The Watchmaker of Filigree Street // by Natasha Pulley

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//published 2015// I do love this cover art!

?!?!??!!? = my feelings towards this book…  still!  And it’s been almost two weeks since I finished it.  It’s a book I just can’t decide whether or not I liked!  There were definitely aspects that I loved, and other aspects that I did not.  At the end of the day, the love story felt extremely strange and somewhat contrived… I think I’m going 3/5, but this was one of those books that was very close to swinging either up or down a step.  Actually, after finishing the review, I realize that I actually am going 2/5…  see how easily it swung a step down??

The home office telegraphy department always smelled of tea.

So begins our tale, set in 1883 London, possibly in some kind of alternate universe…??  Our story centers around Thaniel (short of Nathaniel), who works as a clerk in the above-mentioned home office telegraphy department (and who is also to blame for that smell of tea).  Thaniel is quiet, hardworking, and reliable.  In the second chapter we are told

He [Thaniel] almost said that he wasn’t so much older than all the rest of them, then saw that it wouldn’t have been fair.  It didn’t matter how much older.  He was older; even if they had all been the same age, he would still have been older.

I had a lot of empathy for Thaniel, as I’ve always been the oldest everywhere I go, too.  He has a strong sense of responsibility, sending home money to his widowed sister and her family – setting aside his own dreams and ambitions to do so.

This story unwound slowly.  Nothing was rushed – in many ways, the narration felt like a watch ticking, steady and rhythmical.  The language is lovely, and some of the descriptive passages are wonderfully immersive.  Despite the (relatively) slow pace, I was drawn into narrative.  (It was an especially nice change of pace after the heart-pounding race through Academ’s Fury!)  However, I started to get a bit confused about that very narrative, as Pulley herself didn’t really seem to know which story she wanted to write.  There’s kind of this thing with a bombing, and kind of this thing with the watch, and kind of this thing with a girl, but it was all quite meandery, and I really had no idea where Pulley was going half the time, and I wasn’t sure she did, either.  The ending was this sudden rush of chaos and action that was somewhat, but not satisfactorily, explained.

I’m really struggling to write this review without spoilers, as a great deal of this story’s charm lies in that gentle unwinding.  The thing is, my biggest issue with this book centers around a pretty big spoiler.  So I’ll put it below the cut, because I simply cannot write this review without a mini-rant explaining why this book frequently annoyed the bejeebers out of me.

Then there were other random moments that I found myself confused.  Tell me, my British friends, in your alphabet, does ‘M’ come directly before ‘N’, or someplace after?

He stood slowly and opened the drawer for N-R, which was dominated by Nakanos and Nakamuras.  There were only two people whose name was Mori.

That paragraph had me singing the alphabet song repeatedly.  It caused me to completely doubt everything I’ve ever known about the placement of the letter M in the alphabet.  L-M-N-O-P, right??  AM I right?!  M wouldn’t be in the N-R drawer, would it??  These are not rhetorical questions, people.  I have stared at this paragraph so many times since I first read it!

20booksfinalThe main female character (more about her in the spoiler section) made basically no sense, and I really didn’t appreciate the way that she thought she was incredibly intelligent and brilliant, that everyone else was stupid, and that all other women were just weak and dumb.  She doesn’t have a single positive thing to say about a single other female, is sarcastic and cutting towards the suffragist movement, and overall the introduction of her character should have been a huge red flag to me that, at the time, I glossed over.  Whoops.

While I liked a lot of the writing, the characterization seemed somewhat weak, as there were multiple times that I was quite surprised or confused by someone’s actions.  This made it really hard to get into the story, as I never really felt like I was getting to know real people.

All in all, what I saw as pitfalls in the plot were not overcome by the lovely language or intriguing setting.  An all-right tale for a one-time read, but not something I would want to read again, or that inspires me to see if Pulley has written any other books.

Spoilers below!

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Academ’s Fury // by Jim Butcher

Greetings, friends!  It is time for 20 Books of Summer – review #2!

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//published 2005//

Academ’s Fury is the second book in the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Furies of Calderonand was excited about this sequel – and it did not disappoint!

“If the beginning of wisdom is in realizing that one knows nothing, then the beginning of understanding is in realizing that all things exist in accord with a single truth: Large things are made of smaller things.”

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Absolutely GORGEOUS fanart of Doroga the Marat on his gargant, Walker. LOVE IT. By Sandara on DeviantArt

Like I mentioned in my review of the first book, I really appreciate Butcher’s emphasis on the idea that huge things hinge on small, seemingly insignificant decisions.  He goes on to say, “Significance is cumulative – but not always obvious.”  It’s the perfect way to introduce his story, which is actually several stories that interconnect and weave together, each one made up of individuals who do not appear to be important in the grand scale of things, yet each of them makes a decision that will impact their entire world.

The main thing you need to know about this book is that it is HIGH ENERGY.  There were multiple times that I would literally have to set it down and go do something else because it was making my blood pressure rise.  This was an incredibly intense story, told with perfect timing.  It’s a hefty book – the paperback weighs in at 702 pages – but it did not feel like it was too long or too slow.  When we were kids, and the family was watching a movie, if the movie got too intense, my littlest brother would have to get up and stand behind the couch so that he could literally jump up and down with nervous excitement.  There were times during this book that I almost reached that point, despite my 33 years!

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More fabulous fanart by Sandara – we meet the Canim in this book as well – wolf-people warriors, another intriguing race of creatures.

We continue to follow the stories of our main characters from the first book – Tavi, the young shepherd boy who is now attending school in the capital city; his uncle Bernard; Bernard’s sister, Isana; a young cursor named Amara; and several of the bad (???) guys.  This book picks up two years after the last one ended, which I also liked.  Everyone has settled into their new roles, the bad guys that were defeated in the last book have taken some time to regroup and try a different angle this time around, and it all felt really reasonable and natural.

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Just because I can, a third picture by Sandara – this one is of Bernard and his earth Fury, Brutus. I love how in these books, many of the Furies are in the shape of an animal and are named. And this is a FABULOUS picture of Brutus!

However, I can’t even begin to describe the plot, and I’m not sure that I want to.  Suffice to say that it was brilliantly done and that the Vord are some of the most terrifying creatures I have ever come across in fiction.  I LOVED the way that Butcher is greying the lines between good guys and bad guys, really bringing up some excellent questions about loyalty, duty, and honor.  It’s also great to have a hero who is at an actual disadvantage in his culture – everyone else can call up a Fury except for Tavi.  The way that he works to compensate for this lack is great.

Again, these are definitely YA/adult.  They are intense, there is non-graphic sex, and there is violence.  But they are brilliantly written and incredibly exciting.  Hopefully my heart is strong enough for book three…20booksfinal