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.