a lot of it because I experienced the same, but can't quite put it into words as eloquently.

    Well, except for maybe the end paragraph. Any time I've tried expressing my reaction to HDM before has often ended up tailing off into a stream of nonsense characters as all attempt at rational thought breaks down.

    And to think I came to this site because someone recommended I have a good chuckle at your approach to twilight … I haven't even got that far yet, but I await the next mouse click with great expectations 😉

    Also, what would happen if you brought these two properties (or authors) together? One presumes they would cancel out entirely (even on the romantic front – I can feel something beautiful, and very natural and organic between Lyra and Will may become a turning point later on in TAS, and the description of the relationship between the two angels we've met so far is one of the more properly touching bits of literary love (not just romance, but love) I've read… rather than a teenlit "OMG HE'S HOT AND HE GLOWS IN THE SUNLIGHT I WANT HIM TO SUBJUGATE ME ENTIRELY" that TL has been described to me as) …………. crud, I went all Meyery there. Anyway, if they cancel out, would it be a quiet puff into nothingness, or a terrible matter-antimatter explosion?


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