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Wednesday Book Review: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street


Title: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Author: Natasha Pulley

Genre: Historic Speculative Fiction

Book procurement: Exclusive Books – Green Stone Mall

Synopsis: (Goodreads)

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.


First let me say that I enjoyed many aspects of this novel. The pace. The characters. The speculative fiction. It was an enjoyable book. (and here comes the But) But… there was no plot to this novel at all, which was an annoyance as I realized I was almost done with the book and was still trying to figure out what the book was about. However, processing this novel since 2am this morning up until now, I’m still frustrated that there was no plot but that’s not what the novel was about was it? It wasn’t about the blast that destroys Scotland Yard and it’s not about the gold pocket watch that saves Thaniel either. It’s… well read on.

*No worries, I give no spoilers in my reviews

Nathaniel “Thaniel” Steepleton is a regular desk clerk, a normal man; who survives a bomb blast because of a mysterious gold watch. To me he was an interesting character but at times I was frustrated by him. Perhaps by the simple way he saw things even when he knew they were deeper than what they seemed. He was also not a dream-chaser.

Keita Mori is an incredible man with exceptional clock-making skill. He seems to be more than what he lets himself be throughout the book. Eventually it becomes quite evident why he is like that, which adds the speculative mystery to the whole book.

Grace Carrow? Ugh. And at the end? More ugh! Haha you’ll have to read the novel to understand why the dislike for the girl who is described as “looking like a boy.”

The story itself is well told and moves along quite well, even with all the different characters that appear. Natasha Pulley does a great job at describing the 1880s both in London as well as Japan, including the historic events (such as the actually bombing of Scotland Yard) and the locations. It is captured so well, this story may as well have taken place after all. She even researched how the interaction between Londoners and the Japanese in London affected both the people and the community; this created a great atmosphere for the story to unfold in.

Lastly, I was far too distracted by the “what’s the point of this story” to actually notice the point of the story. When it happened… or rather, when I caught a glimpse of it, I had to read that particular section a couple of times to make sure I read it right. I even read past it, was bothered by it and went back to read it again. In the end, and during the time I finished the book and went to bed at 2am, it all made sense. It’s not a story about bombs and clocks and the mystery around them, but relationships and people. Everything else was merely stage and prop items, while the subtle interlinking of these characters, became the story behind the props.

Rating: 素晴らしい 4 out of 5


Wednesday Book Impression: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street


I walk into Exclusive Books Greenstone quite often. The fact that I work down the road from the mall gives me every reason to make a pit-stop at the book store, and browse the tantalizing shelves. I know there is the popular phrase, “Do not judge a book by its cover.” but when I walked past this book, my eyes were immediately drawn to it. I picked it up, read the blurb, and then put it down with every intention of coming back for it. At the end of February I headed into the bookstore, picked up this book as well as the third book in The Demon Cycle by Peter V Brett, and bought the book without hesitation.

I started this book following the amazing Endgame: The Calling which was fast paced action, an amalgamation of characters and a different tone of writing that was still fresh in my mind. So initially this book was quite slow for me. We meet Thaniel (short for Nathaniel… which is quite weird and new for me) who is a telegraphist at the Home Office in London 1883. He receives a golden watch mysteriously one day but can’t make heads or tails of the device until one very memorable day. And that is all I will say without giving away too much even though I am only about halfway through the book (hence the Book Impression rather than Book Review).

We are also introduced to a couple of other interesting characters, including a young girl who dresses like a man to use the public library (women are not allowed without an escort) as well as the clock maker himself who has an intriguing past that has led him eventually to London. As far as I can see, these three characters (and a fourth who seems to be on the outskirts yet is linked to the others) will come together somehow, I’m just really curious as to how.

Overall, I’m enjoying the book and look forward to what should be an exciting climatic end.

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