Thaniel Steepleton is an unassuming British public servant. Once, he had dreams of becoming a pianist, but now he has to support his distant, widowed sister’s family, so he’s tied to his job as a telegraph operator, and doesn’t expect anything in his rather dull and ascetic life to change.
However, an anonymous gift of a clearly valuable watch becomes suspicious when it ends up saving him from an Irish terrorist group’s bomb. Soon, he’s assigned to spy on Keita Mori, a Japanese watchmaker living in London… a job where his sympathies will end up being sorely tested.
Meanwhile, a young student, Grace Carrow, is conducting experiments designed to prove the existence of ether. However, her scientific career seems fated to come to an abrupt end due to her gender: her father will not give her an inheritance unless she is married, and so far her inquiries have not been fruitful. Her best friend, an aristocratic Japanese student, seems thoroughly uninterested in the possibility of marriage to an Englishwoman, so her future is uncertain.
When it comes right down to it, this is a faux-Victorian paranormal romance. However, it’s told with a delicate touch. The style reminded me of the ‘filigree’ of the title – ornately detailed, finely crafted, and lovely. The magical elements are understated; the romance is a slow burn where more is implied than told. Yet the story is both accessible and interest-gripping: I found myself putting down other books in order to keep on with this one instead.
Many thanks to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book – which turned out to be even better than I’d expected! As always, my opinions are my own.