As a side note, I've found I can often tell when a book is going to be worth my time by the resources an editorial team invests in its cover. If they think it's good enough to perform well, or if they have a personal love for the book, I imagine they assign their most talented and creative cover artists to the project. They also seem to invest in higher-end materials and finishes that draw the eye of a prospective reader. It's possible this also works better in bricks-and-mortar stores, which is where I picked up this copy, and I'm 100% certain it's not a foolproof way to pick out books. Yes, sometimes (but not always) you can judge a book by its cover.
Now, as for my thoughts on this book in particular. Pulley is a deft writer, fully in touch with her craft. She mostly seems to make interesting choices and so far hasn't taken the easy road with either plot or form. I'm continually delighted and surprised by her choices. She weaves a narrative from several character viewpoints, making brave choices about what to hold back and what reveal from each point of view. I believe this is her first published work, and it's all the more impressive for that. Many accomplished authors couldn't pull this off, and I've seen several NYT Bestselling Authors fail trying.
One of the protagonists, Mori, is a Japanese man who lives and works in London. I won't reveal more about his past, because spoilers. However, I am wondering how I should feel about his having dyed his hair blond, and that he seems to be attempting, in some ways, to pass as Anglo in a culture that is very much prejudiced against the Japanese at that time. The author touches upon this detail from another character's point of view, but hasn't yet delved terribly deep. It's a character choice that is too important to be overlooked. I'm hoping that there is a deeper discussion about this before the end. Or, perhaps I am meant to read more between the lines? I haven't yet decided how I feel about this, and it might take another read before I come fully to grips with what I think the author was trying to accomplish with this detail.
One note of critique: Lipton's didn't make tea in a bag at the time this book is set. I've given the author license, as it's not actual historical fiction but rather steampunk; however, the inclusion of and focus on that little detail at the beginning, before the world was fully established, was a bit jarring. I am hoping that somehow I'll find a time travel plot revealed at the end that will show it was a deliberate placement and not authorial and editorial oversight. Even if it doesn't pan out that way, the book is thoroughly enjoyable and the hiccup only registers momentarily.
I'm about two-thirds finished with the book, and I'm finding myself intrigued by the moodiness and atmospheric buildup of tension at this point in the story. There was far more visceral tension in the first few chapters that has abated, but somehow the story didn't lose (pardon the pun) steam when that threat dialed back (Agh! Too many puns!). As we get to know the characters, their personal plights take the place of the bomb threat that was central to bringing them all together. I won't say more, because I don't want to spoil the book for you.
The explanation of clockwork physics and concepts like ether are beautifully told and original. I'm fascinated by the intricate details Pulley paints around Mori's clockwork creations. She deftly paints the more mundane aspects of the world and brings them to life with skillful surety. I'm drawn in by everything from the workings of the telegraph office to the magic of clockwork pears that sprout vines when dropped. I love living in this author's imagination. I'm so glad the team at Bloomsbury gave her such a beautiful cover.
And now, back to reading!
These are my musings on a book I'm reading. They are not meant to be a formal critique or review. If you use my link to buy the book, Amazon gives me a kickback for a cup of tea. This would make me happy. I like tea. However, I won't lie about my personal experience with a book to trick you into buying it. That would make me unhappy...and defeat the purpose of tea. Also, if you have a local bookseller, please consider supporting them rather than me or Amazon. We will survive. Your local bookseller might not.
Not another Kate!
I am a word alchemist, angel apologist--no, really, I'm very sorry about them--and urban fantasist. I reside in all possible worlds.