This story moves fast and never takes itself seriously for even a paragraph. Like A Series of Unfortunate Events, or many works by Edward Gorey, or even Pullman's later series, Count Karlstein centres on young children in peril. Here, however, it's easy to see the lump in Pullman's cheek as he writes with his tongue firmly planted therein.
From the first time he slinks on to the page, it is clear that Count Karlstein is a villain. In fact, there are few characters in this story who are not painted with outrageously broad strokes, but that is all part of the fun. Young children (and silly adults) should get a kick out of the story which is just scary enough to pull the blanket a little tighter but not enough to put the book down or cause any nightmares.
The story which involves a nefarious plot to sacrifice Karlstein's nieces to a mythical huntsman is told from several perspectives, allowing for the book to remain in the first person while enjoying a more omnipotent flavour.