The Watchmaker of Filigree Street 1
Publication Date: 01/06/2015
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- 1st Edition
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The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
It is 1884. The Irish Republican movement Clan Na Gael has set off a clockwork bomb at the Home Office in London, but telegraph clerk Thaniel Steepleton has miraculously survived thanks to a strange pocket watch, left at his apartment a few weeks previously. The watch was made by “K. Mori”, a Japanese immigrant with a clockwork workshop at Knightsbridge, and it’s now Thaniel’s job to find out if Mori could be responsible for the bomb.
This is not really a traditional steampunk story – it’s not really an alternative history, more of a “gearpunk” clockwork with a touch of magic. If you’re looking for a fast-paced story, this is not for you. The gentle pacing put me off a little towards the start but it does give a mysterious, almost sinister feeling to the story as it unfolds. The setting in London – the upmarket Knightsbridge area, the Japanese show village and the smokey Underground really bring the era to life. At the same time, the elements of Japanese culture and the clashes with the English way of life (and bizarrely, Gilbert and Sullivan) make this an interesting look at the life of Asian immigrants to London at the time.
Mori and his clockwork is just delightful. Philippa suggested to me that she thought this book sounded like The Night Circus, and it often does have that dreamlike quality. There are clockwork fireflies in the garden, golden pears that grow up trees, and Katsu the Octopus is my absolute favourite and I want one. Even the way Mori interacts with those around him is very sweet and rather eccentric, and I loved that – when I wasn’t wondering whether he was actually a criminal mastermind.
The storyline itself does have quite a lot of complex science and timey-whimey possibilities with the clairvoyant “remembering forward” aspect of this story. At times it almost felt like there was too much complexity woven in. I did enjoy hearing about Grace and her work with the Ether, despite the complex explainations. Theoretical physics can’t have been an easy field to work in back then, especially as a young woman.
By the end I was still left with a slightly baffled feeling, although the actual ending itself is very satisfying. The Watchmaker is an amazing stand-alone debut and I’ll be looking forward to whatever Natasha Pulley creates next.