Title: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
Author: Natasha Pulley
Narrator: Thomas Judd
Audio Publisher: Audible
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Acquired Via: Audible
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.
I have been putting off this review for over a month because reviews of mediocre to blah books are the most difficult for me to write. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street would have been put aside if it had started thus, but the "meh" came gradually.
As you probably realize, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is historical fiction that had quite interesting premise - Thaniel, who can see the color of sounds, gets a watch, finds a bomb threat, and then tries to figure out how the watch had been programmed to save his life. Running parallel to his story is Grace, who wants to be a scientist but is being met with the issue of her lacking a penis in Victorian England. As these two story lines come together, we meet a variety of characters: Mori, the titular watchmaker of Filigree Street; Katsu, Mori's clockwork and kleptomaniacal octopus; and Matsumoto, Grace's Japanese buddy whose wardrobe is often the victim of her cross-dressing adventures. It should all work, but Katsu was the only character I remotely liked by the end, and I detested Mori.
I had hoped going in that The Watchmaker of Filigree Street would not be like The Night Circus, which I disliked immensely, and the writing was reminiscent of it. In some ways, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street was very like it, as I was on board for none of the romance, there was a multitude of uninspiring characters, and the backstories in both dragged them down. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street was different in that it started out well and kept me reading, expecting something glorious. I had come to terms with my less than enthusiasm for The Night Circus early on and only continued listening to it for the magnificence that is Jim Dale's narration.
The narration of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is probably the best thing about the book and its only saving grace. Thomas Judd did a great job of keeping all of the characters from different cultures distinct. He was able to mimic other accents without making them cartoonish, and I would definitely listen to books narrated by him again.
If you liked The Night Circus and enjoy Victorian and/or Regency-era novels, I recommend that you try The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Though it was not for me, I know that many people will enjoy it.
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an audio copy of the novel from Audible in exchange for a review. No other favors or money was exchanged. This has in no way affected the of the review. All expressed opinions are awesome, honest, and courtesy of me.