Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 25

In the twenty-fifth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Mrs. Coulter and Lord Roke race to disarm the weapon to be used against Lyra. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.


Well, there’s no question in my mind what “side” Mrs. Coulter is on anymore.

I initially believed that this chapter would be from Lord Roke’s perspective. It seemed that the President implied that he had something in mind for Mrs. Coulter in the dungeons, so I just assumed she was stuck there, and that it would be up to Lord Roke to remove Lyra’s hair from the bomb or disarm it in some other way. I was actually excited to spend a chapter in his narrative point of view anyway, as I’ve come to like it when Pullman does these brief forays with secondary and tertiary characters.

Yet just a couple pages in, Lord Roke goes to hide in Mrs. Coulter’s jacket. WAIT WHY IS SHE THERE. WHY DID THEY TAKE HER WITH THEM. Isn’t she known for being deceptively crafty? Why would you take the risk and bring her along? Maybe the President just wants to tease her with the death of Lyra, I thought.

As I said in the last chapter, it’s totally bewildering and entertaining to have a new context for Mrs. Coulter using those exact deceptions I’d grown to despise when they were being used against Lyra. In this case, she tries to work her magic on a guard in order to get him to take off her handcuffs. She feigns clumsiness, does her best to seem as innocent as possible, and when all that doesn’t work, she gets the guard to say (out loud) where the key to her handcuffs is located, assuring that Lord Roke knows exactly where he’ll need to go to get the key to free Mrs. Coulter. THESE CHARACTERS ARE SO CLEVER. Ugh, why do I love cleverness so much? I blame that solely on the Doctor.

Like many chapters in this book, Pullman shows us just how good he is at crafting suspense, and he utilizes multiple methods to build the tension. Lord Roke’s size is the first of those things. As the Gallivespians scampers quickly to the sergeant with the keys, it’s clear that Lord Roke’s sting alone can’t possibly protect them, especially since he doesn’t have the luxury of a dragonfly to dart around on. Even though he does take down the sergeant with a single sting, he still has to avoid being fallen on, and then he has to find a way to get the key to Mrs. Coulter. Oh, and the key is as big as his ARM. Oh, and then another soldier notices that this sergeant has fallen, and Lord Roke has to take him out as well.

Yet even when he manages to succeed in getting the key and freeing Mrs. Coulter, I knew that this was only going to get worse. WHEN DOES IT EVER GET BETTER IN THESE BOOKS? Mrs. Coulter uses the chaos of the two fallen soldiers to slip out of view and hide. But she can’t just hide, and that’s how I discover why the President took her along in the first place.

The energy of the bomb came from cutting the link between human and dæmon, and that meant the hideous process of intercision: the cages of mesh, the silver guillotine. He was going to sever the lifelong connection between her and the golden monkey and use the power released by that to destroy her daughter. She and Lyra would perish by the means she herself had invented. It was neat, at least, she thought.

HOLY FUCKING TRAGIC IRONY. I just….WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!! It’s Mrs. Coulter’s horrific past coming back to destroy her, and despite that it would be the most poetic way to hold this woman accountable for what she did through her position at the Magisterium, it still terrifies me. It’s too much, and it’s made even worse by the fact that Lyra will die in the process. But I suppose that this sort of murder is, like all the others, necessary in the grand scheme of life under the Magisterium and under the Authority.

But….jesus christ this is fucked up. So how is she going to get out of this? How is Lord Roke (or her) going to get past all of these soldiers in order to get Lyra’s hair OUT OF A BOMB? (That is such an absurd idea. I LOVE IT.)

To make matters worse, Mrs. Coulter observes that the President has a witch under his command, and she arrives to help out the soldiers. There’s a paragraph that comes up later that plainly states that everything seemed to happen at once, but it already feels that way. The witch warns that “something” is coming; Mrs. Coulter spots Lord Roke injured and still on a patch of moss; then she realizes that the President is planning on going ahead with the destruction of the bomb by SACRIFICING HIMSELF INSTEAD OF HER. I just….I CAN’T. I CAN’T. THIS IS SO AWFUL.

It’s just utter chaos. It’s not confusing, though, and I’m happy that Pullman is able to convey all of the motion and the terror of this situation without me having to read passages multiple times. (I did read them slowly, to be fair, because I didn’t want to miss a single word. That’s good writing, by the way.) As a witch attacks Mrs. Coulter, the President throws his own lizard dæmon into one of the mesh cages. And suddenly there is tear gas? WHERE THE HELL DID THAT COME FROM?

But then a sound from high above made Mrs. Coulter’s ears ring: a scream so high and horrified that even the golden monkey clutched her in fear. And a second later, pitching down in a swirl of white limbs, black silk, and green twigs, the witch fell right at the feet of Father MacPhail, her bones crunching audibly on the rock.

Mrs. Coulter darted forward to see if Lord Roke had survived the fall. But the Gallivespian was dead. His right spur was deep in the witch’s neck.


I don’t even have anything to say that is at all insightful about this. I read this next part with my hand over my mouth, and at one point, I forgot I was supposed to be breathing. Which is not fun? But as Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon struggles to grab Lyra’s hair from the chamber where it is being held, and the President is seconds away from bringing the wires together, something happens that sends the monkey flying. Electrocution? Some sort of shock? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

But something had happened to her sight. A terrible clarity had come over her eyes, the power to see the most tiny details, and they were focused on the one detail in the universe that mattered: stuck to one of the pads of the clasp in the resonating chamber, there was a single dark gold hair.

WHAT???? WHAT?????? DARK GOLD??? Isn’t Lyra’s hair super light gold? Or am I just reading this wrong? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?

She tore at the mesh, helpless, and then hurled her whole weight against the machine as he brought two wires together with a spark. In utter silence the brilliant silver blade shot down.

I AM GOING TO PASS OUT. Whose hair was that in the machine? Is Lyra dead? IS THE PRESIDENT DEAD? OH MY GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Lord Asriel shows up (KIND OF CONVENIENT TO SHOW UP AFTER THIS HAPPENED oh god I am so judgy right now), and I am utterly confused. That wasn’t one of her dæmon’s hairs, was it? The blade came down, so did it actually go off? Lord Asriel doesn’t answer the question at all, and instead sets the zeppelin on fire, sending it crashing down into the station, burning everything, crumbling the mountain side apart, sending it all into the cataract.

I’m haunted by the closing image in chapter twenty-five, of Mrs. Coulter simply staring tear-eyed at the wreckage, and watching it until it all disappears. I have no idea what just happened, and I have no clue what is going to happen next.

What the fuck, Philip Pullman?


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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31 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 25

  1. _Sparkie_ says:

    What the fuck indeed. This chapter is so exciting to read because EVERYTHING is happening, and it all seemed to be going well, and then oh no, the bomb went off anyway with Lyra's hair still in it! 🙁 🙁 🙁

  2. Shadowmarauder78 says:

    I was beginning to feel sorry for Mrs Coulter, then i remembered what she did to all those kids. Terrible person, but what a wonderful character.

  3. monkeybutter says:

    I don't have much to say about the bomb subplot aside from not liking it because it's too absurd, but I did think it was good to show how far out of her control Mrs Coulter's weapon has become. She could stop things at Bolvangar because she had power, but that power doesn't extend everywhere. She created a horrific device which can never be uncreated, so it's a nice look at the consequences of one's actions (and remember what Iorek said about tools.)

    I guess I can't really hate the chapter since it gave us this bit:

    The golden monkey, seeing Mrs. Coulter attacked, set Lord Roke down and sprang to her defense, just as the witch flew down, knife at the ready. Lord Roke pushed himself back against the nearest rock, and Mrs. Coulter grappled directly with the witch. They wrestled furiously among the rocks, while the golden monkey set about tearing all the needles from the witch's cloud-pine branch.

    <img src=""&gt;
    Even when that damn monkey is being helpful, he is a ridiculous little shit. I love him.

  4. Cassie5squared says:

    Lyra's hair is dark blonde, it said so back in The Golden Compass.

    Also, I've been following these for a while now, but everyone else has said so much that I was going to say that I could never think of anything useful to add.

    But I love these Mark Reads, and I really hope you have some more books I know and enjoy coming up!

    • I checked the last chapter, and her hair is described there as "dark blond" and "dark gold." So there we go!

      I also usually never think of anything to say, but it's such fun to read along. 🙂

  5. knut_knut says:

    Oh man, this chapter. THIS CHAPTER. I’m still not entirely sure if I want Mrs. Coulter to die a fiery death or not but I’ve come to terms with her feelings towards Lyra. This is probably the first chapter where I didn’t doubt Mrs. Coulter at all. I still don’t really like her as a person, and I don’t think I’m a fan of her change of heart (I’m a very skeptical person when it comes to people suddenly changing sides, in real life and in fiction), but if she wants to save Lyra I’m all for it!

  6. Zozo says:

    The implication is that the “dark gold” hair is Lyra’s. If it had been Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon’s, they’d have known immediately. (BOOM.)

  7. cait0716 says:

    I really like the intensity of this chapter. The battle in the cave felt forced to me, but this whole scene played out a bit more naturally. I don't know why I'm more willing to accept a bomb that can find it's victim via genetic material than a whole bunch of people arriving in the same place at the same time, but I am. Maybe it's because that calls back to some older folklore concerning voodoo and not letting witches get your hair/nail clippings. In fairy tales if you have a bit of someone, you have power over them. So Pullman smashed that concept together with some more modern technology and Mrs. Coulter's machine. I think the result was pretty awesome.

    I do hope Lyra's ok. Maybe being in the land of the dead will protect her somehow. Like, she can't die because she already is dead or something? I mean, she can't actually die die, right? There's still over 100 pages left! She still needs to be tempted!

    • Tilja says:

      Unless the book ends with others finishing the mission. Wouldn't be the first time someone does that kind of story. I do love a good misleading story, so Mrs Coulter is a gold mine for my brain. 😀

  8. BradSmith5 says:

    Yeah, I get worried when I see the author put down "And then everything was happening at once." And "What was happening?" is never good to hear. Pullman did a good job with everything, though; nothing was too vague and stuff like the tear gas can be figured out on your own.

    But what was with Asriel swooping down at the end!? Are you kidding me!? All that suspense just so that the super-duper do-anything craft can SAVE THE DAY!? Nice try, Mrs. Coulter! No redemption for you! We all know that Lord Asriel's the real hero here! Another victory for Stupendous Man! Bum-bum-ba-dum-DUM!

  9. arctic_hare says:

    Well, that was a gutpunch of a chapter, wasn't it?

    One of the most horrifying things for me was reading about Father McFail shoving his own daemon into the cage and preparing to do intercision on himself while his poor daemon cried for pity, for mercy. I'm pretty sure you fail at EVERYTHING EVER, MR. PRESIDENT. :@ The idea of undergoing intercision willingly is a sickening thought that my brain just recoils from. I think that says a LOT about how Pullman has developed the concept of daemons over the course of the series. Moreover, it's a mirror to Lyra and Pan's goodbye as she prepared to venture into the land of the dead; Lyra parted with Pan because she had no other choice, and it caused her a great deal of pain. Plus, her reasons for making that sacrifice were good and just: the desire to help someone she felt she'd wronged, and to help others in the land of the dead. Here, we see an awful man shoving his poor daemon into the cage, happy to undergo intercision and permanently sever their bond… all to kill a child. The contrast couldn't be more stark, or chilling. I felt disgusted, almost nauseated, reading that portion.

    Lord Roke dying was a blow, too. 🙁 Though, I did lol at the monkey ripping apart the witch's cloud pine branch. That thing has become utterly hilarious to me now. And what a way to end the chapter, huh?

    • stellaaaaakris says:

      I had a similar physical reaction to reading that scene. His daemon's reaction makes me queasy. If this was a movie, I'd look away, but I can't just stop looking at a book and resume reading when it's over, I might miss stuff. But, not to be fair to but to be accurate to President MacPhail, it's not just "all to kill a child;" he also thinks he's saving the world from the super evil Dust. Killing the child just happens to be the only way to do so. Remember how he said something along the lines of better the Church and Dust both destroyed than to preserve the Church and allow Dust to continue to exist? Of course he would sacrifice his own soul, life, everything to end Dust. It's so very in his character. Doesn't change the awfulness of it though.

      I kinda want to see his reaction to the world of the Dead….

    • Tilja says:

      The other difference I see in the link with the daemon is that Lyra and Pan decided together what to do, even stating that Pan was trying not to show his pain so that Lyra wouldn't suffer for the decision. In Father MacPhail's case, it was clearly a very twisted, sick decision against his conscience, against his beliefs, against all that was good, otherwise his daemon wouldn't have fought against it. He was a very sick man till the end.

  10. Reading this review was far too tense for me. I need the next review now please!!

  11. Becky_J_ says:

    Oh, I forgot about this chapter! This chapter!

    Like others have said above me, this is the first chapter I trusted Mrs. Coulter completely….. and I hated every second of it. Also, just when I think that maybe she is really a good person and I want to be her friend, I think of that damn golden monkey and I no longer want to be friends with her because oh my god that fucking ape I will never feel ok about him.

    The part where the Father throws his own daemon into the cage, all while the daemon is fighting to get away, fighting to get back to him….. its possibly the most despicable part of this whole thing for me. Which is saying a lot, since they've done nothing but plot to kill a fucking child this whole time. You can't deny that Pullman is effective in his characterizations…..

  12. ChronicReader91 says:

    “As I said in the last chapter, it’s totally bewildering and entertaining to have a new context for Mrs. Coulter using those exact deceptions I’d grown to despise when they were being used against Lyra.”

    I also love that she’s still as clever and manipulative as ever, just with completely different motivations. Characters don’t have to change their fundamental nature because they’ve have a change of heart. She and Lyra seem more similar than ever now- lying for the greater good!

    (Question: Do we ever learn golden monkey’s name? It seems every character from Lyra’s world refers to their daemon by their name at one point or another, except for Mrs. Coulter.)

  13. Bee says:

    Epigraph for Chapter 25
    <img src=""&gt;
    Image reads: A bracelet of bright hair about the bone… John Donne.

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