I've basically decided to give up on the synopses on the backs of books. It's really a 50/50 shot they they are going to tell you anything meaningful besides the names of the characters and MAYBE the setting. But, I digress... before I even get started. Hoozah!
This book was a lovely little ditty about a man, Nathaniel who works as a telegraphist in London in 1884. There's all kinds of stuff going on the world at that time. Irish bombs, women's suffrage, and Japan's civil war. Thaniel (yes, he's called Thaniel because his father was Nat) gets thrust into the role of detective/ hapless spy and meets a man who most certainly changes his outlook on things. He also meets his future wife. I assure you, that's not a spoiler to be up in stitches about.
I love historical fiction that's a bit speculative. [In fact, Speculative Historical Fiction is a better genre sticker for this book's spine than simple "Fantasy."] I've only recently discovered this proclivity of mine so sorry if I seem a little enthusiastic about it. I should probably started writing these Things down, so I'm not constantly surprised by The Things.
Anyway. This one is well written with a dash of mystery. There's advanced clockwork technology, a female physicist, and a clueless man all wrapped up in a story that pulls you forward wondering what is going to blow up next. Tamely. They're English. There's also a beautiful hint of ambiguity the reader is left with making this a good pick for a discussion group. There's also the touches of cultural relevance of the day that keep it realistic: the women aren't thought of as competent enough for property ownership; the Japanese are all called Chinamen and the women think they're all dirty; the perceived role of nationalism and the danger of it's extremes. These aren't heavy handed or used in an preachy or distracting way, but allow you to better immerse yourself in the story and the time period, so you're not going "Wait... wouldn't she have needed a chaperone?"
I believe this was on a list of must reads, or good reads, or something, which is what led me to pick it up. If it's not, it should be. I got a little bogged down with the names and the details and it needed a chapter or two to pick up a bit of pace. And the resolution of one of the story lines was meh. It's a solid 4.5 out of 5 starts. This was well worth the 70 cents in library fines I accrued because I wanted to finish it. If the author ever writes another fiction novel, I'm definitely in!