Summary: Chapters 1–6

Mrs. Coulter is keeping Lyra in a cave in the Himalayas of Lyra’s own world. She feeds Lyra a sleeping potion to keep her unconscious. A little servant girl named Ama decides to figure out a way to wake Lyra up. She gets a special powder from a local magician and brings it to the cave. Ama realizes that Mrs. Coulter is an evil woman. Lyra dreams she is speaking to Roger.

Back in the world of Ci’gazze, Will and two angels, Balthamos and Baruch, argue over what to do. Balthamos and Baruch, who are lovers, come from a low order of angels. They insist that Will come with them, but Will says he has to find Lyra. Baruch flies ahead to look for her, and Will and Balthamos make their way down the mountain. Will and Balthamos enter Lyra’s world and Balthamos agrees to pretend to be Will’s daemon so that Will won’t stand out. Baruch returns, having discovered where Mrs. Coulter is holding Lyra.

Suddenly, Metatron, the Lord Regent of God’s angels, attacks Will and the two angels, but they are able to escape. Balthamos tells Will that angels are made out of Dust. He also tells Will that God was not the creator of the universe, but was rather one of the first angels. When he gained power, he started telling the other angels that he had created everything. Another angel eventually found out the truth, so God banished her and all the angels that followed her. God is old now and Metatron rules in his place.

Baruch decides to go to Lord Asriel and talk to him. Balthamos agrees to continue pretending to be Will’s daemon in Lyra’s world and to help Will find Lyra. In Lyra’s world, the climate is changing because of the rip in the sky that Lord Asriel made. Serafina finds Iorek Byrnison and tells him that Lee Scoresby is dead. Iorek finds Lee’s body and eats it. Then he returns to his own world to lead the bears south to the snowy Himalayas, as the bears’ own icy kingdom has been melting.

Baruch approaches Lord Asriel’s fortress, the Adamant Tower. Two of Metatron’s angels attack him, almost killing him. Baruch is brought before Lord Asriel. He tells Lord Asriel that God now lives in a crystal chamber inside his roaming castle (which is called the Chariot or the Clouded Mountain) and that Metatron is the one who actually rules. Metatron no longer trusts the Church and wants to intervene directly in the lives of human beings in every world. Metatron and Baruch were men once—and they were brothers. Metatron banished Baruch.

Before dying, Baruch tells Lord Asriel where Lyra is and where Will is heading. Lord Asriel summons several of his allies, including King Ogunwe, an African king, and some Gallivespians. The latter are tiny people with poisonous spurs on their heels who ride hawks and dragonflies.

The Consistorial Court (an arm of the Church) finds out where Lyra is. They know that she is to be the new Eve, so they send a force of soldiers to kill her. They also send out a lone assassin, Father Gomez, to follow Mary Malone. They hope that even if their mission to kill Lyra fails, Mary will lead Father Gomez to Lyra.

Analysis: Chapters 1–6

Like all angels, Baruch and Balthamos are bene elim, a Hebrew phrase meaning sons of God. Baruch is a biblical character, the secretary of the prophet Jeremiah, and is also the putative author of the apocryphal text that shares his name. As he is dying, Baruch tells Lord Asriel that before he became an angel, he was Metatron’s brother. In life, Metatron was a “lover of the flesh,” but he banished his brother, Baruch, probably because Baruch is gay. In the characters of the angels Baruch and Balthamos, Pullman again points out the repressive nature of religion and the Church. Because Balthamos and Baruch share a vivid, strong love, they are condemned by Metatron and by the Church, which frowns upon homosexuality. In Pullman’s world, the Church uses the most vicious and power-hungry people as its servants and suppresses or banishes those who behave in unusual ways.

Metatron’s attack on Will, Balthamos, and Baruch illustrates Metatron’s desperate desire to get his hands on the knife. It also shows that Metatron, the angel in charge of executing God’s will on Earth, is a vicious killer.

Balthamos explains to Will that God is not in fact the creator of all things, but just one of the oldest angels. He seized power at the very beginning of creation and has ruled ever since through deceit, brute force, and war. Because God’s rule is based on a lie, he prefers to rule over people who are obedient and don’t ask questions. As Balthamos explains it, the first big rebellion was not, in fact, led by a male angel named Satan, but by a female being who recognized that God was lying. In Pullman’s book, the rebellion against God was a revolution against a tyrant.

Forces from worlds oppressed by the Church have made their way to Lord Asriel’s fortress, the Adamant Tower, to make a stand with Asriel. They no longer want a Kingdom of Heaven, in which one power rules over all and crushes dissent. They want to build a Republic of Heaven, in which each person is entitled to live freely and choose the direction of his or her own life.

Baruch’s news that Metatron has begun to rule in God’s place troubles Lord Asriel. It is unfortunate that the Church rules people’s lives, but at least the Church is a human institution susceptible to appeals from other humans. If Metatron, the cruelest angel, overthrows the Church and intervenes directly in human lives, appeals will go unheeded. Metatron was once a man but he has turned into a supernatural power who makes absolute judgments.

Father Gomez is a professional assassin who has been repenting for his murders before he commits them. Gomez’s behavior sends up the hypocrisy of the Church. Repentance is supposed to follow sin, cleansing the soul of someone who truly regrets what he or she has done. Father Gomez makes a mockery of repentance by feeling guilty about a sin he hasn’t yet committed, as if this preemptive guilt will allow him to one day sin freely.