Anyway, I've been focusing on reading Northern Lights for now, because I was half-convinced it was really good, and half-curious to check whether or not it would have a touch of dystopian that I should be aware of. It turns out that my suspicions were completely false, and this book, so far, is completely lovely. It is set in a parallel universe - in a different type of Oxford -, but for now I've found no hints of world destruction. I have a bit more of faith on what the Dust project will be, far ahead in the book, but really, what I've read so far has given me so much trust in the whole book and so much eagerness to just keep reading.
Along with reading, I've been trying to challenge myself to make at least a drawing a day and keep it strict for a month, so I can recover the skill I used to have prior to becoming depressed and lazy. I've been trying to draw out of my mind and without references, and more variety from my usual portraits so I'm drawing scenes from whatever I read. My drawings are just sketches, though, at least for the challenge... I'm usually so much better when I put more effort into improving an image rather than to just try and make out one.
From the last post, I've read two chapters (take note that chapters in Northern Light
s tend to be very long, but they're distinguishable from others). The third one, Lyra's Jordan, deals with how Lyra sees the college where she lives. It speaks of its grandiosity and its architecture, so one could have a very good idea of how it looks like. I really like it when authors make descriptive (but not tedious, to the point you forget you are reading a story and not a geography book) ideas of the things that are the clearest only in their imagination. I think it's rather generous when an author is willing to reveal so meticulously a world that was once an intimate thought. And the way he does it, you don't lose the thread in the story - it's connected to it, you still know what is going on and it's not like reading, for a while, a separate book about the world's geography while you're reading a bigger book. The descriptions are cleverly blended into the storyline.
Another thing that is explained in Chapter Three is Lyra's leisurely life in the Jordan. Every detail about her wild, yet safe life is explained exquisitely, from her fights with the children from other colleges, to her carelessness about her looks, to her absolute lack of fear.
The most important thing about the third chapter, though, is that that's where the story really begins - with the kidnap of a boy named Tony, somewhere in England. The Gobblers are introduced for the first time with the misadventure of Tony, who was lured by a certain lady with a fox-fur coat and dark hair. We get to see how they are seduced, where they are taken, and what this awful lady does to them - she makes them write letters to their parents, which she said would be delivered, but in the end, she burns them. Are these kids going to be taken to the Arctic? What is the point of working with them, and why so many of them are stolen? An important thing to remember, beware, is that none of these kids are pubescent. I wonder why this is as important as the book makes them out to be...
The story of the Gobblers is spread all over England, though people are doubtful about what purpose they serve and where the children are taken. Lyra, meanwhile, is safe... until a certain point. The Gobblers reach Oxford, where a giptian children is stolen, and at first she thinks it's fun to fancy herself a detective, but in the end, when she sees all the women cry and all the daemons desperate, she realises it's a serious business and that the Gobblers really are there. Still, she has a childlike mind, and interprets the Gobblers in play. In one of her adventures pretending to be one, she is lead under the subterranean area of the Jordan, where she finds the coffins of all the Headmasters that have been in the Jordan, each with the name and picture of their Daemon engraved in their tombstones, as well as the skulls of several people that had studied at the Jordan, which hid coins with the engraving of their daemons to accompany them in their afterlives. I wonder if this scene will have any further meaning in the book.
Lyra's carefree life in the Jordan comes to an end when she is invited to dine with the Headmaster, along with other guests which happen to be only ladies... among those is Marisa Coulter, the same woman who lured Tony to the haven full of stolen children.
In Chapter Four, The Alethiometer, Mrs. Coulter seems to give a contradicting image in
contrast to what we saw in the last chapter. She seems to be good and knowledgeable, and she is genuinely interested in Lyra, and (fortunately or unfortunately) the feeling is mutual. The Headmaster arranges this dinner with the purpose to make Lyra know other women that will tutor her. She is either too old, or too unsafe for the Jordan, or something has to be hidden from her in the following years. I am more than willing to find out.
Lyra, at first, is completely appalled to the idea of leaving the Jordan, but once she realises she could opt for being with the alluring Mrs. Coulter, she feels determined to leave the Jordan for more adventures (she is also determined to fix her hair and clothes like a lady). She is sent to sleep, as she'd leave the Jordan right on the next day. But right before dawn, something extremely important happens...
Lyra is sent to the Headmaster's office in the middle of her sleep. When she is there, she is presented this small, but heavy object, covered in velvet and looking like a big pocket watch with mysterious engravings... it's the Alethiometer, an object "to help you find the truth". She has to find out how it works throughout the book. It's a practically unique object, and it seems to be lusted after - she has to hide it from everyone, including uncle Asriel. But one would wonder why, why give it to her above all people, and what is its use? Why can't she show it to the people she trusts? Pantalaimon warns her not to show it to Mrs. Coulter. Does he know about her job at kidnapping children?
Lyra has to leave, right after that moment. She is sent on a Zeppelin (there is a lot of anachronism in this story, like blended things from the 16th to early 20th century) from Oxford to London, where they arrive at the luxurious home of Mrs. Coulter. It is nothing like what she knew at the Jordan - it is vast and covered in shiny decorations, statues, chandeliers; her clothes are cosy and fresh and new, and she even seems to enjoy the baths. She is so relaxed while taking one, in fact, that she forgets about the Alethiometer (it is hidden near her coat), but to her luck it is safe. For how long will it be safe, though? She'll have to be careful, because Mrs. Coulter seems to distract her very much with constant trips to the clothes' store and to fancy restaurants. I wonder if she purposely wants her to feel distracted.
The first thing I thought after reading those two chapters was "what the hell". Why is she being so kind with Lyra if she stole the other children and tore their letters? Will she be even meaner to Lyra, or is she genuinely fascinated by her? Is she keeping her safe from something - and why, if she has an uncle and why, if she's the one that manages all the mischief, from what I understand?
I'll have to see.
(PD: Today we're supposed to order from Barnes and Noble. Mother, if you're reading this, we have to!)