Cover image for Book Club kit : the watchmaker of Filigree Street
Book Club kit : the watchmaker of Filigree Street
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, 2016.

St Martins Pr, 2015.

Physical Description:
318 pages ; 25 cm
In 1883, Keita Mori, a Japanese artisan who knows the future, uses this power to help his friend, Thaniel Steepleton, until Oxford physicist Grace Carrow, who is fond of Thaniel, unwittingly interferes.

In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. But he has worse fears than generous burglars; he is a telegraphist at the Home Office, which has just received a threat for what could be the largest-scale Fenian bombing in history. When the watch saves Thaniel's life in a blast that destroys Scotland Yard, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori--a kind, lonely immigrant who sweeps him into a new world of clockwork and music. Although Mori seems harmless at first, a chain of unexpected events soon proves that he must be hiding something. Meanwhile, Grace Carrow is sneaking into an Oxford library dressed as a man. A theoretical physicist, she is 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. Utterly beguiling, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street blends historical events with dazzling flights of fancy to plunge readers into a strange and magical past, where time, destiny, genius--and a clockwork octopus--collide.


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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 istorn 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.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Pulley's electrifying debut is a triumph of speculative fiction. It captures the frenetic energy of a world undergoing extraordinary changes: London in the time of new electrical devices, Gilbert and Sullivan's theater, and the terror of Irish nationalist bombings. Nathaniel Steepleton is a telegraph clerk in the Home Office, trapped in a life as regular as clockwork. Grace Carrow is a scientist seeking out the mysteries of ether. Their lives are brought together and into peril by association with Keita Mori, a genius watchmaker who can "remember" the future. When Steepleton receives word of a clockwork bombing and an anonymous gift of a pocket watch on the same day, he begins investigating Mori, who has been accused of building the explosive device-but those accusations are rooted in English xenophobia and exploitation of Japanese immigrants. Carrow is determined to prove Mori's guilt, and driven to make a scientific discovery that will free her from the limits society has placed on women. Pulley expertly employs the tools of mystery and fantasy to examine the social pressures faced by the marginalized. The plot revolves around finding the bomber, but the heart of the story is the universal human quest for acceptance, understanding, and love. Agent: Jenny Savill, Andrew Nurnberg Associates (U.K.). (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Guardian Review

Eric Brown on The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley, Skin by Ilka Tampke, Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, The Ragthorn by Robert Holdstock and Garry Kilworth, and The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard Natasha Pulley's The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Bloomsbury, [pound]12.99) proves that well-worn genre tropes -- in this case, gaslit steampunkish London and clockwork automata -- can be invested with fresh lustre by combining elegant plotting, lashings of invention and jump-off-the-page characterisation. It is the 1880s and lowly telegraph clerk Nathaniel Steepleton finds that his house has been broken into and a mysterious pocket watch left in his bedroom. After he survives a Fenian bomb attack on Scotland Yard, thanks to the watch's alarm, Nathaniel sets out to track down its maker, and locates the punctilious Mr Mori, the Japanese watchmaker of Filigree Street, who can see into the future. Soon, Nathaniel's destiny is linked with that of Mr Mori -- who he suspects might have had a hand in the bomb blast -- and Oxford student Grace Carrow, an oddball who is researching the existence of luminiferous ether. How their stories combine, and how Pulley juggles the complex plot and throws in multiple surprises, are but two of the many delights of a first novel that has been garnering a lot of attention. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a charming and quietly profound disquisition on predestination, chance and fate. Another first novel, Skin by Australian Ilka Tampke (Hodder & Stoughton, [pound]12.99), blends historical fiction and fantasy to great effect. The setting is Albion, AD43, with the Romans massing for invasion and the Druidic way of life under threat. Ailia is a foundling, left on the doorstep of her tribe's "cookmother" and raised as a lowly kitchen servant -- for Ailia is without "skin", or knowledge of family lineage, and as such is an outcast unable to marry and, at death, denied passage to the afterlife. We watch Ailia develop into a precociously intelligent young woman, fall in love with the magical Taliesin, and embark on a quest through Celtic Britain and mystical other worlds to find her skin. Skin is a page-turning novel of transcendence and change, personified by the development of Ailia, and set in a time when the magical lore of her people is under threat from inimical outside forces. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (Macmillan, [pound]16.99) has been gathering much pre-publicity praise from big names in the field of fantasy and SF, with comparisons to Susanna Clarke 's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, the works of Georgette Heyer and even, bizarrely, PG Wodehouse. We're in Regency England, and Zacharias Wythe, an orphan adopted by Sorcerer Royal Sir Stephen Wythe, takes on Sir Stephen's hereditary title and becomes the country's first black Sorcerer Royal. Meanwhile, another orphan, Prunella Gentleman, works for Mrs Daubney in the latter's School for Gentlewitches. Prunella, ridiculed for her lack of parents by the school's students, is a wonderful character: pragmatic, competent, with a feisty, can-do attitude. She also has her own powerful magical talent and harbours a desire to escape the school, facilitated by a chance meeting with Zacharias who is on a quest to the Fairy Court. Sorcerer to the Crown is a captivating debut that, aside from examining both gender and racial prejudice, tells an entertaining story with wit and consummate skill. The Ragthorn by Robert Holdstock and Garry Kilworth, first published in 1991 and winner of the World Fantasy award, appears here in book form for the first time (Infinity Plus, [pound]7.99). The novella recounts Dr Alexander's quest to trace the legend of the mythical ragthorn tree. In the 1880s his great uncle, scholar and archaeologist William Alexander, brought an ancient stone from Egypt to England and installed it as the lintel in his Yorkshire cottage. Soon after, in the grounds of Scarfell Cottage, the terrible ragthorn took root and encompassed the building. Dr Alexander, like his great uncle before him, is convinced that the tree possesses supernatural qualities, and this powerful novella charts his investigations of a tree that he believes crops up in Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer and the Bible -- an obsessive quest that culminates in his search for immortality. In a change of pace after several SF novels, French-Vietnamese author Aliette de Bodard ventures into the realm of gothic fantasy and manages to create -- despite the hoary premise of fallen angels and ancient curses -- something startlingly and creepily original. The House of Shattered Wings (Gollancz, [pound]20) is set in a ruined Paris after the devastating Great Magicians war. Fallen angels are divided into Houses that govern the city, though the angels themselves are in great danger from those who value the magical properties of their ground-up bones. We follow four principal characters -- a newly fallen angel, an alchemist addicted to angel bones, an immortal magician from the east and the leader of the House of Silverspires -- in a suspenseful thriller exploring who might be behind the curse that has brought Silverspires to ruination. * Eric Brown's latest novel is Jani and the Greater Game (Solaris). - Eric Brown.

Kirkus Review

Set mostly in 1880s London, Pulley's debut novel twists typical steampunk elementstelegraphs, gaslight, clockwork automatainto a fresh and surprising philosophical adventure. Nathaniel Steepleton is a telegraph clerk at the Home Office in London. Grace Carrow is studying physics at one of Oxford's new women's colleges. Her friend Akira Matsumoto is the emperor of Japan's second cousin. What connects them, although they don't yet know it, is the eponymous watchmaker, one Baron Mori, a brilliant and mysterious figure who appears able to predict the future. Mori made Grace's watch, whose filigree rearranges itself into a swallow when the lid is lifted: "Clever tracks of clockwork let it fly and swoop along the inside of the lid, silver wings clinking." He also made the pocket watch whose ear-piercing alarm startles Thaniel out of the path of a terrorist time bomb. But did Mori make the bomb's clockwork control as well? As the characters' stories mesh and spin, they rearrange themselves like that filigree into intricate and surprising patterns. But this is more than just a well-paced, atmospheric mystery with elements of fantasy. Pulley is concerned with deeper questions of fate, chance, and trust. How dangerous is a man who knows in advance the likelihood of every possible event? When does probability crystallize into inevitability, and how could the future affect the present? The story thwarts expectations; whenever an outcome looks as predetermined as clockwork, it might well go another way. Clever and engaging, this impressive first novel will reward both casual readers looking for a fun period adventure and those fascinated by the tension between free will and fate. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Pulley's imaginative first novel transports readers to a Victorian London teeming with danger and magic. Thaniel Steepleton is a clerk in the telegraph office at Scotland Yard when the radical Irish group Clan na Gael issues a bomb threat targeting their headquarters. Thaniel is even more shocked when he comes home to find that his apartment has been broken into. But rather than taking anything, the burglar has left behind a watch that ends up serving as an alarm just before the bomb is detonated, saving Thaniel's life. Thaniel sets out to find the man who made the watch and gets far more than he bargained for when he walks into Keita Mori's shop and discovers that the Japanese watchmaker possesses not only technological skills but otherworldly ones as well. When a dogged detective from Scotland Yard begins to suspect Keita of being the bomb-maker, he enlists Thaniel to spy on his new friend, creating a moral conundrum for the young telegraphist. Pulley mixes steampunk and intrigue with paranormal elements in this wholly original debut.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2010 Booklist

Library Journal Review

As a telegraph operator in 1880s London, Nathaniel Steepleton works in the Home Office, lives in a small, spare apartment, and has a quiet life. The anonymous gift of a beautifully intricate watch changes everything. Soon after, terrorists set off a bomb using elaborate clockworks and Steepleton's device narrowly saves him from injury. He tracks down the watchmaker, Keita Mori, despite his policeman friend's suspicions that Mori might be behind the bombing. Mori is a genius craftsman with an unusual talent: he remembers the future. Mori and Steepleton's friendship is complicated by the introduction of Grace Carrow, an unconventional scientist who seeks to live unhindered by her family and society's strictures. VERDICT This delightful first novel is as impressive as a work of historical fiction, with its evocative details of 19th-century England on the cusp of technological and cultural revolutions, as it is a delicate fantasy with enough gadgetry to pull in the steampunk fans, and a mystery to boot. The climax is so well plotted that readers will immediately want to read it again. © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.