Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street - Natasha Pulley


Sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Info: Paperback, Several Genres including contemporary, historical and science fiction. 336pp.

Pick it up now: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads

Rating: 5/5

Audience: Readers looking for a unique, puzzling and charming reading experience which includes plenty of historical fiction.

Summed up in a few words: Precarious. Fascinating. Historical.

Book/Summary: In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. When the watch saves Thaniel's life from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori - a kind, lonely Japanese immigrant. Meanwhile, Grace Carrow is sneaking into an Oxford library, 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.
(Official Synopsis)


Thaniel Steepleton is a telegraphist in 1880's London during the Fenian Dynamite Campaign in which Irish factions were on a mission to blow up important establishments and landmarks in and around London. This meant the streets and public places were unsafe and everyone was pointing fingers at each other within the community. Thaniel comes home one evening to find a fascinating, expensive and surprising gift in the form of a pocketwatch. He looks for answers within his circle of friends and family to find out who sent him the watch but no one admits it was them. 

His search for the truth kicks into full gear when the watch inexplicably saves him from a bombing that would have killed him. The watchmaker's name is engraved on the pocketwatch so Thaniel takes the search to him. What he finds on Filigree Street will change his life forever. Keita Mori is a watchmaker, Japanese immigrant and general oddball who lives with his mechanical pet octopus Katsu (my favourite animal character of the year). 

Grace Carrow is a scientist. She wants to prove the existence of ether to secure her a position in the scientific community. Pressure from her parents and a timeline on her research forces her to look for a husband to share her inheritance with so she may continue her incredibly important research. Grace's search brings her to Thaniel, who is willing to participate in a deal that will secure his family's security and help Grace at the same time. 

Mori is quite the character, seemingly knowing things before they happen. He is brought to the attention of the authorities when his signature watchmaking techniques are found on the most recent bombs. Mori needs Thaniel's help to deter those in the community who want to see Mori behind bars. Though with his new agreement with Grace, Thaniel spending time helping Mori becomes difficult, especially when Grace herself doesn't truth him either. 

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is quite the journey through history, with elements of both real science and mystical fantasy. I was reasonably impressed with the overall story, it is complex, developed and unique. I love the fact that Natasha Pulley reached so far out for her debut novel, threading London history, Japanese history, scientific theory and fantastic mind bending abilities like seeing multiple versions of the future all into one neat, clockwork, bizarre and engrossing novel.

I have not read anything like this at all in 2016, so I don't really have anything to compare it too. I don't read much historical/fantasy books so this is new ground for me and I am more than willing to return. In terms of writing style, Natasha Pulley has pure skill. Keeping three characters fresh and interesting in a historical setting was well achieved. 

Told from the perspective of both Thaniel and Grace, we get two different perspectives on both events surround these characters and more importantly Mori. For me Mori was the heart and soul of this book, along with Katsu the octopus. Mori is such a diverse and refreshing character who breaks the mould of the grumpy, wise-cracking mentor and becomes best friends with Thaniel over the course of events. 

I also loved the development of Grace, even though she was very slow to be included in the arc of the story, her evolution across the storyline was superb and after rooting for her for so long, to then despise her was a truly confusing experience, but it kept me engaged. Thaniel is a pretty standard character, pulled from both sides from the two most important people in his life, though his synesthesia is amazing and Pulley uses it to its full extent.

There are many strong themes here so it can intense and wearisome, there is violence, suffering and discrimination. Mori and the other immigrants are continuously questioned and threatened about events around London. Other themes are more uplifting such as friendship, identity, protection and knowledge. Grace is constantly pushing to prove her theory to solidify her image as scientist and not just a woman to be married off. Mori is also always trying to show Thaniel that life can be different if you just look at it a different way. 

I would be lying if I said this was near perfect, the perfect score I gave to this book is mainly due to the fact that this is Natasha's debut! Such depth and understanding deserves praise. My main problems with this book are certain parts of the structure and the language. The jumps in time could be a little disorientating at times and the language could get encompassing at times and I felt some drag but it was usually lifted quick enough, but it is there and I had to mention it.

Overall this is a stunning debut. The setting, the character development, the amazement of Mori and Katsu and sense of identity all combine together to make this a strong piece of fiction and a great reading experience. Thank you again to Bloomsbury for my copy of this book and thank you to Natasha Pulley for writing this book.

About The Author: Natasha Pulley studied English Literature at Oxford University. After stints working at Waterstones as a Bookseller, then at Cambridge University Press as a publishing assistant in the astronomy and maths departments, she the Creative Writing MA at UEA. She later studied in Tokyo, where she lived for nineteen months on a scholarship from the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, and she is now a visiting lecturer at City University. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is her first novel. (Official Bio)

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