Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 28

In the twenty-eighth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, Lord Asriel prepares for the battle against the Authority, and Mrs. Coulter grieves for a possibly grim future. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.


I still think Lord Asriel is one of the biggest douchebag characters in all of literature, but I’m fascinated by how Pullman is able to show him in a different light than we are used to. It helps that even his interactions with Mrs. Coulter are drastically different in terms of what we’ve seen, and the events at the end of The Golden Compass finally make sense to me. (That’s a long time to explain character development, by the way.)

It’s also strange to view both these characters in moments of exhaustion and dread, especially since we’ve only really seen them as strong, forceful, manipulative, and confident people, yet throughout “Midnight,” it seems that this is finally slipping away. We begin with Mrs. Coulter in a state of heartbreak and loss, as she has no idea that Lyra has survived Father MacPhail’s attempt on her life. There’s no doubt on my part that she loved Lyra towards the end of her daughter’s life, and I imagine she is full of regret and guilt over a lifetime of treating her so terribly.

Yet she learns only a while later, from Asriel alethiometrist, that Lyra has not only survived the bomb, but she’s gone to the world of the dead and opened it. Her daughter is alive and has done yet another seemingly impossible thing.

Mrs. Coulter suddenly felt exhausted. She wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep for months, for years.

WELL, IT IS NOT OVER YET. I mean, I feel like chapter twenty-eight is Pullman repeatedly teasing us with how real shit is going to get, as well as providing us with a lot of information about the logistics of how this battle is going to pan out. I do love the character growth here in both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter, so I don’t want to ignore that. But seriously…a war against God. How the fuck is that going to happen?

Well, it all starts with the Clouded Mountain/The Chariot. If this wasn’t so tense, and if it didn’t have a great base in Abrahamic theology, the idea of a clouded mountain in the sky that sort of floats about would make me laugh. I suppose it still sort of makes me snicker if I think about it too long, but that’s not Pullman’s fault. My brain starts thinking of video games and I wonder if there’s a Super Smash Bros level in the cloud and how fucking awesome it would be to slaughter Metratron with Kirby, and then he’d whine and cry about how it’s not fair that I used Kirby, because Kirby is the character not-so-good players use because he can float when he’s kicked off the platform, and now I’ve put all these ridiculous thoughts into a review, and you’ve all seen what my mind is like. So. Again. Not Pullman’s fault.

I’d honestly forgotten about Metatron, to be honest, but we haven’t really heard about him since The Subtle Knife. As stated before, he’s now in charge of the Kingdom of Heaven, and God is off…vacationing? Is there an Angel Resort or something? Are we ever going to actually see him? For now, though, it’s more important to deal with Metatron, who is planning to begin intervening in human life (and ostensibly every form of life in every world) if he wins the battle against Lord Asriel.

“Imagine that, Ogunwe–a permanent Inquisition, worse than anything the Consistorial Court of Discipline could dream up, staffed by spies and traitors in every world and directed personally by the intelligence that’s keeping that mountain aloft…The old Authority at least had the grace to withdraw; the dirty work of burning heretics and hanging witches was left to his priests. This new one will be far, far worse.”

It’ll be overkill this time, an even worse punishment than the Fall. But to what end? What is the point of this? I’m guessing that it’s a way to quell rebellion, to send the message that any insurrection like this in the future will never stand a chance. But is it also possible that this is something the Authority always wanted to do before? I’m interested to see if there is some history or precedent behind this.

Actually, is there a precedent for the Authority to use weapons from the Kingdom of Heaven? King Ogunwe gets a glimpse of some “gun emplacements,” and I imagine there’s a whole lot worse than just guns. Metatron will have to fight a wide variety of creatures, and I don’t think it’s hard to imagine that he has figured out the weaknesses of any of the beings he is fighting. Lord Asriel, though, is quite confident that they won’t lose at all, and part of that reason? His daughter.

I can’t ignore how…slimy this is? I mean, yes, Lyra is a wonderful badass who can do things that very few people (let alone adults) can pull off, and yes, she’s done far more than Lord Asriel could ever do, but the only reason he is praising her is because he benefits him. She is helping his war, and while the war is moral and noble in this sense, it doesn’t really occur to him to think about it in any other terms aside from what helps him the most.

GOD HE IS SO ANNOYING. This is your own goddamn daughter. JUST. Christ, please, dude, after you win this war, get eaten by the earth. I would not be at all sad if Lord Asriel died. THERE. I SAID IT. I WILL COMMIT TO THIS. It’s probably not going to happen, but seriously, I have HAD IT.

But I’m going to have to wait to find out what happens to Lord Asriel because the battle against the Authority is going to happen lot soon than I expected. As darkness descends on the fortress, reinforcements begin to arrive, one of them IOREK BYRNISON. OMG. IOREK. OMG. OMG. OMG. Ice bears will win all the battles. Oh god, I really hope that Lyra and Iorek get to see each other once more before this series is over.

At the very least, there’s a good chance of it happening, since the main task of Lord Asriel’s forces will be to protect Lyra and Will. Through the alethiometrist, they know that the dæmons that belong to these two are in Lord Asriel’s world, and that Metatron is trying to capture them in order to control their owners. Again, I am unsure how this all works, but I’m sure it will make more sense when we see it acted out. We know that Metatron is a powerful angel, but we still don’t even know what he looks like. And how exactly do you kill an angel like that? Lord Asriel means to use the abyss, found in the world of the dead, that was opened up by the bomb that Father MacPhail used. sooooo IS THAT THE WORLD OPENING UP TO EAT SOMEONE. Because I’m pretty sure that counts, and I’m pretty sure that is fucking amazing, and I’m pretty sure this will become the greatest novel ever if that happens.

After all this planning and set up from Pullman, he pulls away a bit from the details to give us what is easily my favorite scene between Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel. I have said before that it’s obvious these two loved each other at one time, and that they still probably deserve one another to this day. I am irritated by Lord Asriel’s refusal to show the slightest bit of regret or empathy for the situation, but I think there’s something in his silence that shows he may agree with what Mrs. Coulter tells him, both about her regret of not raising Lyra herself, and her utter confusion at why he hates his daughter so much. But this part struck me particularly hard:

“You said: Come with me, and we’ll destroy Dust forever. You remember saying that? But you didn’t mean it. You meant the very opposite, didn’t you? I see now. Why didn’t you tell me what you were really doing? Why didn’t you tell me you were really trying to preserve Dust? You could have told me the truth.”

“I wanted you to come and join me,” he said, his voice hoarse and quiet, “and I thought you would prefer a lie.”

Even getting Lord Asriel to admit this much is huge. He genuinely wanted her to come along. But why? In that moment, when he opened a bridge to another world, did he feel some rush of emotion or love that he’d not felt in a long time? Was he remembering what it was like when they first met? What changed since then? But Asriel says nothing, and it feels like his silent nature is finally too much for her:

Moving like someone in a dream, she got to her feet, picked up the rucksack that lay in the corner of the room, and reached inside it for her pistol; and what she would have done next, no one knew, because at that moment there came the sound of footsteps running up the stairs.

WHAT??? What is she going to do? Or was going to do? Is the despair, the thought of life being extinguished, too much for her to bear?

Lord Asriel learns that the two dæmons have already been located, and he leaves in a rush to deal with this news, leaving Mrs. Coulter behind.

Her eyes found the eyes of her dæmon. The golden monkey’s expression was as subtle and complex as it had ever been in all their thirty-five years of life.

“Very well,” she said. “I can’t see any other way. I think…I think we’ll…”

He knew at once what she meant. He leapt to her breast, and they embraced. Then she found her fur-lined coat, and they very quietly left the chamber and made their way down the dark stairs.


About Mark Oshiro

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

96 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 28

  1. Ryan Lohner says:

    Your BSG reviews have made me realize that Tricia Helfer would be awesome as Mrs. Coulter if they ever try to adapt this series again.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      Oh yeah, I can totally see it! I'd like it if she had dark hair for the part though, because it always bugged me a little in the movie. Not really important, but it'd be interesting to know how she looked.

  2. @thelxiepia says:

    Chapter 28 Epigraph!

    <img src=""&gt;

    Image reads: "For many a time I have been half in love with easeful death… John Keats."

  3. HieronymusGrbrd says:

    The chariot arrived, the battle may start soon, and I couldn’t care less. What’s this? Maybe I’m too worried about the sudden revelations.

    Back on Svalbard, Asriel lied about his intention to destroy Dust, because he thought that the lie would make Mrs. Coulter come with him? Well, Asriel is not above tactical lies, but I wonder if this now is the truth, or if Asriel has to reinterpret his words because back in “The Golden Compass”, Pullman still didn’t know what he was talking about.

    Also back in “The Golden Compass” (chapter 21) Lord Asriel said: “… I’m going to destroy it. Death is going to die” and this totally refered to Lyra and Will giving death a new meaning when Will cut a window out of the world of the dead? I may have liked to make this connection myself on a reread, I don’t like to have it shoved down my throat in this way! (And looking it up, I still couldn’t make this connection. How could Asriel talking about his plans refer to Lyra’s future actions? Did I look at the wrong reference?)

    When Lyra left Pantalaimon behind (coincidentally chapter 21 of this book), we got this gem of storytelling:

    And thus the prophecy that the Master of Jordan College had made to the Librarian, that Lyra would make a great betrayal and it would hurt her terribly, was fulfilled.

    Some commenters felt surprised even on rereads, because they didn’t remember and still expected that we had already read this complete arc when Lyra unintentionally handed Roger over to Asriel and felt very bad about it. May this be symptomatic, because they were kind of right? Is it even possible to betray your daemon? Wouldn’t this mean to betray yourself?

    I’m still convinced that the betrayal refers to Roger. Leaving Pantalaimon behind may be the part where it really hurts, but we wouldn’t have needed this, and again I would have liked to make this connection myself, not having it shoved down my throat. To me, this sounded as if Pullman shouted out: “Look here, there are no continuity problems! I planned all this from the beginning!” (implying he really didn’t). And presently (lol) I feel as if he does it again in this chapter. So I wonder if Pullman actually noticed that he did write himself into several corners and doesn’t know how to get out. There are still ten chapters left to tie up the loose ends, but there is nearly no hope left that “The Amber Spyglass” will justify the enthusiasm built up by “The Golden Compass” and “The Subtle Knife”.

    • muzzery says:

      Wow. Glad I don't share your level of cynicism. Pullman must have understood what Dust was in the first place, because Asriel was always set against the Church, so I doubt his views on Dust REALLY aligned with those of the Church, who thought it was terrible. Also, Lyra realises at the end of TGC that Dust is very likely to be something good, so I don't really see the case for saying that he changed his mind on Dust. The temptation that it's leading up to has also been in the works since the first book, and I always took the Betrayal as being Lyra betraying Roger, but the pain not coming into it until Lyra goes down to the world of the dead; a direct effect of the betrayal of Roger. Again, I fail to see how you can draw the conclusion that Pullman had no idea where the story was going from a couple of lines. That's like saying Rowling didn't have a clue about the Horcruxes at all just because Harry gets bitten by the Basilisk in COS.

      I have to say that the "Death is going to die" bit had me scratching my head. It was probably just there as foreshadowing, but it does seem a bit shoehorned in.

      • _Sparkie_ says:

        I feel like he knew he wanted Lyra and Will to go to the world of the dead when he wrote the 'death is going to die' bit, but you're right it doesn't really make sense for Asriel to say it. But then again Asriel has been shown to be 'magical' in a way-in that he's been able to build up this fortress and was able to just get things in his Svalbard prison.

        I know Pullman has said before he's broadly against planning into the minutia like Rowling did, but it's inconceivable he had know idea what was going to happen.

        • HieronymusGrbrd says:

          I don't say that Pullman had no idea where he would go, but I'm fearing that he started to throw out explanations for things that don't really need to be explained to cover the fact that he can't explain what really bothers me.

      • I feel like his "Death is going to die" didn't refer specifically to what Lyra and Will did, because he had no way of knowing that. But arguably the worst thing the Authority has done was set up the World of the Dead, so it's entirely possible that he thought that by overthrowing the Authority he could free the dead himself. I mean, he already managed to cut a hole to a universe to build his own republic, why not go for broke?

    • BradSmith5 says:

      I'm not sure if I'd count EITHER situation as a betrayal: Lyra had no knowledge of Asriel's plan, and she and Pan agreed to meet again after she left him behind. Betrayal needs some show of deceit from the betrayer, I think. If she had told Pan that she wasn't getting on the boat, then turned around and sucker-punched him, then I think it would have worked.

      As for Asriel saying that he was just lying at the end of book one, I do think that's a bit of a disappointment. I'd be complaining way more if Pullman didn't at least TRY to tie up that loose end, though, ha,ha,ha.

      The only thing that seems like an outright mistake is the "Death is going to die" bit. Unless––of course! Asriel is going to KILL the narrator of "The Book Thief!" It's the action-packed crossover we never saw coming! Zounds!

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        I don't know, leaving your soul behind when you are bound by life to never leave their side is a pretty huge betrayal to me.

        I honestly interpreted Asriel's line so differently than all of you. God = Death to Lord Asriel, more figurative than anything else. I saw this more as an ironic, unknown coincidence than anything else, so I'm confused as to how this is a loose end at all? I didn't even consider it something that needed to be tied up.

        • HieronymusGrbrd says:

          You’re probably right concerning the “ironic, unknown coincidence”, but this is what really bothered me. Maybe I’m oversensitive in this case and Mr. Pullman didn’t try to tie up something. Mr. Basilides didn’t refer to Lord Asriel, he said that Lyra fullfilled a prophesy. So we learn this was the witches’ prophesy and it has nothing to do with the temptation we still expect?

          Anyway, with the reference to the Master’s prophesy I started to fear that Pullman throws out explanations for things that don’t really need to be explained to cover the fact that he has no answers to the big questions I still have. But I may be totally wrong, and I will postpone my judgement until the last chapter ends.

          • FlameRaven says:

            The Witches' prophecy was that Lyra was Eve come again. The Master's prophecy was that she would make a great betrayal.

            The Amber Spyglass is a book that doesn't always have the answers up front; it took me multiple rereads before I got what it was saying, and my interpretation still changes a little every time I read it. I think Pullman throws in the reference to the betrayal prophecy because quite honestly readers will either have forgotten all about it, or they assumed it was about Roger and didn't realize that this second betrayal of Pan might be the more significant.

            • hazelwillow says:

              I agree about the Amber Spyglass being a book that doesn't always have the answers up front. That's what makes it so interesting, but also harder to argue about that Harry Potter! 😉

              I also agree that Pullman throws in the reference to the betrayal prophesy to remind us about it, but not because the betrayal of Pan is more significant than the betrayal of Roger. I don't think he's trying to write out the betrayal of Roger or to say that that didn't count, or to make it less significant, because he makes it pretty clear that Lyra's actions on the dock are a direct consequence of her betrayal of Roger. Lyra would have never had cause to leave Pan on that dock had the other event not happened. So what happened with Roger is the real cause of her pain in the boat, because she would never, ever, ever do such a thing to her own Pan had she not felt a deep need to atone to someone she felt she betrayed. I think Pullman is calling attention to the chain of events, not to diminish the importance of what happened to Roger, but to remind us that this is because of that.

        • BradSmith5 says:

          So she is betraying what it means to be alive: a body and dæmon, united. Yeah, that works.

          And I suppose that Asriel's line could be a coincidence. It wasn't something that was bothering me anyway––heck, I didn't even remember it––I just wanted to make my dumb joke, ha,ha,ha. 😉

        • hazelwillow says:

          I think what matters is not what we think about the various "betrayals", but what Lyra thinks and feels. Lyra believes she betrayed Roger: that is the way she sees it, and that is the reason she is going down into the world of the dead. The dreams scattered throughout the beginning of this book make it very clear that this action follows from that. So, leaving Pan hurts, but the rightful consequence (according to Lyra's conscience, anyway) of what she did to Roger hurts too, and it's exactly the same pain. I suppose both events can be seen as betrayals, but I think what matters is that we see the link between what happened with Roger and now. I think the ambiguous line about the "great betrayal hurting her" is there to draw our attention to that, not to discount and write out the earlier "betrayal" and say that it somehow didn't count. Whether on not the master's prediction referred to the betrayal of Pan or the betrayal of Roger, one event followed directly from the other so the "betrayal" of Pan can't be separated from the "betrayal" of Roger.

    • notemily says:

      What gets to me about Asriel's speech at the end of TGC is that he says he's going to destroy Dust in order to destroy the source of all mankind's destructive impulses. But that's a complete lie, isn't it? What he wants to destroy is the thing that tries to police those impulses–i.e., God. This might have just been part of his lie to Mrs. Coulter and I don't have the book handy so I can't check exactly what he said. But you're right that his words then don't match up with his actions now. I think Pullman had vague outlines for the second and third books, but hadn't got the details worked out. I agree that you can kind of see the seams, although I still love these books.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        I looked it up, and it's…interesting. He talks to Marisa about wanting to "find the source of Dust and stifle it forever," but he only says that once, and the major exchange they have before that point is this:

        "Too many people will want to [cross into the parallel universe]. They won't be able to prevent them. This will mean the end of the Church, Marisa, the end of the Magisterium, the end of all those centuries of darkness! Look at that light up there; that's the sun of another world! Feel the warmth of it on your skin, now!"

        "They are stronger than anyone, Asriel! You don't know–"

        "I don't know? No one in the world knows better than I how strong the Church is! But it isn't strong enough for this. The Dust will change everything, anyway. There's no stopping it now."

        "Is that what you wanted? To choke us and kill us all with sin and darkness?"

        "I wanted to break out, Marisa! And I have…"

        I think that exchange could be interpreted as Lord Asriel being too excited and overwhelmed (and arrogant) to bother with lying to Marisa about his intentions, while the last question in the quote wakens him to the reality that she's not going to go with him if she thinks it's sacrilegious.

        I think the problems with Lord Asriel's motivations as revealed at the end of the first book stem not from his exchange with Marisa but from his explanations to Lyra a few chapters earlier. On the one hand, his explanation of how Dust came to be discovered and how the General Oblation Board came to be, while rather matter-of-fact, does seem to have an undercurrent of distaste to it; he agrees with Lyra in saying that the new and "improved" methods of intercision aren't gentle, and he calls the Church's desire to learn about original sin an "obsession." When he first mentions the idea of Dust being the source of original sin, it's worded very carefully, not as fact, but as the opinion of the Church:

        "…Given the Church's nature [my note: I think this refers to the "obsession" quote later on], there was only one thing they could have chosen. The Magisterium decided that Dust was the physical evidence for original sin…."

        But on the other hand, he doesn't seem to have a motive to lie to Lyra about his beliefs and intentions, and yet he says things like this:

        After reading about the Fall of Adam and Eve:

        "And that was how sin came into the world," he said, "sin and shame and death. It came the moment their daemons became fixed."

        "But…" Lyra struggled to find the words she wanted: "but it en't true, is it? Not true like chemistry or engineering, not that kind of true? There wasn't really an Adam and Eve? The Cassington Scholar told me it was just a kind of fairy tale."

        "The Cassington Scholarship is traditionally given to a freethinker; it's his function to challenge the faith of the Scholars. Naturally he'd say that. But think of Adam and Eve like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one: you can never see any concrete proof that it exists, but if you include it in your equations, you can calculate all manner of things that couldn't be imagined without it."

        While the end of the quote could be interpreted solely as a defense of the story of Adam and Eve rather than a defense of the doctrines of the Church as a whole, the first part of the quote seems a little weird to me. It a very stark contrast to the careful wording just a page before; it's not "the Church says that this is when sin was born" or "this is when what the Church labels sin was created," but "this is the source of all bad things." It's stated as if this is the opinion that Lord Asriel himself holds.

        And then when Lyra asks Lord Asriel if he's been involved in any of the intercision:

        "I'm interested in something quite different. I don't think the Oblation Board goes far enough. I want to go to the source of Dust itself…..Somewhere out there is the origin of all the Dust, all the death, the sin, the misery, the destructiveness in the world. Human beings can't see anything without wanting to destroy it, Lyra. That's original sin. And I'm going to destroy it. Death is going to die."

        [Edited about a million times to correct quotes, add more quotes and context, and to correct massive amounts of formatting fail.]

        • notemily says:

          It's just so weird, I can't wrap my head around it. The fact that he tells LYRA he's going to destroy the origin of Dust makes this chapter feel like a bit of a retcon.

        • HieronymusGrbrd says:

          Thank you for the quotes. My "Golden Compass" is back at the library, and I may already have forgotten too much, still waiting for answers that were given weeks ago.

      • hazelwillow says:

        I agree parts of it are a little funny, but Asriel's lie to Mrs. Coulter I actually don't think is a mistake, I think the real reason Asriel lied is so that Lyra could have her realization "If those adults hate dust, and they themselves are evil, maybe dust is GOOD". If Asriel had been like "yeah, I'm actually going to help dust," Lyra would have had nothing to react against. That was an important realization because it underlies practically the whole theology of the books, and thinking for yourself, not following authority.

        It's interesting that both her parents *seem* to be puritanical against Dust, but they're actually more for it than we think then. Her parents' puritanism, against which her reaction is so important, is just skin deep. It's like a parent who says "Don't have sex, that's sinful and bad" to his daughter, but who is really all for sex himself, in private. The adtuls' views are more complicated than the repressive front they maintain and force on their children, but that doesn't mean the children's rebellion against it is any less valid and "good".

    • hazelwillow says:

      Ok, I've thought about this a lot. About Asriel's lines to Mrs. Coulter at the end of the Golden Compass, I mean. Because Asriel's explanation and the whole thing seemed messy to me, too. But my conclusion was this: Asriel lied to Marisa at the end of TGC not because Philip Pullman didn't know what he was doing (it's pretty obvious when reading TGC that he knows what Dust is going to be just fine), but because Lyra had to have that moment where she thinks "WAIT, if these adults think Dust is bad, and they themselves do evil things, SO maybe Dust is good." That's a line of reasoning which underlies practically the whole trilogy, and Lyra needed to have that realization. So, Asriel pretends he's on the side of the church in order for Lyra to have something to react against.
      I don't have a problem with that, myself. It's a little messy, but I can forgive it. I mean, how would it be if we got to the end of the Golden Compass, and Asriel goes "Well, Marisa, it seems we're against Dust, and we've just both done many evil things, and the dear confused readers don't actually even know what the damn stuff is yet. And I've just done something totally evil to my daughter's best friend, and all they know is it has something to do with this evil substance. But in fact my motivations are, well, a little more complicated. Let me explain exactly how I feel about this thing our dear readers are already in the dark about, and make the waters just a little more murky for them, yes?"
      The Golden Compass is all about Lyra coming to the point where she realizes her parents are WRONG. She can make up her own mind independent of authority figures like her parents. If they had presented a multi-faceted, complex picture at the end of the book, it would have come out of nowhere and she would have had nothing to react against.

      It's interesting that her parents' puritanism, against which her reaction is so important, is just skin deep. It's like a parent who says "Don't have sex, that's sinful and bad" to his daughter, but who is really all for sex himself, in private. The adtuls' views are more complicated than the repressive front they maintain and force on their children, but that doesn't mean the children's rebellion against it is any less valid and "good" (in P Pullman's presentation and my opinion, anyway).

  4. @thelxiepia says:

    Chapter 28 Epigraph!
    <img src=""&gt;

    Image reads: "For many a time I have been half in love with easeful death… John Keats."

  5. Noybusiness says:

    "TBQ UR VF FB NAABLVAT. Guvf vf lbhe bja tbqqnza qnhtugre. WHFG. Puevfg, cyrnfr, qhqr, nsgre lbh jva guvf jne, trg rngra ol gur rnegu. V jbhyq abg or ng nyy fnq vs Ybeq Nfevry qvrq. GURER. V FNVQ VG. V JVYY PBZZVG GB GUVF. Vg’f cebonoyl abg tbvat gb unccra, ohg frevbhfyl, V unir UNQ VG."

    Nu, un, un, un, un, un, un, un, un!

  6. knut_knut says:

    Four things about this chapter:
    1. I keep imagining Metatron’s fortress as the floating city/castle in Laputa, the Studio Ghibli movie
    2. Why was Xaphania exiled again? And this happened BEFORE Metatron took over? So God (and by God I meant the Creator) kicked her out? I thought he just made EVERYTHING and then kind of sat back and watched Metatron take over and fuck things up. I am confused.

    • Marie the Bookwyrm says:

      I believe Xaphania was one of the rebel angels–the ones who refused to follow God/the Authority. I cant' remember if they left Heaven or got kicked out. Remember how Mrs.Coulter talks to MacPhail & co.about God being active in Genesis, then gradually less so through the Old Testament. So I guess sometime after Daniel (The Ancient of Days reference) Metatron took over running things. We still don't know what happened to the Authority.

      • knut_knut says:

        Thank you! That’s what I thought so I went back and reread her little bit and I realized I conflated Metatron and the Authority. Too many God-like figures! I can’t keep them straight!

    • muzzery says:

      I thought Balthamos said Xaphania was exiled because she realised that the Authority was not the Creator so he couldn't have her going about telling the other Angels his secret without trying to stop her.

      • monkeybutter says:

        Yeah, I remember the same thing. This is sorta the "hope you were paying attention to what the sassy gay angels were saying" chapter.

      • knut_knut says:

        That's Thank you! That’s what I thought so I went back and reread her little bit and I realized I conflated Metatron and the Authority. Too many God-like figures! I can’t keep them straight!

    • hpfish13 says:

      I always play as Kirby! His offensive moves crack me up. You get to smash people with a hammer, eat them, and you get to turn into a rock and drop on peoples heads!

      • knut_knut says:

        Exactly!!! SO ADORABLE!! And I love that when he eats people he gets to become the Kirby-version of that person! DK Kirby forever <3 There was someone else he was really cute as but I forget who….

        • hpfish13 says:

          I really like when he becomes the Link version of Kirby. That green hat on Kirby is hilarious. Plus then you can shoot arrows.

      • BradSmith5 says:

        And don't forget goading people into a furious rage with frequent uses of his "Hiiiiii!" taunt!

      • FlameRaven says:

        My regular in Melee was Fox, but I find his controls awkward and strange in Brawl, so I've mostly switched over to Pikachu.

  7. John Small Berries says:

    Wait. Two dæmons? Time to read the book again, because clearly I missed something.

    Edit: Aha, yes, I certainly had.

  8. As stated before, he’s now in charge of the Kingdom of Heaven, and God is off…vacationing? Is there an Angel Resort or something? Are we ever going to actually see him?
    This reminds me of one of my favorite Lorrie Moore lines:

    "And yet wasn't reality always cheesy and unreliable just like that; wasn't fate literal in exactly that way? He thinks of the severed, crossed fingers found perfectly survived in the wreckage of a local plane crash last year. Such fate was contrary and dense, like a dumb secretary, failing to understand the overall gestalt and desire of the wish. He prefers a deeper, cleverer, even tardy fate, like that of a girl he knew once in law school who, years before, had been raped, shot, and left for dead but then had crawled ten hours out of the woods to the highway with a .22 bullet in her head and flagged a car. That's when you knew that life was making something up to you, that the narrative was apologizing. That's when you knew God had glanced up from his knitting, perhaps even risen from his freaking wicker rocker, and staggered at last to the window to look."

    —Lorrie Moore, "Beautiful Grade"

  9. monkeybutter says:

    As stated before, he’s now in charge of the Kingdom of Heaven, and God is off…vacationing?

    <img src=""&gt;
    You say that Asriel hates Lyra, but I think this chapter actually shows that he's proud of her when he exults at her successes. I don't know if it's because he only cares because she was successful, or if it was part of his 12-dimensional chess long game with Mrs Coulter, trying to manipulate her into doing what he wants. He only becomes guarded again when he's alone with her, as she does with him, and holy crap, do these two ever deserve each other. They should have gotten married. But in no way should they have been directly involved in Lyra's upbringing. Being raised without parents at Oxford was the best thing for her, and the only way she could escape childhood without being tainted by her parents' fuckery.

    I like that what Balthamos told Will about physical bodies being stronger than angels is repeated in this chapter. And even more than that, I love the image of the daemons wandering around as cats. Vf vg rire rkcynvarq jul gurve qnrzbaf raq hc va gur Erchoyvp, be vf gung zreryl whfg n cybg pbairavrapr?

  10. stellaaaaakris says:

    My reaction while reading the bit where Asriel was talking about Lyra was along the lines of, "IT'S ABOUT TIME YOU REALIZE LYRA IS A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH! WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?!?!?!"

    I didn't actually get the impression that he was being slimy. I think he thought it was great that her actions were benefiting him, but I believe he would have been equally impressed had they not. He always discounted her, due to her youth or whatever, (remember when she wanted to help him on Svalbard, not that she knew what he planned to do) but now he actually realized what she could/did do and all he can really say is "DAMNNNNNN. I better take her seriously." I read it more as he finally respected her, regardless of the beneficial effects of her actions. That was just icing.

    • knut_knut says:

      I agree, but I still get the impression that winning this war is Asriel's #1 priority and if that means Lyra has to die he's ok with that. So he's still kind of slimy but at least he's accepted that Lyra is badass and awesome!

      • Eye Zem Grim says:

        Of course it's his priority. He's fighting for the freedom of all universes. So you know, badass or not, if a choice has to be made between all of creation and one daughter… well, sorry, dear. It makes him a bit of a fanatic, but I'm not sure we can call him slimy. Though if any of these critiques were made to his face, he'd probably just go 'Oh, wah wah wah'. Or perhaps 'Moan moan moan'.

  11. MRB says:

    I love Asriel and Marisa in this chapter. Their complex relationship remains ever a mystery to us, but I can almost see now how those two could produce a child like Lyra.

    I always figured Marisa was going to kill herself, especially when looking back at the epitath for the chapter.


    "VF GUNG GUR JBEYQ BCRAVAT HC GB RNG FBZRBAR. Orpnhfr V’z cerggl fher gung pbhagf, naq V’z cerggl fher gung vf shpxvat nznmvat, naq V’z cerggl fher guvf jvyy orpbzr gur terngrfg abiry rire vs gung unccraf."

    Zhnun. Zhnununun. ZHNUNUNUNUNUNUNUN!

    • barnswallowkate says:

      I'm choosing to read your last line as-is without rot13-ing it, and it's hilarious. From now on instead of DUN DUN DUNNNN I am using ZHUN ZHUN ZHNUNUNUNUNUN!

    • BradSmith5 says:

      I figured she was going to blow Asriel away, steal his cutlass, then swashbuckle her way out of the fortress. Then she'd hijack another intention craft––the good one, this time––and rocket her way over to the flying mountain. Once there, she'd sweet-talk Metatron into letting her join what she sees as "the winning side."

      Yeah, I still don't trust her.

  12. Hanah_banana says:

    This is a chapter of many fabulous things but the best thing for me?

    The reference to Enoch in the apocryphal scriptures.

    YES I AM A GIANT THEOLOGY STUDENT SO SUE ME IDEK I SPENT SO MUCH OF THIS YEAR STUDYING THE BOOK OF ENOCH AND THE BOOKS OF THE APOCRYPHA THIS MAKES ME REALLY, REALLY HAPPY. It's like…this whole world and situation is invented by Pullman but it is SO hugely based in Christian theology that it's really easy to think 'well…theoretically it could happen. It could be true in a parallel universe'. There are some little flaws but over and over again when I read this series I am blown away by the accuracy with which Pullman uses Christian doctrine to build his world. Whether that's a good thing or not depends on the reader of course, but I just think it's fabulous.

    Also Asriel you are such a jerk, if you just, I don't know, tried being HONEST for once and talking about your FEELINGS and actually giving a damn about anyone but yourself and your war then maybe things would turn out better. But hey, what do I know, I'm just a tiny little girl and we all know how useless they are. OH. WAIT.

    • _Sparkie_ says:

      Hehe, I totally just pictured Grawp reading the bible! wtf is my brain!

      I agree with you too btw, once I'd got over my immaturity!

  13. frogANDsquid says:

    Honestly i have nothing deep and ~philosophical~ to add to the comments because I cant complete a sentence about anything without a spoiler so I have one question Mark: how the hell did you stop at the end of this chapter?

  14. Harrison says:

    Wow okay. Just really quick before I comment on this chapter: I first read His Dark Materials when I was 11, and the story affected me in ways that few stories ever have. It has seemed to follow me around ever since, always in the back of my head. Now, this summer, at 19, I finally decided to revisit the series for real. I was astonished to find that it affected me just as much if not more than when I was 11. It seemed that something every few chapters would bring me to tears, and when I got to this particular book, tears became loud, wracking sobs. I was happy because I had rediscovered something that caused me to feel so much emotion, but sad because I had no one to share it with. Most of my friends are Christian, and I don't think they would really appreciate the series in the same way I do as an atheist. Several other friends had also read them when they were children, but didn't seem as affected by them as I was.

    I thought that I would just have to go through for a while with no one to really share my refound love of this series with. Then I stumbled back on Mark Reads. I had been to Mark Reads a few months ago and liked what I found, but apparently it didn't catch my interest enough for me to keep current. So what a surprise I had when I found out a few days ago that Mark had been spending his summer immersed in His Dark Materials just as I had. I sat down to read all of his reviews of the series. It was an incredible experience. Once again, I was able to live and die through these books. Again, I cried quite a few times. But it wasn't just about the source material anymore. It was because I was able to experience it with someone. Reading Mark's thoughts as the series progressed was amazing; I was blown away that he and I were having such similar thoughts and emotions. Furthermore, I was delighted to find the people below in the comments, discussing the series so thoughtfully.

    Thank you so much, Mark, for showing me that my love for this story — and for stories in general — does not have to be isolated. And thank you to everyone in the comments for being consistently delighting to read. It has been a joy to catch up on these reviews over the past few days. I am only disappointed I was not here when this project began. I hate that there are only 10 chapters left now.

    Well, now that's over, I can finally discuss my thoughts on this particular chapter.

    "I’d honestly forgotten about Metatron, to be honest, but we haven’t really heard about him since The Subtle Knife."

    I distinctly remember that we first met Metatron at the beginning of this book — when he charges at Will, Baruch, and Balthamos — not in The Subtle Knife. It makes sense you would make this mistake though. That feels like so long ago!

    I get the impression that The Authority has never really felt the desire to do what Metatron is planning — omnidimensional inquisition. I think that Metatron probably is a darker, edgier version of The Authority.

    I think that Mrs. Coulter was probably going to kill herself. Which is interesting, because you have to imagine that suicide must be different in her world. Because not only are you taking your own life, but also the life of your daemon. I know that your daemon is you, but surely that would feel like a betrayal?

    Well, that's that. Sorry my comment was so long.

  15. arctic_hare says:

    I love your mind, Mark. 😀 <3 Never stop being you, that is what makes these reviews such a joy to read. Whether it's inserting mentions of Super Smash Bros. or talking about the earth opening up to swallow a person, or whatever… it's why we're all here.

    (Dude, I'm so excited about Cowboy Bebop being confirmed for the Watches list that I've been listening to music from the show all morning. Not that I really need an excuse, BUT YEAH. CANNOT WAIT. <3 It is going to mean a LOT to me to watch it again with you.)

    Ahem. Yeah, Lord Asriel can fuck off. And that's definitely my favorite scene between Asriel and Coulter. There's a mood to it unlike any other, and I was really struck by it, on first read and on reread too.


    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      People have been telling me to watch Cowboy Bebop for years! I'm glad I am finally committing to it.

      • arctic_hare says:

        The stupid thing kept wanting to show the opening of the tag, no matter how many times I freaking closed it, even deleting and reposting my comment didn't work. Whatever, IntenseDebate. *shakes fist*

        I'm glad too! 😀 I think you will have a lot of fun with it, it strikes me as being up your alley (hence my rec!).

      • sabra_n says:

        Ah, and now I have an excuse to watch it. I watched Shinchiro Wantanebe's other anime – the lovely Samurai Champloo – a few months ago, so I just needed a nudge. 🙂

        ETA – The fact that you're going to watch The Middleman too brings JOY TO MY SOUL.


        • arctic_hare says:

          Oh please do watch it! 😀 It's one of my favorite shows of all time, and the one anime I think everyone should watch. <3 I can't wait to wax poetic about it and its soundtrack. <3

    • BradSmith5 says:

      Cowboy Beebop!?! Are you kidding me!? He's watching anime now!? This is the best news––THE BEST. Please tell me that Battlestar show doesn't last for ten seasons; we need some folk blues––stat!

      • arctic_hare says:

        Well, good news and bad news on that. The good news is that BSG is only 4 or so seasons IIRC (I haven't actually watched it myself either). The bad news is that the next major show (he's doing a secret miniseries in between), Buffy, is… seven seasons long. HOPEFULLY Bebop will be next after that, but it'll still be a while. (Not that Buffy is terrible, but whew, that's long.)

        (pleasepleaseplease do CB after Buffy, Mark.)

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          Well, if by books/merch do well (as they are now), I should be able to devote all my time to both sites. If I can, I'll do Buffy/CB concurrently.

          • arctic_hare says:

            Even better. 😀 Sweet!

          • @sab39 says:

            Are you doing Buffy/(the spinoff show of Buffy whose name may or may not be considered spoilery) interleaved in the original order of airing? Because if not you totally should.

            Also, in an awesome bit of Browncoat/geek/MarkDoesStuff convergence I won a complete set of Bebop DVDs in the raffle at a charity showing of Serenity this year, and I've never watched it and know nothing about it. So I can watch along with you, Mark!

  16. pica_scribit says:

    I quite literally LOLed at three points during this review. And I cannot tell you why, except to say that you are not prepared, but I think you will probably love how this all pans out.

  17. Becky_J_ says:

    I'm sorry, but I can't comment on anything worthwhile in this review or this chapter because now I just want to talk about Kirby and his awesomeness. Yes, I WAS really bad at that game, little better than a button masher…… but I DID know the control to swallow people and to drop on their heads as a brick.

    I mean, what else do you need????

    Loved watching the anger of my fellow players when they got swallowed….. "GAH stop that!!! YOU DON'T DO ANYTHING REAL YOU JUST KEEP EATING ME SO I CAN'T DO ANYTHINGGGG!!!!! "

    I know, that's the point hehehehehe

    • stellaaaaakris says:

      Hahaha I would do the same thing! When my brother made me play Mortal Kombat at the arcades, my strategy would always be just to smash all the buttons at the same time and try to aim myself at his character. It worked surprisingly well. And I would either be Kirby or Yoshi, because apparently I really enjoyed eating people or something? I would make Yoshi turn everybody into eggs and hope that he'd spit them out over the edge. And when that didn't work, which was most of the time, I would just make him strut between the eggs saying his name over and over again until they hatched. I still usually lost but the annoyance I made others feel made up for it.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        I AM GLAD WE ARE KINDRED SOULS ON THIS. Oh god the Kirby strategy is THE BEST STRATEGY

      • Becky_J_ says:

        "….because apparently I really enjoyed eating people or something?"

        Ahahaha THIS. I did too. The person who decided that those two characters could eat people was genius!

        "I still usually lost but the annoyance I made others feel made up for it."

        I've decided that the real goal of this game is not to be the last one standing, but to be the last one happy. In this aim, you and I totally won.

        P.S. Every time I go back and reread your comment I fall into a fit of giggles picturing you as Yoshi strutting between eggs holding other people hostage and saying his name over and over again. Siruisly. I can't handle it.

        • stellaaaaakris says:

          Well, I couldn't find a gif of Yoshi just walking around surrounded by a bunch of egg-opponents, but I did find this one of Kirby:

          <img src=""&gt;

          It's labeled "Kirby taunts" so I think it's appropriate for this discussion.

          And yes, high-five! We're so awesome. Character eaters unite! (Fun fact: I originally wrote "people eaters" which brought to mind, well, cannibals, but also that song with the line "one eyed, one horned, flying purple people-eater.")

    • Harrison says:

      I actually learned to be pretty good with Kirby. He can be a pretty decent character without being cheap. Though, yes, the falling as a brick NEVER stops being fun. 🙂

  18. notemily says:

    You know what really stood out to me about this chapter? The way Asriel talks about Lyra as being more important than even HIMSELF to the cause now. He says "My part is nearly over." It seems like the tide is turning for Asriel a little bit, and although I still don't think he LOVES Lyra, he's finally willing to admit that she might be playing a bigger part than he is in these events, which is something.

    • Harrison says:

      I agree. I still think that Asriel is completely failing to see Lyra as a daughter, he is finally seeing her as someone worthy of his attention and respect. He's still a shitty dad though.

  19. Kira Wonrey says:

    I just want to say that I love Lord Asriel. I don't know why… I just like him a lot.

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