I found The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley totally by accident, lurking in the mystery section of my local library. I was browsing the stacks, mostly checking what Agatha Christie they had (the selection was pitiful), when I spotted a book tucked into a strange corner between bookshelves. There was a bright green octopus on the spine. Never one to ignore a cephalopod, I squeezed my arm into the space and pulled it out. I’m not sure if this book was meant to be in the mystery section or if it was placed there by another patron. I don’t even know how long it had been sitting there; if I was the only one who had happened to peer into the space between the shelves, it could have been there, undetected, for ages. So I read the back cover, decided it looked interesting, tucked it under my arm, and went to check out.
I let it sit around for a bit but finally got to starting it just recently, and I’m fascinated. Unexpectedly, the book has magic, although I suppose that the use of the adjective “magical” on the back synopsis should have clued me in, but I assumed it was just one of those buzzwords back-jacket writers like to throw around to make the work sound sweeping and grand. But no! There is, in fact, actual magic, which sells me on almost anything. There is also a male protagonist who is charming in his social awkwardness, a female protagonist whom I realized I loved immediately because she reminded me of Lila from V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, a Japanese watchmaker who is perplexing and intriguing and very lovely, and, because it must be said, a clockwork octopus.
I’m only about halfway through, and I’m unwilling to give away too much about a book, particularly one I haven’t yet finished, but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s a skinny book, by my usual standards, but it’s not a book that I’ve found myself speeding through. Usually this might spell disaster, as a book I find I am unable to read quickly is usually a book that is boring or obtuse, but that’s not the case here. I simply get caught up in all of it–Grace’s scientific experiments, even though I am not very scientifically inclined; Thaniel’s poor attempts at espionage; Keita Mori’s quiet but powerful presence; and Katsu, the clockwork octopus with a personality all his own. I want to know what happens, but in a quiet way. This is a mystery novel, in a sense, but it is not the pulse-pounding, what happens next what happens next I have to know sort of mystery that I’ve grown used to reading. This is a quieter mystery, where the plot takes a backseat to the characters. So if you love character-driven narratives with a little magic, a little mystery, and a little absurdity, this would be a book worth picking up.