I was intrigued by the title. I was intrigued by the synopsis.
I was smitten with the design of the whole thing.
Could a debut novel live up to this?
Yes, it could!
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The story opens in London, and in a world that mixes the real and the fantastical in the loveliest of ways.
Nathaniel Steepleton – Thaniel – was a young telegraph operator at the Home Office. His life was a dull routine; he had wanted to be a pianist, but he took job so that he could help to support his widowed sister and her young children.
Grace Carrow, was an Oxford educated physicist, but her career was in jeopardy, because her father would not give her an inheritance unless she was married and she could not find a man to marry. Not ever her best friend, an aristocratic Japanese student would help her.
Two very different people, two very different stories, but there was a link.
Both Thaniel and Grace found themselves, quite inexplicably, in possession of watches that were both extraordinarily beautiful and unusually, exceptionally, functional.
Those watches were made by The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Keita Mori was kinsman to a Samurai lord and he had been assistant to the interior minister of Japan. But he had travelled to London to pursue his vocation, to make the finest of watches.
Or had he?
Scotland Yard suspected that Mori’s mechanisms had been used in a series of bombs set by Fenians. What else would explain why Thaniel’s watch had opened for the first time when he was just feet from a bomb, and sound an alarm before, moments later, the bomb exploded? That bomb saved the telegraph operator’s life, and it led him to the watchmaker.
But Thaniel knew that the police were wrong. He was certain that the charming gentleman who created Katsu, the randomly programed, clockwork, sock-stealing octopus, who became his friend, wouldn’t use his wonderful skills to make bombs.
Grace and Thaniel had met by then, they had recognised something in each other, they had realised that they might help each other, and a relationship had blossomed.
But Grace agreed with the police.
What other explanation could there be …. ?
This story is beautifully and intricately crafted, and it’s clear that attention has been paid to every little detail of character, setting and plot. It rewards slow careful reading, because all of those details are important, they work together, and they draw you right into this finely wrought world.
The plot so cleverly constructed. Sometimes I could see where it was going, sometimes I couldn’t, but in the end it all made wonderful sense.
This is a book that asks questions about life; about how predictable, how predetermined, how comprehensible it might or might not be. You might chose to consider those questions, or you might want to simply enjoy the journey through this lovely book.
I’m sure that there’s much more that could be said, but I’m still caught up and enjoying the wonder of it all.
I could see the influence of other books and authors, but Natasha Pulley has taken those influences and built on them to create something quite distinctive of her own.
This isn’t the kind of book I read often, but I have to say that I loved stepping into her world, and I would gladly step into it again.
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