BooksOfTheMoon

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street #2)

By Natasha Pulley

Rating: 4 stars

Picking up a couple of years after The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Thaniel and Mori are living together fairly happily (albeit with Thaniel in fairly constant fear of anyone finding out that his relationship with Mori is more than just tenant and landlord), with their adopted daughter, Six, when Thaniel, a civil servant in the Foreign Office is posted to Tokyo as a translator. The whole family goes out together, where Thaniel finds himself in the middle of a plan that Mori had kicked off years before and meets the eponymous Mrs Pepperharrow. But events spin out of control and even Mori’s foresight might not be enough to get him out of trouble.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this book. Mori’s tangled web is impossibly complicated; Japanese prime minister Kuroda is violent but competent, a former friend of Mori, who now wants to use his clairvoyance for the Japanese state. Mrs Pepperharrow is a bit of an enigma to start, but we get flashbacks to her past, and her connection to both Mori and Kuroda.

In some senses, the weak link here is Thaniel, our protagonist. He’s a bit of a wet blanket, really, moping around the place, somewhat lovelorn. He’s even got the dying of consumption down pat. When he gets out of Tokyo for a bit and does some espionage he’s a bit more fun, but he’s often quite passive – in contrast to Mrs Pepperharrow, who is a ball of quivering anger and who doesn’t hesitate to take action.

The secondary characters don’t get a huge amount of characterisation, other than Six, who’s got a sideways way of looking the world. We might say today that she’s on the autism spectrum. I enjoy reading her when she’s on the page.

It’s a twisty and complex book where things don’t slot into place until the very end, but satisfying for that. The emotional arc is especially so, with a character having a late revelation that explains a lot about their behaviour (once again: the moral of the story is to be emotionally honest with your loved ones and we wouldn’t be in this mess). Definitely worth your time (although do read Watchmaker beforehand, you’ll get much more out of it if you do).

Book details

ISBN: 9781408885147
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Year of publication: 2021

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

By Natasha Pulley

Rating: 4 stars

In a Victorian London much like our own, Thaniel Steepleton comes home one day to find someone has broken into his home and left a gift for him – a pocket watch. It’s only when that pocket watch saves his life after an explosion at Scotland Yard some months later that Thaniel goes searching for the watchmaker, Japanese immigrant Keita Mori. Around the same time, Grace Carrow is trying to prove the existence of the ether, while simultaneously trying to avoid being married off by her parents. These three lives eventually intertwine in unexpected and life-changing ways.

I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t a plot-driven book. For most of its length, it’s slow and fairly gentle. Spending time mostly with Thaniel and Mori, with Grace not getting nearly as much airtime as she deserves. It speeds up towards the end, in a way that was quite confusing (albeit deliberately so) and there’s a relationship that completely blind-sided me. Looking back, I can see some subtle signs of it building up, but it turns out that if I’ve not had it explicitly signposted, certain sorts of relationship just completely pass me by.

There was a strong focus on Japanese characters (the author spent some time there, as an academic) and the book delicately draws the distinctions between the immigrants and the locals, without ever resorting to crude bigotry from its characters. (Subtle bigotry, on the other hand…) It also shows the balance that immigrants have to strike when they move to a new country between their history and traditions and blending in with their new home and where different people draw that line.

As you would expect, clocks, clockwork and time play a large role. Mori is a genius with clockwork, with his masterpiece being his somewhat adorable mechanical octopus, Katsu (who has a thing for stealing socks). Timing of events, and probability of others are important, and not just in relation to the bomb that nearly kills Thaniel near the start of the book.

So a charming novel, with a good heart, not to mention a very interesting female scientist, who’s bolshy and flawed. I also now totally want a mechanical octopus (even if I’d have to buy a lock for my sock drawer).

Spoiler
I totally shipped Thaniel and Grace, even though their marriage was literally one of convenience, and it was probably that which blindsided me to Thaniel’s blossoming relationship with Mori.

Book details

ISBN: 9781408854310
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Year of publication: 2016

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