The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. But he has worse fears than generous burglars; he is a telegraphist at the Home Office, which has just received a threat for what could be the largest-scale Fenian bombing in history.

When the watch saves Thaniel’s life in a blast that destroys Scotland Yard, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori – a kind, lonely immigrant who sweeps him into a new world of clockwork and music. Although Mori seems harmless at first, a chain of unexpected slips soon proves that he must be hiding something.

Meanwhile, Grace Carrow is sneaking into an Oxford library dressed as a man. A theoretical physicist, she is desperate to prove the existence of the luminiferous ether before her mother can force her to marry.

As the lives of these three characters become entwined, events spiral out of control until Thaniel is torn between loyalties, futures and opposing geniuses.

Utterly beguiling, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street blends historical events with dazzling flights of fancy to plunge readers into a strange and magical past, where time, destiny, genius – and a clockwork octopus – collide.

This book started out with such promise! Part one focussed on the comings and goings of our protagonist, a Victorian era civil servant, ducking and diving around Whitehall and those of a cross dressing female physicist at Oxford. What’s not to love!

In parts two and three the story jumped the shark and Pulley most definitely lost control of the plot! Magical clockwork animals, pointless gay undertones and a character who can predict and manipulate the future while controlling the weather. It is most definitely a piece of fantasy fiction rather than historical fiction. It has an impressive array of intriguing features, the more striking of which are the clockwork creations including a lively octopus that performs random acts of chaos after making itself at home in a sock drawer.

Thaniel watched the octopus too. It was hypnotic. The mechanical joints moved as fluidly as the water, glinting with the warped colours of the kitchen. It took him a little while to realise that it was watching him back, or it looked as if it was.

Having said that, Pulley has a nice writing style and the book is well written, lively and very readable.

There was, near the edge of the lawn, an enormous, ancient pear tree. Mori veered to it and dropped his handful of seeds among the long grass that had already grown around the trunk. He did the same thing whenever they came, and by now he had cultivated a lush patch of the stuff. He had a pathology of un-neatening overly neat things that matched his aversion to new houses and ironing his shirts. It was no accident he had chosen the one spot the gardeners absolutely could not mow without resorting to a pair of nail scissors. The roots were risen and twisting, and they wrapped all about the trunk making nooks and pools of withered pears, and little havens for weeds.

In the warm evening, the Rokumeikan was a rosy colour. A double bank of Roman arches ran the whole width of the building, one along the ground and one along the balcony above. Even in comparison to the train station, which was hardly elderly, it was magnificently new and clean. The earthquake had not unseated even a tile, which did not surprise him now he was here.

At times it dragged on to long in parts but overall not a bad light read

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