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Discussion: Chapters 1-12 of The Amber Spyglass #HDMreadalong

The His Dark Materials Readalong is hosted by Andrea at The Overstuffed Bookcase and Jessie at The Daily Bookmark. We’ll have discussion questions, reviews, and a giveaway! Go here for more information, or here for the list of all the HDM Readalong posts.

Hi, everyone!  Jessie at The Daily Bookmark posted these questions today, so I’m going to give my answers.  Please don’t leave any spoilers, as not all our participants have read past this point!  (And if you haven’t read this far yet, please be warned that there will be spoilers for the first two books and the first 12 chapters of this book.)

1. The Church is set on killing Lyra as she is the modern Eve. The Temptress, Mary Malone, is on her way to tempt Lyra into a choice, one that will plunge the human race into sin and away from paradise, much the same as the first Eve. What do you suppose Mary will tempt Lyra with that will cause her to make this fateful choice?

I have no clue what Mary will tempt her with!  I’ve been wondering that myself, but all I can think of if something to do with the Dust, because that’s what Mary and Lyra talked about when they spent time together.  But I’m sure whatever huge choice Lyra will have to make will have some very dire consequences for herself or her friends.

2. For me, The Amber Spyglass has been Pullman’s first loud showcase of his disdain for organized religion, Christianity, specifically. While I don’t necessarily share Pullman’s views, it’s blatantly obvious that he’s trying to say something without being explicit. Have you noticed this, too? In what ways? If not, simply give your opinion of these first twelve chapters (ending with Lyra finally waking up and the Gallivespians’ stand-off with Mrs. Coulter amidst the battle raging outside the cave).

I actually kind of feel like the second book was more shouty in the anti-Christian sentiments.  I mean, it could get worse as this story goes along, but so far in just these first 12 chapters, I feel like I’ve seen less than in The Subtle Knife.  Well, with the exception of the fact that the Church wants to kill Lyra, and that whole preemptive penance thing (Does that actually exist? Because that’s all kinds of NUTS), and the fact that Pullman’s God really isn’t the creator but just the first angel.  Well, I guess that is a lot of anti-religion sentiment in just the first 12 chapters.  Soooo…  Yeah.  Lots of anti-religion stuff in these books!  It doesn’t really bother me too much because I’m of the “To Each His Own” school of thought and I can see my own problems with organized religion.

3. Mrs. Coulter is proving to be quite the dynamic character. In this first third, we see that she’s actually caring for Lyra and she even tells will a pretty convincing tale about why she’s keeping her asleep and how much she truly cares for her. Do you buy it? What are your thoughts on this more complicated, less villainy Mrs. Coulter? What do you suppose is causing this sudden seeming change of heart?

I don’t completely buy anything Mrs. Coulter says.  I DO, however, think she cares a lot for Lyra.  I think that was pretty evident in The Golden Compass when she keeps those people from separating Lyra from her dæmon, Pantalaimon.  I think when she took Lyra to the cave it was an act of love for her daughter, but I think soon after that she realized she was now an enemy of the Church, and her actions from then on were probably mostly to save her own skin.  I don’t think she’s all bad, because in real life even the most heinous criminals have redeeming qualities.  And I love how Pullman has made all his characters so complex to the point of making a character that seems inherently evil have a little bit of a good side.

So there are my answers for this discussion.  Great questions, Jessie! Everyone can feel free to leave your own answers in the comments, or if you write your answers on your own blog, leave me the link in the comments and I’ll add your post to our master list!  And be sure to stop by here again next Friday for my questions for Chapters 13-26 of The Amber Spyglass!

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