Monday, July 18, 2016

Review of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Short Review: Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker is the same type of story but notably better from nearly every perspective.  Why read Pulley’s novel?

Long(er) Review:  There’s a lot hyperbole heaped on Natasha Pulley’s debut novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (2015), and I have no intention of repeating it.  Is it enjoyable?  For most readers, probably yes.  Is is light entertainment that desperately wants to be a mainstream success?  Citing the overwhelming lack of originality and high number of familiar pathways the story takes, yes.  Witty?  On occasion, but generally rather pedestrian.  Beach read?  Sure, why not.  Anything of substance below the surface?  Zilch.  Like cotton candy?  (Sweet on the tongue but dissolving in an instant.)  For certain…

At nearly every turn, Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker is better than The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.  Both novels are entertainment-oriented steampunkery, but where Harkaway’s prose is as original as jelly bean shoes, Pulley’s comes across as common as brown leather loafers.  Where Harkaway perpetually approaches the tried-and-true narrative form of Victorian adventure from a lateral perspective (thus keeping the plot engaging for reasons of salacious twists and turns), Pulley approaches the same tried-and-true narrative head on (thus rendering the majority of the proceedings been-there-done-that).   Harkaway’s dynamic style grabs the reader for originality, Pulley’s conventional delivery can glaze the eyes, the brain needed only for autopilot.  About the only thing Pulley does “better” (preference being relevant) is to offer a more complex plot.  But given her characters are one-dimensional meeples voicing dialogue only partially idiosyncratic, I would much rather partake in Harkaway’s feast of character interaction and backstory, even if the meat of his plot is leaner.

Shortest Review: Meh.

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