Master of Ballantrae

Quarterly Book Review: His Dark Materials trilogy and Master of Ballantrae

I took this quarterly review idea from my friend Rachel (read her blog, about the silver linings of life, here). It’s fitting, as we, along with another blogger named Dawn (read her blog, about encouragement for life, here), run a virtual book club (cleverly named Between the Covers) on Facebook. Feel free to join the fun here!

goldenpmamberspyglass subtle_knife_cover
[You can read more about Philip Pullman’s books here]

For the most part, I really liked this series. It made me wish my youth was a bit more exciting, you know? My childhood was definitely filled with my own adventures: trying to dig a hole to China, playing with the neighborhood kids, singing, laughing. But nothing quite like Lyra’s. I really enjoyed the first book in this series (The Golden Compass), and I liked the second book a little less (The Subtle Knife), and I’m still thinking about how I liked the last one (The Amber Spyglass). I thought the supernatural and scientific elements of the books were fantastic, but when they started funneling in Religion more and more, I started losing interest. Overall, the books are really well written, and a very easy and quick read. I couldn’t put the books down (until that last one, it took me a bit longer).

[You can read this classic for free on the Kindle or the Kindle App!]

This is the first book Between the Covers read. This book took me awhile to get started. There is a lot of Scottish slang, and, embarrassingly, quite a few words I did not know. This book is filled with many characters I could not identify with, and the time line was a bit jumpy. Other than all of those, I liked this book. I learned a lot of new words, started picking up the slang, and the book was simpler to read. The people, on the other hand, they were not. The politics of Bellantrae were enough for me for awhile. I hope the next few books are a bit more relate-able.

Covet thy neighbor’s ambition

“All day long they would be telling up their shares or grooming over the result. I have said we were pretty fortunate. But an observation fails to be made: that in this world, in no business that I have tried, do the profits rise to a man’s expectations.”
-Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson

But is this a bad thing, to always crave more?

To give you some additional context with the above passage, there are these 2 non-pirates aboard a pirate ship. One of them made the above observation after they plundered another ship, and all of the pirates constantly count their treasures wishing they had more. So, as a pirate, they wanted more, but as a non-pirate, they felt rich in their stolen wares.

I understand you should be content with what you have and all that you achieved in your life but what about having ambition? Is this different? Does this not count?

From the perspective of the pirate, stealing goods is a major part of their job description. They have to do it to prove to other pirates that they are indeed the pirate-iest of all pirates. Kind of like street cred. But, if you are some poor person who is job-shadowing a pirate, that kind of lifestyle would seem pretty amazing. You get to see a lot of new places, and you would have more gold then you ever had in your life.

Let’s step away from this novel and come into the real world. Let’s take me, a lowly graduate student who slaves away in her lab (even on weekends, and on holidays, and every morning, afternoon, evening, and sometimes late evening) for low wages in exchange for all of this knowledge I am gaining, as an example. Is this where I want to be for the rest of my life? Absolutely not! I have so many dreams and ambitions, that I probably won’t get around to achieving half of them before I die. I will want a job somewhere … and then, I will want to be promoted … and then, I will want to be promoted again … and then, I want a raise, and even more responsibility. When I have moved up as far as I can go within my job, maybe I will consider leaving it so I can gain more experience somewhere else. If at any time I lose my drive, I will steal it from my neighbor, just like the pirates. They won’t even know it, but I can become quite competitive, if the right circumstance presents itself … like me not making progress on my project, and my neighbor making a ton. I will start working harder, reading more, you name it, I will do it (well, except sabotaging, I am very positive person and I would NEVER ruin someone else’s life intentionally.)

My point is, never settle for less. You should always want to strive to be the best you can be. No matter how lofty your dream may be (I mean, hello! I want the stinkin’ Nobel Prize, for pete’s sake!)

So go out there, and do something for you. To better your spirit, to better your life, to better your family’s life, to better your job performance … just go out there, and do something for you.