I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on July 14th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Literary
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In 1884, Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his London apartment to find a new watch on his pillow. But he has bigger things to worry about than generous burglars; he is a telegraphist at the Home Office, where he has just received a bomb threat. Six months later, the watch saves his life, warning him of a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker.Keita Mori, the artisan behind the mysterious watch, is a Japanese immigrant who remembers the future. Mori and Thaniel bond quickly, and as their friendship deepens, Mori uses his gift to tweak Thaniel's daily life in his favor. But then Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist attracted to the telegraphist's refreshingly direct nature, unwittingly interferes. Soon, events spiral beyond Thaniel's control, and nothing is certain-not the present, and definitely not the future.The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. It breathes a new authenticity into the era of Sherlock Holmes, exploring historical moments in a new light-as well as the prevailing social and scientific views of the age-and plays speculatively with time and destiny, ushering in a new kind of magic.
The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley is quite a unique book. It is actually kind of cool, to be honest. This book is different from anything I’ve read before and I LOVE that. Pulley melds steampunk, espionage, mystery and more into this book set in industrial era England. If you’re looking for a read to transport you to another time and place with memorable, complex characters, you should get your hands on a copy of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. It is absorbing and delightful.
Pulley’s The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street is about three central characters – a clerk named Thaniel, a watchmaker named Mori, and a physicist named Grace. Mori has the unique ability to remember the future, or at least the different outcomes the future can have. He’s clairvoyant. Thaniel finds a mysterious watch in his flat after coming home from work one day. He tries to return the watch to whomever the owner is but gets nowhere.
So, anyways, Thaniel is out at the pub with his work friends when an explosion happens at Scotland Yard and the watch saves Thaniel’s life because the alarm on the watch goes off just as he is in proximity to the bomb, therefore saving him. Thaniel, however, is suspicious and traces the watch to Mori. What unfolds is a tentative friendship between the watchmaker and the clerk. Grace, the physicist, throws a monkey wrench into the mix. She studies at Oxford but because she is a woman, after this semester she has to leave and get married in order to have her own lab at home.
Thaniel starts The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street as the quiet and unassuming sort. He’s the sort of man who leads a life of quiet desperation if you know what I mean. Everyday he takes the same route to work. He does the same thing on the telegraph lines. He may vary it up by going to the pub. He goes home to the sparse room he lets at the boarding house with tons of other men just like him. He sends half his paycheck to his sister. And repeat. When he experiences the explosion, his life radically changes. He leaves the boarding house. He rents a room from Mori. He becomes bolder and braver, and consequently obtains a higher paying better job while also being able to pursue his passion for playing piano.
Grace was my favorite character of the book. She sort of is a love interest for Thaniel. When we first meet her, she’s sneaking into the library at Oxford to do some research. She’s dressed as a man with a fake moustache. The clerk at the desk is none the wiser. Only, she finds herself caught out by her dandy friend Matsumoto who drags her to a suffragist meeting where he’s arranged a poker game with the other men who have been dragged by their wives. Grace is often put upon by Matsumoto but she handles it with mostly cheerfulness. When she meets Thaniel it is by coincidence, sort of, and she lets Thaniel know that it is Mori she suspects of the bombing, at first. Grace is an interesting character — I was not sure that this book would do right by her, but I am actually satisfied with what happens to her character because it is unexpect and a twist.
Mori is the character that Pulley’s novel pivots around. I am sort of unsure how to feel about his character. He has this extraordinary ability to make clockwork mechanisms and to see the future. There’s two ways of looking at him — as someone who is manipulative and who manipulates people and events to his own ends or as someone who has good intentions. It just depends upon where you are standing. I think that the book plays up the otherness of Mori and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, I like that he is a complex character who is portrayed as fully human but there is this mysticism about him that feels stereotypical and that bothers me a bit.
As for the writing style and world building, I am impressed by Natasha Pulley. This book is well written with intricate details – so much so that even the clockwork octopus feels fully realized. Time and place is important in this book and so, I am astounded that as I read The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street I felt as though I was there. If you like books with strong setting, you will like this book. I guess it does feel a bit Sherlockian as the mystery of the bomb is unraveled. The element of remembering the future is interesting as well. On the whole, this is a cool book that I think fans of steampunk will appreciate.