The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

p. 45 “A man could have a character independent of his nation. His thoughts were starting to take on a strange ring: they had shrunk from their usual size and now the ordinary attic that was his ordinary mind looked like a cathedral at night, with endless galleries and rafters lost in the dart and nothing but the echoes to show where they were.”

This first book by Natasha Pulley is mysteriously enticing as its title. Mechanisms. Motion. Soft curves. Old-fashioned ambiance. Strange secrets.

Victorian steampunk, while not the perfect description, does hold the ambiance evoked by the story. Alternating chapters between Victorian London and Japan begin to weave an intricate interplay of events in the lives of three main characters: Steepleton, a British civil servant, Mori, a Japanese watchmaker, and Grace, a rebellious scientist.  Helene Wecker writes a healthy review (giving an abundance of detail -so, beware!), for anyone who want to know exactly what she is in for!

For my part, I will tell you there are beautifully crafted sentences – highly descriptive of the setting so that you can absorb effortlessly the atmosphere Pulley creates. While the historical backdrops  of the late 1880s are accurately familiar, the fantasy fits seamlessly into the history, as if it were there all the time – just not recorded. These settings allow for the slow development of relationships among these three; you grow to understand their rational and emotional motivations enough to carry empathy for all, simultaneously. Oddly, though, I find that it is the fourth character at the center of this tale – Katsu, a life-like mechanical creature – who I care for most deeply and who I think about long after I have closed the covers on this book.  Quite a writer; quite a story.

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