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Chapter 1, The Decanter of Tokay


A decanter is a jug for wine/alcohol.

Tokay is sweet (usually), white wine from Holland. The legendary Tokay Eszencia, a concentrated sweet essence of low alcohol famed for its miraculous restorative properties, is virtually unobtainable today. (It's hard to create, the method is not lost.)

The chapter opens with layers of luxury. The places on the high table are "laid with gold, not silver" and the seats were "not oak benches but mahogany chairs with velvet cushions." Emphasis is placed on the darkness, not being heard. Despite this Lyra flicks a glass on the high table (the biggest) and lets it ring until scolded.

While sneaking into the barred-to-women Retiring Room, the two things Lyra observes are that "they do themselves well", and wonders what the men talk about within the room. Look, a character is building through the things she does and says!

The Master asks whether Asriel has arrived. Azrael is the name of the Archangel of Death in some JudaeoChristian texts that are not the Bible. "Sir Azreal" is also a knight of the round table, though I find no reference to this other than Wikipedia.

Asriel is "feared and admired" by Lyra, and very mysterious and unpredictable, rumoured to be very powerful.

Asriel is apparently partial to Tokay, and the Master appears to poison his decanter full of it. At this point the wine is described as "rich, golden", both of which we have seen in the first few pages. Gold explicitly, riches implicitly. And now it's been poisoned.

Lyra is quick to believe the powder is poisonous ("If it was innocent it wouldn't have mattered the Butler seeing"), and that something big and political is going down. This being a book (and therefore, about something) we're inclined to agree. She's smart. Pan quibbles and is "sensible", but agrees with the poison idea. Character development all round!

Pan argues that they should let the Masters do whatever they please. Lyra says "You're supposed to know about conscience, aren't you?" I don't remember much about the exact nature of daemons, so this is interesting. Also, do they not have any affection for Lord Azriel?

Azriel Adjectives: tall, powerful, fierce, dark, savage, large, balanced.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
pargoletta
Sep. 26th, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, I like this. I read the books once, many years ago, and I remember not finding them too terribly interesting, but I like the way you're approaching them. I'll have to make sure to check in and follow this.
ang_the_adverse
Sep. 28th, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you're enjoying. I had a similar experience, I think I gave up half way through the last one. But now I'm older and better at reading and thinking, so I thought it would be a good series to go back to.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )