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The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

August 14, 2015

1620408333.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Natasha Pulley

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is the second-best book I’ve read this year. For most of the time I was reading it, I thought it was going to tie A Darker Shade of Magic, and it very nearly does. The writing’s on par, the characters and setting are non-standard, and there’s a pull and a charm to the story that, while different than the pull of Darker Shade, is just as wonderful. Unfortunately, the ending didn’t quite hold the same punch, so I’m rating Watchmaker at a 9 to Darker Shade‘s 9.5.

Told you it was close.

This book is about Thaniel Steepleton, a young man who hears color and has limited himself to the lonely life of a Home Office telegraph clerk to pay bills. It’s about Grace Carrow, rebellious Oxford physics student. It’s about Keita Mori, a lonely Japanese ex-pat who made the watch that saves Thaniel from a Fenian bombing. It’s about finding yourself and making your own happiness, about friendship, about living your life to a plan and taking chances. It’s also about finding out who did set that Fenian bomb, but that’s practically secondary to everything else.

Pulley has a beautiful sense of language and pacing, which sucks you in without feeling rushed or demanding. You dip your toe in the water, and suddenly you’re wading in a gently flowing stream. The characters are vibrant and compelling, even the supporting cast, so much so that I can hear them, see them, know their mannerisms without being told. And the setting? The world-building? My goodness. If I were only half so good….

It’s a steampunk world, or very nearly so. Victorian London, with everything you’d expect from that, plus a grace note here and there of something novel, something out of time, something clockwork or steam-powered and very often whimsical. It’s not steampunk that hits you over the head proclaiming itself, by any means. The most magical parts of the setting cluster around Mori, particularly the things he builds and the way his home is set up, but Japan and its culture also feature heavily (for obvious reasons) and that’s just the glaze on the lemon cake—an entirely respectful, entirely honest, entirely delicious glaze.

Watchmaker balances between surrealism and logic—the strangest things happen but somehow they’re entirely expected at the same time. My only quibble is that the climax breaks from that feeling a bit. I know why it does, why it needs to, but at the same time, it threw me and for the first time I found myself flipping back a page to make sure I knew what was going on. That’s the only reason the book isn’t up at a 9.5 for me. It recovers nicely in the denouement, though, and the closure’s pretty much perfect.

I definitely recommend reading The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, especially if you’re looking to lose a day or two of time and not look at the world quite the same way afterwards. Seriously, just … just go read it. It is good.

Top 5 Novels Of the Year, So Far:

  1. A Darker Shade of Magic
  2. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
  3. The Devil in the White City
  4. The Martian
  5. The Library At Mount Char
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2015 10:19 am

    Greetings 🙂
    The synopsis sounds intriguing! Will add this to my tbr list.

    • anassarhenisch permalink*
      August 14, 2015 11:21 am

      Awesome! Hope you like it too!

  2. August 14, 2015 1:42 pm

    This sounds fantastic! And I haven’t read any of your top five, so I hope to look into them soon!

    • anassarhenisch permalink*
      August 14, 2015 9:50 pm

      Awesome! Enjoy!

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