Name: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
Author: Natasha Pulley
Number of Pages: 336 (Hardback)
Published: 2nd July 2015 by Bloomsbury Circus
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk
1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.
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. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past. – from Goodreads
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is definitely one of my favourite recent reads. Sometimes everything just seems ‘right’ for you as a reader – the characters, tone, setting and story all come together in the perfect way. That’s what happened for me reading this book.
From the very first tea-scented opening paragraph I was immersed in the wonderful world created by Natasha Pulley. I love Victorian London anyway, but add a touch of the exotic by way of a beautiful oriental show village, and the mysterious in the form of intriguing lead characters, and I’m hooked. There’s also an element of fantasy to the story which absolutely made it for me.
The main characters are wonderful, but I can’t go into detail about them without first giving honourable mention to probably my favourite of them all – Katsu the clockwork octopus. I want one, I need one… please? Katsu and his life-like antics were real scene-stealers (especially the idea of him breaking free when Thaniel shut him in).
On to the other characters…
There’s Thaniel, trying to do right by his widowed sister and her family, earning money as a telegraphist, whose world is utterly changed by the unexpected arrival of a beautiful pocket watch which, several months later, saves his life and throws him into the path of the watchmaker, Keita Mori.
Mori is fascinating, an enigma. He apparently has some sort of clairvoyant powers, although it’s a bit different than that – he sees what is possible, and forgets what becomes impossible. His back-story in Japan and his history as a nobleman weaves seamlessly with the current London storyline, and was beautifully written. I felt as though I was almost at the castle with Mori.
Grace is a woman beyond her time, sneaking into the university library dressed as a man because otherwise she wouldn’t be allowed in without a chaperone. She is a scientist, and wants so much more than the marriage her father so longs to arrange for her. She is brave and determined, which becomes apparent early on but even more so towards the end of the story, as she doesn’t believe all is as it seems with Mori, of whom she has grown fearful. It makes for interesting reading, seeing how she changes as the story plays out.
At the heart of this sprawling, mysterious, intriguing plot is the new and developing friendship between Thaniel, the young Foreign Office clerk and Keita Mori, the Japanese watchmaker of the title. Thaniel ends up renting a room from Mori, and watching the pair become accustomed to each other, and learn from each other, and experiencing their day to day life in Mori’s shop (which sounds amazing) is truly heart-warming, and it’s almost a shame that events and people will inevitably come between these two characters.
Events unfold at a leisurely pace as Thaniel moves in with Mori, but as the plot develops the pace quickens and even though I wanted to draw out my reading of this book for as long as possible towards the end I just couldn’t put it down. I just had to know how it would end as I was really invested in the characters and wanted something of a happy ending for them.