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In The Book of Dust, the first part and most of the second part have a matter-of-fact style. The "magical" aspects of Pullman's world (dæmons, Dust, talking bears etc) are treated by the characters as normal and either mundane or part of the natural world. Characters in "The Poachers" chapter explicitly doubt the existence of supernatural beings like Mermaids or Old Father Thames.

The story then makes a sudden shift in tone, when Malcolm reaches the Enchanted Island, and then enters the Tunnel that leads to the magical underground party. It is as if the rules of physics have been temporarily turned off. Diania uses terms like "Albion" (following William Blake), instead of the established "Brytain". She obeys fairie logic. Even the characters comment on how unreal the world has become.

After this excursion, in the final chapter, the tone switches back. Malcolm passes into the city, and the tone returns to that of the first part.

What is going on here? What causes this sudden change from materialistic to magical? Is this a dream sequence. Did the events of "The Enchanted Island" and the next couple of chapters actually happen?

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One of the literary sources that inspire Pullman is The Faerie Queene by Spencer. The progress to the Enchanted Isle and from it should be read as being an episode from The Faerie Queene, with the "knight" and his "squire" (Malcolm and Alice) entering into a faerie realm that exists but is normally hidden.

Compare Diania with the character of Phaedria, who tries to tempt Sir Guyon to stay with her on her island in the Idle Lake.

In the world of The Book of Dust, Faery exists in parallel with Britain, but is only accessible at rare times and to rare people. The quest to save Lyra from the flood and Bonneville allows Malcolm and Alice to briefly enter Faery but they must resist its temptations.

So the episode should be considered as "magical" but "real".

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