Japanese steampunk set in 19th century London amid a terror campaign from Irish nationalists that is used as a cover for an attempt on the coming Japanes Prime Minister's life. Happily, all will be well in the end.

The plot of Pulley’s debut novel is well-filled with drama but unfortunately it develops rather slowly. It takes almost half the novel's length until you feel that something meaningful is finally starting to happen – until then people and settings and concepts are introduced, we are in London (mainly) but also in Oxford and Japan. Another thing we only learn very late in the story: Who the main characters really are and how they tick. One of them, Nathaniel Steepleton, is a picturebook civil servants and leads a steady and predictab le life devoid of any fun or surprises. Whereas the second, Keita Mori, is a watchmaker who makes unbelievably complex mechanisms but, more importantly, manipulates people into shaping their lives so that they one day they will all be in the right position to effect his ulterior goals (of saving the world, or at least: Japan). In the process of his manipulations Mori also improves people's lives and situations.


There are some interesting philospohical questions at stake here, like: Is it ethically right to manipulate people into happiness? Can people be programmed like watches? Should they, if it serves a higher goal?

Unfortunately, these questions are not raised, let alone answered in the novel. Also unfortunately, there is an unhappy imbalance in plot development speed. Too little action in the first half, by far too much action in the second half. The ad for the follow-up book The Bedlam Stacks claims that »Pulley writes elegantly and plots like a pro«. To me it would seem that she really plots elegantly but writes a little bit too much like a pro – very well, but without the special touch that makes a text worth reading.