The Watch­maker Of Fil­i­gree Street

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Books -

A good time

Re­lease Date: 2 July

318 pages | Hard­back/ pa­per­back/ ebook Au­thor: Natasha Pul­ley Pub­lisher: Bloomsbury Cir­cus

For­get steam­punk.

Welcome to tick­punk. Natasha Pul­ley’s de­but novel is a whim­si­cal fan­tasy set in Vic­to­rian Lon­don, but it’s clockwork not wa­ter pres­sure that pow­ers the fu­tur­is­tic tech here.

Ac­tu­ally, the tick- tech is just a mi­nor el­e­ment of this off­beat tale of a Ja­panese watch­maker in Lon­don who ap­pears to be able to pre­dict the fu­ture. Thaniel Steeple­ton, a Home Of­fice clerk who runs his life like clockwork, crosses paths with the mys­te­ri­ous Keita Mori when he’s left a watch – by per­sons un­known – which emits an alarm just be­fore a bomb ex­plodes in Westminster. A clockwork bomb. Mori be­comes the main sus­pect and Steeple­ton be­comes part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, go­ing un­der­cover as the watch­maker’s lodger. As a re­sult, Steeple­ton be­comes in­volved with Ja­panese na­tion­al­ism, Gil­bert and Sul­li­van and an Ox­ford stu­dent who thinks she’s worked out how to prove the ex­is­tence of the ether.

Part Su­sanna Clarke, part Guy Ritchie’s Sher­lock Holmes, The Watch­maker Of Fil­i­gree Street is a de­light­ful read that ben­e­fits from won­der­fully colour­ful char­ac­ters and a lyri­cal prose style full of es­o­teric de­tail.

The plot sags and me­an­ders in places, and the struc­ture, which has oc­ca­sional flash­backs in­el­e­gantly in­serted, feels a lit­tle clumsy. The book’s ec­cen­tric­i­ties and charm, how­ever, make sure it re­mains a com­pelling read. Dave Golder A fas­ci­nat­ing fact we learnt from the book: a lit­eral trans­la­tion of the Ja­panese word for hedge­hog is “nee­dle rat”.

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