Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: The Watchmaker on Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

(From 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.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, so when my school library got it, I immediately jumped on renting it. It took me about a week to read through despite it not being that thick of a book. But then, I was reading it at night an hour before I went to bed.

Anyways, pacing wise the book wasn't the greatest. In the beginning, the book wasn't the most exciting but it was definitely exciting. There were bombs and And the middle dragged. The ending
finally picked up.

I liked the characters in the beginning. Nathaniel was a protagonist that I liked because I felt I could related to him personality wise. And I also liked Mori as well. He was an intriguing character because you weren't sure if he was behind the bombs or not. And I enjoyed Grace's character because she reminded me of Alana from Tamora Pierce's books but she was a scientist, which was cool to see a woman being portrayed in the 1800s.

And as much as I wanted to really love this book, I just can't. Even thinking about it a while later, I'm still with the same conclusions. There was a lot of plot points that to me, didn't really seem to make a lot of sense. And I felt that the pacing was either slow or it dragged a lot. So the characters didn't seem to make rational choices, and a lot of things went unexplained. At the end of the book, I was left with more questions than answers. Questions to things I felt there shouldn't have been questions to.

There was a marriage towards the end of the book that I felt came out of seemingly nowhere and it wasn't really explained well. I felt the characters involved kinda talked about it, but their reasons weren't strong enough and I felt the whole ordeal could have been avoid, Grace's parents certainly seemed to overreact to her going over to Mori's that it was a bit ridiculous. While I saw Grace's point in trying to get married so she could get her aunt's house, I wasn't completely sold on Thaniel's reason. I did not feel that Thaniel was torn between two opposing loyalties when Grace got involved.

Overall, I felt that the historical accuracy was pretty on point, and that nothing popped out at me of being out of time for the Victorian period. The book made a big deal about the Irish at the beginning and as the book went on, that was a detail that seemed forgotten at times. The description seems to say that its look at "Japan's civil war as its long standing traditions crumble" will be exciting, but it was not. I did not get a sense of a civil war and the way that it affected Japan's traditions.

I haven't studied too much yet into the Meiji period, but from what I do know, I can say this, the way the atmosphere of Japan was portrayed as seems correct though. Ignoring the part about the civil war, I was fine with that.  I wish though that we would have seen more looks of Japan and how it affected Mori later on.

Another thing that bugged me about the book was the "dazzling flights of fancy". There is magic in this book, although you wouldn't realize it until about halfway in. No one in this book ever addressed this, where the magic came from, if Mori was the only one with it, and other things. The book was more alternative history/science fiction/light fantasy. And I wish that the fantasy elements would have been dealt with more. Thaniel never seemed to be bothered by any of it, except for the fact that Mori could have been creating clockwork bombs. The only person with a dash of common sense in this whole book was Grace and even then, I question her. 

The biggest thing that brought me out of the story was in the end when we find out that Thaniel and Mori are in love and on their wedding night, Thaniel leaves Grace for him. And honestly, it was such a deal breaker for me. As Grace thankfully pointed out, it was ridiculous and rude of him and cruel. I get wanting to go through with it because you feel stuck, but once they had married...well there had to have been a better time to break things off. Like, I dunno, BEFORE the wedding or at least wait a while after you've been married. Or even just leave her at the alter. I just lost a lot of respect for Thaniel as a protagonist and it almost ruined the book for me.

Not only that, but the relationship between Mori and Thaniel seemed so sudden to me. It was as if it came out of no where. There were probably signs before hand, but they were so subtle I didn't catch them. I guess in a way, I give my complements for not being so obvious, but it was such a shock. In a way to me it seemed as if the author suddenly decided that she wanted to throw them together and then never went back to change anything about their friendship. 

Overall, this book had a lot of potential, but it was lacking in a lot of places as well. I'm disappointed in this book and I definitely think it could have been better if it had been longer and the author had taken the time to flesh out parts of the book a little bit more. Its almost there, but not quite yet. 

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