Thaniel works as a telegraphist for the Home Office, a master of the machine. He’d rather be playing the piano, but his civil service salary allows him to support his widowed sister and nephews and pays the rent for his sad little room in a boarding house on the bank of the Thames.
Mori made the exquisitely beautiful watch that was left on Thaniel’s bed in a velvet box. The watch that saved Thaniel’s life, and brought both of them under suspicion of involment in Irish nationalist bombings. In exile from his native Japan, Mori has made many beautiful, strange and impossible things.
Grace is making a machine to prove the existence of ether. Her future as a physicist at Oxford depends on its success, but Thaniel may be an alternative path to the future she wants.
Katsu is an octopus, and a machine. He’s not alive – his behaviour is driven by random gears. But is that really a meaningful difference?
Mori remembers the future. He can set it on a path he prefers, with a gentle adjustment here and there. Should this amount of power be in one man’s hands. Is he a good man, acting for the greater good, or should he be stopped. How could you stop him?
This gentle, delightful novel blends many genres – steampunk, historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance – to tell a captivating story about finding your place, people and meaning. It looks at Victorian London from a different angle, highlighting the experience of Japanese immigrants, comicly constrasted with the caricature of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, placed firmly in the broader concerns of the age – nationalism versus empire, and individuals versus patriarchy and the class system. Sometimes confusing, but it all comes together in the end. Sometimes frustratingly elusive, but that’s the truth of these people.