Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 24

In the twenty-fourth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Mrs. Coulter arrives in Geneva, and we begin to learn just how devoted she is to Lyra. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.


It is such a weird feeling to read about Mrs. Coulter in the light that Pullman presents here in chapter twenty-four. I think I may be looking at her the wrong way, as I’m always trying to figure her out, as if there’s something hidden or mysterious about her character. But this isn’t like Snape in the Harry Potter series. I think Mrs. Coulter is more about a force changing before our eyes rather than someone with a secret.

I believe that, more than ever, we see how Mrs. Coulter has changed her opinion of the Magisterium, and that it is not an act just for the sake of it. Yes, it took something personal for her to have this epiphany, but it’s still an epiphany. (Wow, she is kind of like Snape in that regard.) So, we watch as she starts to use her ability to manipulate, charm, and beguile those in the Church. And I actually don’t mind, for once. That is a huge change from The Golden Compass on my part. It’s not that I necessarily trust Mrs. Coulter, nor do I believe that she has fully redeemed herself, but I’m at a point where I do believe she means to protect Lyra and subvert the Church and the Authority in the process.

We meet back up with her in Geneva, where she lands the intention craft (which she has magically mastered in the course of twenty-four hours, because that’s totally reasonable and not at all weird) on the roof of the College. What I do admire about the way she deals with what happens here is that she simply walks in. Yes, her and her dæmon do sneak around a bit at the start, but she otherwise walks right in the front door. It’s part of her ingenious plan, really, to present herself as someone working for the Magisterium. She plays the part well, ordering around Brother Louis, the man who comes to see her, commanding him to take her straight to see Father MacPhail. I was completely blown away by how she is both demanding and insulting to those who deal with her, and that’s one of the reasons I believe she has started to despise the Magisterium. Why else would she treat Brother Louis like a servant and call his manner “abject”? She seems to hate everything that these men represent, and actions that may have been received as pious and noble before are now mocked. I worried that Mrs. Coulter would stray too far on to one side of the spectrum, but she manages to keep the President intrigued, attentive, and, most important, willing to believe her.

So she starts to give them as much information as possible (but not enough for them to actually do anything.) Through this process, I discover Lyra has turned twelve. Well. She didn’t happen to mention a birthday before, did she? I mean, granted, SHE IS PRETTY GODDAMN BUSY AT THE MOMENT, and I’m sure she’s lost track of time since she is in the world of the dead.

Mrs. Coulter decides to take an interesting angle as she tells the President about Lyra: she blames the Magisterium for interfering with her plan to keep her away from Lord Asriel. I rather enjoyed her bit about being offended by releasing her daughter to those dirty, dirty men instead of taking care of Lyra herself, and it works well. It does make sense that Mrs. Coulter would do such a haughty, high-minded thing, and she continues to drill home the point. She’d have had Will if they hadn’t interfered. She’d have had the subtle knife. She would’ve kept Lyra asleep to avoid the second temptation. And it’s all their fault for not trusting her. Again, it’s both a believable reason and a chance for her to take out her fury and disgust with these people. For example:

She sipped her chocolatl, which was thin and weak; how like these wretched priests, she thought, to take their self-righteous abstinence out on their visitors, too.

Why else would she think this? The very idea of what these men do now repulses her. But this is not even the worst that she thinks or does. When the President brings up the idea of the subtle knife, telling her that the cliff-ghasts call it the god-destroyer, he asks her if this is Lord Asriel’s master plan. Her response? Oh, the atheist, bitter ex-Catholic in me did not care for the lack of subtlety; I lit up with joy.

“Well, where is God,” said Mrs. Coulter, “if he’s alive? And why doesn’t he speak anymore? At the beginning of the world, God walked in the Garden and spoke with Adam and Ever. Then he began to withdraw, and he forbade Moses to look at his face. Later, in the time of Daniel, he was aged–he was the Ancient of Days. Where is he now? Is he still alive, at some inconceivable age, decrepit and demented, unable to think or act or speak and unable to die, a rotten hulk? And if that is his condition, wouldn’t it be the most merciful thing, the truest proof of our love for God, to seek him out and give him the gift of death?”

Oh, Mrs. Coulter. I never thought there’d be a day when I could say such a thing, but you warm my heart so much. I can’t count how many times I asked myself and others variations of this same question, or made rhetorical arguments about the absence of God in our lives. On a personal level, I was taught that asking for God to prove himself to you was a sin as well, or, at the very least, highly revolting. That was the basis of faith, in essence, that even without God speaking to us or showing us his face, we’d have to believe he was real. I was told to look at the signs, but in my own life, all the signs suggested otherwise. Who was I to believe?

And I think that’s an important thing to recognize, at least in terms of non-believers, wherever they may fall on the spectrum. For every person who told me that the world was full of signs that God was real and loved me so much, I could look into my own life and see the signs that he was not real, or that he didn’t really care all that much about me. The vast collection of experiences when it comes to non-believers, whether they are atheists or agnostics or combinations of those, or something outside of that, is incredibly varied. For me, though, I was hurt by these suggestions to quell my heart’s longing for God to be real. “Look at the whole of creation,” people would tell me, or perhaps they’d tell me to look at the sky or the ocean or the stars at night. These things were impossible on their own, so how else would they fit so perfectly where they belong?

Even if I could conceive those sort of things and accept them, the beauty of the stars or the impossible vastness of the ocean meant nothing to me when I lived in an abusive household with parents who treated me terribly, or when I would go to school and live in fear of being beat up, called names, shamed openly in class, or any combination of small terrors that my life was. I remember bringing this up to my first priest, and he told me not to look at the worst of the world to find God. These people were the most absent of his grace, he’s day, but most of them were devout Christians who otherwise were respected by the community and by the man in the fancy robe before me. So was the priest unable to see the absence of God in these people, or was he lying to me?

This idea of the vacancy of God, as Mrs. Coulter references it dryly here, is at heart of why evangelism, even on a personal, well-meaning level, tends to infuriate me. I generally get along quite well with my many Christian friends, and most know that I love talking about their religion as long as the conversation doesn’t stray towards converting me in any way. But it’s also something that, with most of them, I had to tell them in order to get them to respect me. I find the concept, especially when poorly executed as it so often is, to be rather presumptuous and rude, and it’s because of this very reason: I feel an intense and sometimes even painful absence of God in my life. I don’t want him anymore, even if he was real, but it always hurt me to hear people tell me about the beauty of the world when they failed to acknowledge the ugliness in mine. By failing to acknowledge that reality, even when I told them about it, they were ignoring the fact that my life–my experiences–are not the same as theirs, and that the moon and the stars and any of that “perfectly perfect world” bullshit trivialized my own life.

If God is in your life, that is wonderful. You deserve that happiness and comfort. But he is not in mine, and there is nothing in my life to suggest it. And I’m perfectly happy living that way.

And all of this is not just a chance for me to LOL RANT YELL OMG HERESY, because it actually relates pretty heavily to the text. What we’re seeing here in chapter twenty-four is about interference. It’s about how the Church (or God or even organized religions, in a sense) can inject themselves into the lives of others in the most presumptuous, assuming way possible. After Lord Roke reveals himself to Mrs. Coulter and agrees to keep an eye out for her, he quickly gets the chance to do so. (Side note: He mentions something encased in impenetrable fog. WHAT IS THAT.)

Brother Louis sneaks into the room, and Lord Roke watches as he takes the golden locket from Mrs. Coulter’s neck. Which is totally not weird and suspicious, and is totally done for a noble reason, right? RIGHT? Thankfully, Lord Roke, the badass spy that he is, follows Brother Louis to see why he is creeping around at night.

I was not surprised to learn that Fra Pavel, the President, and Dr. Cooper from Bolvangar were all working together on whatever it was they were doing. I’d forgotten that Mrs. Coulter had put a lock of Lyra’s hair inside, and that’s what they needed. Um…for what?

“We place the hair in the resonating chamber. You understand, each individual is unique, and the arrangement of genetic particles quite distinct…Well, as soon as it’s analyzed, the information is coded in a series of anbaric pulses and transferred to the aiming device. That locates the origin of the material, the hair, wherever she may be. It’s a process that makes use of the Barnard-Stokes heresy, the many-worlds idea…”

Oh. Great. GREAT. So they’ll be able to locate where Lyra is and in what world she is hiding BY A HAIR. Ah, crap. This is awful. Father Gomez is definitely going to find her now, right? But…hmm, he has no way of communicating with these men. How is this going to help?

“The force of the bomb is directed by means of the hair?”


“Yes. To each of the hairs from which these were cut. That’s right.”

“So when it is detonated, the child will be destroyed, wherever she is?”

There was a heavy indrawn breath from the scientist, and then a reluctant “Yes.”



oh my god WHAT.

Thankfully, Lord Roke has no qualms about waiting for Dr. Cooper to leave the President’s chambers and then stinging him, taking the envelope with Lyra’s hair as soon as he collapses. YES. LORD ROKE, YOU ARE WONDERFUL. He immediately returns to Mrs. Coulter, and all of our hopes are CRUSHED.

“This is only half the lock I cut from Lyra. He must have kept some of it.”

AHHHHHHH WHHHHYYYYYYYYY. Oh, fucking hell, THIS IS A DISASTER. Even worse, just seconds later, the President comes rushing into the room, accusing Mrs. Coulter of harming Dr. Cooper. But honestly, bless Mrs. Coulter forever. I can’t believe I get to say that. She uses her wonderfully manipulative acting skills to give a beautiful performance to the President that all but proves she’s been asleep the whole time, that she is horrified to find that someone stole the hair from her locket, and that she is outraged that the President would allow this to happen. I just love the image of the sputtering Father MacPhail, who is quickly realizing that he is up against the most difficult foe of his life, that he completely underestimated her. So he sends her off to the dungeons, but that’s not the end of things.

She looked wildly around and met Lord Roke’s eyes for a fraction of a second, glittering in the darkness near the ceiling. He caught her expression at once and understood exactly what she meant him to do.



If you are just aching to discuss the many spoilery things that this chapter and others I’ll read this week, BridgeToTheStars is hosting a conversation about THE WORLD OF THE DEAD and you should probably go hang out there with other His Dark Materials fans. You still have a chance to enter the contest BTTS is hosting in conjunction with me to give away a signed copy of The Amber Spyglass!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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97 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 24

  1. Ryan Lohner says:

    My favorite little moment here is Mrs. Coulter asking if Lord Roke was going to spy on her nude before revealing himself. It's a nice little humanizing moment, as it's probably exactly what any woman would think on that reveal.

    According to the audiobook, Louis' name is pronounced the French way.

  2. Darth_Ember says:

    I rather sympathise, Mark; I used to get so angry with the fellow students who would tell me that if I wasn't a Christian, I would go to hell.
    But then, these were akin to the sorts who asked if a skull wristband or a pentagram necklace meant I worshipped the devil. Major eyerolling there.
    I think at least one person was convinced I was really and truly a witch who could put curses on people – at that point I just sort of went with it, half-amused, half trying to just shut them up.
    Still, the reputation for weirdness had some bonuses, like the girl who was convinced I was a vampire (especially since pretty much whenever she saw me I was taking my break time in a foyer/bag-room thing outside the library, and thus avoiding the sun). She used to jump if I turned up near her grinning. I have to admit I found that hilarious – especially at the point where I stood on some stairs behind where she was putting a bag away, and leaned over the top so that my face was upside-down, with a maniacal grin, in front of her. She literally dropped to the floor, covering her neck, and crawling away, at which point I laughed like anything.

    …I did indicate I didn't believe I'd go to Hell for not being a Christian. I said nothing at all about whether or not I might earn it with my actual temperament if I'd believed in it. :p
    /random, possibly pointless story

    • theanagrace says:

      You are a glorious, wonderful, hilarious, magical person. And yes, that was a little mean, but I would almost guarantee I would have done the same thing to that girl. So, be comforted that you're only as evil as I am? (Which is, admittedly, probably not that comforting :P)

    • monkeybutter says:

      At least you had fun with it 🙂

    • arctic_hare says:

      That is some amazing RL trolling. 😀 I salute you!

  3. George says:

    One thing (yes I think it's the only one) that bugs me about this chapter is that Mrs Coulter magically travels THROUGH WORLDS in like a day to get to Geneva. I can kind of understand her mastering the controls, but how is she supposed to know where a doorway to her own world was? I find it hard to believe they're signposted.

    • trva says:

      She was also taken to Asriels world after she was captures at the cave. Maybe she noted the route then.

    • BradSmith5 says:

      Yeah, I think the intention craft is a cool idea, but it has the potential to be a cheap, overpowered plot device. I still want one, though. Zoooooooom! Pa-pow! Pa-pow! BABOOOM! Mwa-ha,ha,ha,ha,ha!

  4. @thelxiepia says:

    Chapter 24 Epigraph!

  5. rumantic says:

    Isn't the point that it's an intention craft? So if she intends to get to a certain place, she'll end up there?

  6. tanbarkie says:

    I'm not sure Mrs. Coulter's antipathy towards MacPhail and the other priests should be taken as evidence of a change of heart regarding the church – at least, not in the way you described. I think Mrs. Coulter does feel great disdain for these men, but I suspect she felt that way even when in the Church's employ. Remember, she worked for the Oblation Board, not the Consistorial Court, and we already know that the two forces considered themselves rivals.

    From what we've seen of the Oblation Board, they generally seem to take a much more "worldly" view of things – there was no indication of ritual at Bolvangar, and the people working there seemed to have a relatively relaxed hierarchy, fear of Mrs. Coulter aside. It was more akin to a (scary, evil) workplace than a religious institution. They probably view the organization of the Consistorial Court in a manner similar to how many Protestants view the Catholic Church – overloaded with hollow ritual and a strict hierarchy. The Gobblers likely considered themselves to be the ones truly "doing the Church's work," getting dirty in the trenches et cetera.

    So it makes sense to me that Mrs. Coulter's attitude in this chapter is one part newfound anger againt the Church and many parts residual distaste for MacPhail and his colleagues stemming from her time in their rival organization. None of which to say that her change of heart is or isn't true, but just that it's not so simple as a complete and immediate rejection of the Church after a lifetime of piety… the one Cylon god knows, she's hardly been a symbol of piety throughout her own life! 😉

    • ldwy says:

      This is pretty much how I read her disdain. Her allegiance may have changed, but her personal feelings were always somewhat in this vein.

    • monkeybutter says:

      That's a really good point about her being from a rival branch of the Magisterium. It makes her heresy even more rewarding!

    • Louisa says:

      This. It always seemed to me that Mrs. Coulter used the Oblation Board primarily as an alternative route to power in a world where women don't seem to have many opportunities to gain political or religious influence. I imagine her contempt for the priests and much of the apparatus of the Magisterium is completely real, and very long-standing.

  7. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME??? They’re just going to BLOW UP A CHILD????
    Well, don't you remember President Snow's favorite movie?

    <img src=""&gt;

  8. Becky_J_ says:

    So, lets review….. in the beginning of this book, Lyra was kept in a drugged sleep by her crazy mother while the forces of the church, her father, and Will all sped toward her. And that, that was crazy. But now, I can safely say that that was nothing….

    Because there is a motherfucking bomb that will use her hair to blow her up in any world she's in. And I can safely say that she has never been in so much danger.

    If she doesn't find her way out of this one, she might as well call dibs on a nice corner in the World of the Dead.

  9. Many Rainbows says:

    I can relate. When I was 15 I went into foster care, where my new foster mom was a Christian. My second day living with her, she sat me down to read to me from the Bible, telling me how the fact that I am bisexual is a sin and I would go to hell, etc. I was not allowed to see my old friends from my old town, because the fact that they were gay, bi, or at the very least in the GLBQT alliance club at school, was a "bad influence". I made a show of converting, just to try to keep my foster mother from hating me and try to make my life better (I wasnt allowed to even sleep in my own bed when my roommate was home during the week because the fact that I am attracted to girls means i may rape any and all females, dontcha know?) But for 3 years I pretended to be a good little Christian, go to a Christian school, say all the right words… yet the fact that I could question stuff, or even interpret different Bible passages to mean something different from what SHE interpreted them as, always made her despise me and tell me my 'salvation was in jeopardy'

    Once I was out of foster care I dropped the act, but have been searching trying to find out what my beliefs ARE. I always kind of questioned whether there really was a God, and some things over the years have convinced me that there is not a loving god like most religions try to portray him.

    This is why I like the church I go to, a Unitarian Universalist church. there are people from many spiritual backgrounds, including the minister, who is agnostic. The minister only gives sermons about twice a month, while members of the church or outside speakers will give sermons the other 2-3 times a month. No one preaches at you saying you HAVE to believe as they do, but rather "this is my path, let me share my experiences with you". After the service there is a talkback where you can ask questions or give your own thoughts on the subject. It is truly a wonderful place, a church for people who don;t like church 😉 I don't zone out like I did in Catholic or Christian churches, because everyone always has something unique or interesting to say.

  10. Kraznit says:

    I imagine Hugo Weaving as Father MacPhail. Just thought I'd share that.

  11. Noybusiness says:

    "(which she has magically mastered in the course of twenty-four hours, because that’s totally reasonable and not at all weird)"

    I thought that was the point of an "intention" craft.

  12. Shadowmarauder78 says:

    Mrs Coulter confuses me, i don't know if i should be on her side at this point or not.

    • BradSmith5 says:

      I don't trust her. She can talk and talk, but it's all gonna come down to her actions in the end. I hope she doesn't stop being a villain, though; she's such a devious one! 🙂

    • knut_knut says:

      same here. I don't trust her and I'm kind of skeptical about her new found Lyra-love o_O I wish we had a Mrs. Coulter backstory so I could better understand her! Because the first 2 books painted her as pure evil and now she has a heart?

  13. monkeybutter says:

    You've mentioned that you felt a hollow space in you before, and that it's something you've struggled with, so thanks for expanding upon it here. And again, I'm glad you're comfortable with who you are now.

    Mrs Coulter's been building to this point for a long time, but it's great to see her finally openly oppose the Church and dig holes in their theology. I think her treatment of Brother Louis is actually pretty standard given who she is — she has no patience for weak underlings — and how she behaved on the blimp all those chapters ago, but now she's getting into arguments about the existence of God and whether or not he should live with a powerful Church leader. Her dig about men with a feverish obsession with sexuality is just icing on the cake. I love that she feels exhilarated when she finally speaks her mind. She hasn't redeemed herself or anything, but she has grown since the beginning of the series, and it makes her chapters intriguing. Where now, Coulter?

    Lyra bomb? I can't even.

    This is a criticism of the publisher, not Pullman, but rirelbar jub'f ernq gur frevrf orsber xabjf nobhg gur rqvgrq cnffntr va Znemvcna, evtug? Va guvf puncgre, gurer'f n tebgrfdhr qrfpevcgvba bs Zef Pbhygre'f vzntvangvba (ebbgrq va ernyvgl) gung Ylen jbhyq or zbyrfgrq ol gur zra gur Zntvfgrevhz unq frag bhg. Fb, vg'f bxnl gb qrfpevor gur srnerq nffnhyg bs n lbhat tvey, ohg vg'f abg bxnl gb tb vagb aba-bssrafvir qrgnvy nobhg ure frkhny njnxravat? Gurl xrrc va gur abgvbaf bs na vaabprag tvey va qnatre, ohg rqvg qbja gur cnegf nqqerffvat ure anfprag frkhnyvgl va n tbbq, cbfvgvir jnl. Vg'f fhpu n ybnq bs ohyyfuvg, naq urycf ervasbepr gur vqrn gung frkhnyvgl vf onq naq jebat, juvpu vf gur rknpg shpxvat bccbfvgr bs jung guvf obbx vf gelvat gb pbzzhavpngr. Shpx lbh, Nzrevpna choyvfuref.


    • muzzery says:

      What? I never knew this. What do they edit out in the American version that is in other versions?

      • monkeybutter says:

        I'm too lazy to figure out where I should italicize in rot13, so here it is in the wikipedia entry.

        • muzzery says:

          WHAT? They can't edit out stuff like that; if you take those lines out and read it like that you completely lose the point of what Pullman is doing!

          So does this mean Mark will be reading a butchered version of the book? 🙁

        • meguca says:

          I have a US edition and that's in my copy of the book. Now I'm confused.

          • monkeybutter says:

            You have the unedited UK text? What edition do you have? I ask because I wonder if it was in the first edition and edited out later, or if it was put back in response to outrage. I seem to remember people with the first edition saying the bit about the woman daemon was included in their copy, too, so maybe the early fans lucked out!

        • Darth_Ember says:

          Apparently there's more than one, or so BTTS indicates.

    • Tilja says:

      I didn't know about that! Thank goodness I have the original British edition! I HATE what the others do to good books. They really make it look like Pullman isn't exagerating or one sided at all.

    • The FUCK. I never knew that, either!

      • monkeybutter says:

        I thought it was mentioned ages ago, but I guess not! It sucks.

        • Oh, I'm sure it was! I remember that, but I never looked up the controversy because, um, I'm lazy.

          So I'm glad you mentioned it again. 🙂

          • theanagrace says:

            We've talked about/mentioned it a few times in various posts under rot13. We should nominate someone to give the original version to Mark in a comment so we don't all do it.

            I vote monkeybutter, because you seem to have it close to hand, and you'll most likely get there before me. 😀

            • monkeybutter says:

              I vote for arctic_hare or spectralbovine to do it using their mod magic after they know Mark has read it. Orrrrrrr for a million people to post it and become the new "did you know Zhao is voiced by Jason Isaacs (who played Lucius Malfoy)?" 😀

    • notemily says:

      Agreed with your rant so hard

    • rumantic says:

      Please repost this rant, un-rot13ed, when we get to the relevant chapter! 🙂

    • flootzavut says:

      V'z pbzvat ng guvf sebz n Puevfgvna CBI, naq V nyfb svaq gung rkgerzryl jrveq. Va nyy zl npdhnvagnapr V pna'g guvax bs nalbar jub jbhyq svaq gung bssrafvir rkprcg gubfr jub V jbhyq pbafvqre gb or evqvphybhfyl "bssraqnoyr" (ibpno snvy: V nz gverq!). N ybg bs bhe fgnaqneqf va gur HX ner vasyhraprq ol gur HF, ohg guvf vf bar nern jurer V guvax zbfg oevgf (Puevfgvna be bgurejvfr) svaq gur "bssvpvny" HF ivrj gb or irel fgenatr vaqrrq.

      V qba'g erzrzore vs V'ir fnvq vg ba Znex Ernqf orsber ohg V nyfb svaq gur fgnaqneqf bs jung vf be vf abg npprcgnoyr ba GI/va svyz gb or whfg ovmneer. Nalguvat erzbgryl frkhny vf n uhtr erq synt naq pregvsvpngrf fubbg hc gur fpnyr, ohg gur yriry bs ivbyrapr bar pna trg njnl jvgu vf jnl uvture… orpnhfr pyrneyl, frkhnyvgl vf zhpu zber qnatrebhf guna crbcyr orvat evccrq gb fuerqf.

      Nyfb V svaq vg fgenatr gur jbeqf gung ner be ner abg nyybjrq.

      Whfg orpnhfr vg'f n erprag rknzcyr jvgu zr naq V svaq vg dhvgr nzhfvat gb abgvpr, APVF fubjf nyy guvf gb n uhtr qrterr. Gurl pna trg njnl jvgu frevbhfyl tevfyl pevzrf, ohg obqvrf ba gur nhgbcfl gnoyr nyjnlf unir gur travgny ertvba oynaxrq bhg naq qrnq jbzra ner nyzbfg nyjnlf fubja jvgu gur nhgbcfl va cebterff fb gung bar pna'g frr gurve oernfgf/avccyrf. Vg'f BX gb fubj fbzrbar jub jnf fubg naq gura ebggrq sbe frireny zbaguf, ohg vg'f n uhtr ab-ab gb fubj n avccyr (naq cebonoyl abg rira n erny bar)!

      Naq fvzvyneyl, ab s-obzof ner rire qebccrq, naq V qba'g erpnyy n fvatyr bppheerapr bs "fuvg", ohg gurl serdhragyl hfr onfgneq naq ohttre/ohttrerq. Tvira gur frkhny qrevingvba bs gubfr gjb jbeqf (puvyq bhgfvqr bs jrqybpx/nany frk – naq obgu, nf sne nf V nz njner, irel zhpu qrebtngbel grezf sbe qrpnqrf be ybatre) lbh jbhyq guvax gung gurl jbhyq or nffvqhbhfyl nibvqrq.

      V svaq vg irel jrveq vaqrrq.

      Naq AO V ernyyl nz abg pbzcynvavat nobhg gur obql vffhr: V ernyyl qba'g unir nal qrfver gb frr fvyvpbar travgnyvn sylvat ebhaq zl GI fperra. V whfg svaq vg snfpvangvat gb pbzcner jung vf naq vf abg npprcgnoyr.

      tl:dr – it is very odd indeed, what is and is not "ok".

  14. I love all the details of other worlds! For example, on our world you might give a guest a coffee or a tea, but in that world you give a guest a nice (perhaps) cup of chocolatl. I rather fancy a cup of chocolatl now. Anyone?

  15. muzzery says:

    I have to ask this, because I literally cannot remember: V erzrzore gung Yrr Fpberfol naq Wbua Cneel jnea Ylen nobhg gur obzo naq ubj fur unf gb phg ure unve, ohg qb jr rire svaq bhg ubj gurl npghnyyl xarj nobhg gur obzo va gur svefg cynpr? V pnaabg erzrzore vs gurer jnf na nafjre gb guvf va gur obbx ohg V frrz gb guvax gung gurer jnfa'g naq gur vagreiragvba bs gur tubfgf jnf gbb pbairavrag. Nalbar?

  16. Heather says:

    In my experience, most Christians refuse to believe that I'm an atheist, act absolutely shocked when I tell them I am. I've had people shun me, or ignore it, or give me that wide-eyed, slack-jawed, speechless thing. It's funny because when I still went to church and was questioning, no one really bothered doing anything about it except telling me to pray and ask for God's help, which seemed a bit redundant. So I'd look for these signs, and I'd find them, and for brief periods of time I'd be a "believer" again, and I'd be happy. But eventually I'd go back to the way I was, and I ended up hating myself for it. It was a gigantic relief when I admitted to myself I was an atheist, like I'd gotten this cross-shaped boulder off my back.

    I come from a super Christian family – intensely redneck on my dad's side, active in the church on my mom's. My maternal grandfather is a retired priest in their faith and everything. I never really believed, although I tried my hardest to do so – and when I was about 15 I was able to articulate it and stop going to church. For some reason, no one knew I did it because I was an actual atheist. I'd go to church to see people (because they're like my family, even if I don't believe) and they'd ask me why I hadn't been coming. They thought I was doing it because I had been offended by someone, or was angry, which was extremely hurtful – I couldn't believe these people I loved thought I was so petty I'd quit doing something I love just to avoid another person.

    When I told my grandmother, she told me it was just a phase, and she still ignores it and tells people what a good Christian I am, makes references to church things all the time with me, insists on praying aloud around me. I remember we once had the new Shepherd over for Sunday dinner. I didn't know this man. He spent the entire thing talking about people going away from the church and coming back and kept giving me significant looks. Even all these years later, I've never really stopped resenting him for it.

    When I told my uncle, he made me pray to satan. He said he knew some guy in the past who said he was an atheist and when he gave him the same challenge, he refused. I kept telling him I didn't believe in satan and it was stupid that he was asking me, but he kept giving me this disgustingly smug look and telling me he knew I wouldn't do it. Finally, I just said, "Fine." And prayed to satan, of all things, telling him he could have my soul if he would just make everyone in my family happier and fix the problems we were having at the time. My uncle acted all disconcerted and told me I had to pray for something he could see right now, but he stopped acting like a dick when I refused. Also, things got worse after that, not better, so I guess satan didn't want my soul. Go figure.

    I read these books for the first time a few years before my real struggles began, but I reread them around the time I was admitting I may be an agnostic or something, and they were so helpful to me. Seeing even characters as devoted as Mrs. Coulter changing let me know I could, too.

  17. arctic_hare says:

    I never thought I'd be saying something like this, but – Mrs. Coulter is awesome in this chapter. 😀 I don't know if I quite forgive her for what she did in TGC, but she's now using her powers of manipulation and lying for good, and it's fun as hell to watch. I love her disdainful attitude towards the Church, her answer about what Asriel is planning, and especially her act at the end. My favorite line has to be McFail is accusing her of having an accomplice and she replies with the following:

    "I have no accomplice," she said angrily. "If there's an invisible assasin in this place, I can only imagine it's the Devil himself. I dare say he feels quite at home."

    OHHHH YEAAAAAH BURN. 😀 Even if it IS coming from her.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Yup! I love that the epigraph is "As is the mother, so is her daughter" because it's not (just) about them being prolific liars. They're both sassy as hell! It's so satisfying watching her get digs in at the Church because she knows it better than any of the other main characters.

  18. Valerie says:

    "It’s a process that makes use of the Barnard-Stokes heresy, the many-worlds idea…”

    So it's heresy, but it's perfectly fine to make use of it when it suits their purpose…..

    • muzzery says:

      I liked that little dig he made. While it may not be relevant necessarily to the Church in our world (though I don't rightly know), it's certainly a hypocrisy which is reflected in many other institutions.

  19. Eye Zem Grim says:

    Lyra doesn't really seem the type to keep track of her birthdays anyway, though, does she?

    What gets me about the evangelism thing is how many Christians I meet seem to be genuinely offended by my beliefs (or lack thereof) and would prefer they not be mentioned. The whole 'You may not offend my religion' is all very well except for the fact that they never seem to consider the possibility that I might be just as offended by their beliefs, which I often am. I'm offended every time I see a politician described as a regular churchgoer as if that were some guarantor of virtue. I'm offended when I see children forced to declare a love for God when they're too young to have actually thought about it and make up their own minds. I'm offended every time someone presumes that an atheist must be immoral, or that we are all jaded and unable to take pleasure in anything, or unable to feel anything transcendent. And when I see someone declare that becoming an atheist has left a void in their life, part of me is offended on their behalf. It always takes me a moment to realise why they would feel such a thing, but then I remember that if you were raised to believe in God, his suddenly no longer being there could indeed create a huge void — and I find it offensive that they were raised in such a way that this happened. But as far as I can tell, it's not actually possible to offend against an atheist's beliefs, because they don't actually believe anything, so you can only offend the religious… < / over-generalisation rant >

  20. ChronicReader91 says:

    Mrs. Coulter’s gradual change is fascinating to me. I’m a big fan of dynamic characters, and even though it’s a cliché, villains that do a Heel Face Turn or redeem themselves in some way.

    And oh, the religion issue- I really like how you’re relating to the religious parts of this series, because that’s basically how I feel about them too, but anything I write about my personal experiences will inevitably be tl;dr ten times over, so it will be in another comment if I can ever organize my thoughts and feelings in some coherent form.

  21. notemily says:

    I really like reading everyone's stories. I didn't grow up religious so I never had the sort of "realization" moment of not believing in God; it's pretty much the default state in my family. My dad went through the realization and rejection of the Church so I wouldn't have to, I guess. Anyway, it's really interesting to me to read about everyone's experiences. Thanks for sharing them.

  22. Neet says:

    I'm an agnostic, but I sing in a Christian based gospel choir and no one there has ever made the slightest attempt to convert me. One of the core values of the choir is that there are no membership criteria, it's open to everyone and part of that is the people in charge actively make sure that non-Christian members never feel alienated or left out and that everyone has as much fun as possible.

    Sometimes, some of the members will go to the room next door to pray before rehearsal, but if one asks me to join them and I say no, they just nod and say ok, just like they do if I don't want to go to the pub for a social afterwards. Half the time, I forget the choir is majority Christian and am always surprised when something Christian is mentioned outside the songs we sing. It's such an incredible choir and I can't understand why some Christians feel they have to go out of their way to enforce their beliefs when my fellow choir members don't preach even when in a Christian based setting, rehearsing in the chaplaincy and singing gospel songs.

  23. Hazelwillow says:

    I don't think Mrs. Coulter ever loved the church, or believed in it absolutely. She was ambitious, out for herself, and saw it as a way to get ahead. And she was curious about the nature of theological matters like humans, daemons and Dust. But i really dont think she served the church out of piety or belief. So I don't see this change in her as an epiphany against them. Her interests have changed, but she's still basically doing whatever she feels like.

    • Eye Zem Grim says:

      Quite true; in this world (Will's world), Mrs. Coulter wouldn't have gone to work for the church. I think Lord Boreal is a fair proof of this.

  24. Hazelwillow says:

    How do you know Mrs. Coulter would ever have liked these men? She was part of the Oblation Board, not the Magisterium. Those are rivals, right? I dont see her as the type to admire others' piety, even back when she was a servant of the church. Like Lord Asriel, she cares about power, is attracted to power, and despises people who are weak, like Brother Louis. Treating him like a servant is a way to cow him into doing what she wants, because if he calls her out on it, it'll be reLl awkward. By treating people as though she is more powerful than them, she makes them treat her as though she IS that powerful, as it becomes the seemingly socially expected thing to do. I don't think this is an ideological thing against the church, and i doubt its new. She engineers most social situations.

  25. Meg says:

    i love this series, including the amber spyglass, but the bomb thing is just about too much for me. like, come on. a magical bomb? how harrowing, yet convenient!

  26. Psi Baka Onna says:

    I had an interesting discussion with a Jehovah's Witness about faith a few months back (you know how it is, you go to the door expecting the postman & instead get a theological discussion). It was one of the nicer conversations I've had, the last one I'd admitted being an atheist to having responded by telling me "no, I believe you to be agnostic" & then proceeded to lecture me despite the fact I was trying to get to work.

    Neither of them tried to get me to see the beauty in the world but instead used the Pocket Watch argument. If you don't know what that is, then basically it's that if you find a watch in the middle of a desert, you know it was designed and as many things in nature are just as incredibly complex as the inner workings of a watch, they must have been designed too.

    I didn't really try to argue against her stance but instead brought up free will as my reasons for remaining atheist. I was told in school that a reason many people turn to God is because looking up at the night sky and realising just how big everything is makes people feel insignificant. I can't say I've ever felt that way as when I look at the sky, I see a mighty landscape that hopefully will one day be explored. It's the thought of a God like entity "pulling the strings of fate" that makes me feel insignificant.

    What would his intentions be in making us in the first place? It couldn't be an experiment if he's all knowing as he'd already know the outcome so maybe because he was lonely? But that just makes us sound like glorified pets, although that would explain why he wants us all to love him so badly. That just makes me think that we're akin to an ant farm or a bowl of sea monkeys to him and that freaks me out far more than any night sky ever could.

    I like believing we're all here by chance as that means that fate's in our own hands. Introducing a maker just makes me question their intentions. Of course I'm probably not thinking all that much about the whole first sin thing but then I can't say that I knew it was such a huge deal before reading this blog. I went to a christian primary school and had bible stories recited to me every week but they didn't try to press any greater meaning in them besides "God and Jesus are great" & "be a good person ". Maybe they thought 11 was too young for the hardcore stuff?

  27. flootzavut says:

    "where she lands the intention craft (which she has magically mastered in the course of twenty-four hours, because that’s totally reasonable and not at all weird)"

    Well, she IS Mrs Coulter!

  28. barnswallowkate says:

    I love that Mrs. Coulter has no problems cutting children from their daemons or drugging her daughter for weeks but weak chocolatl is HIGHLY OFFENSIVE OMG I H8 U CHURCH GUYS.

    Reading this review makes me fondly recall the days of The Golden Compass when you were like "Armored bears? Hot air balloons? How could this series possibly cause religious controversy?" I want to go back and pat those reviews on the head, sweet little things.

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