My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street—Natasha Pulley, 2015. Rating: 5/5

Historical fiction gets a warm, probably lemon-colored, wash of fantasy in this unforgettably heartwarming Victorian thriller. Yes, that’s an oxymoron, and yes, it applies perfectly.

It is 1883 and Home Office telegraph operator, Nathaniel, is eking out a sterile existence. He’s sacrificed his musical talent and his ability to see sounds as colors in order to support his widowed sister. When an expensive, mysterious watch appears in his room and saves his life during a bombing of Scotland Yard, Thaniel tracks down the watchmaker, Keita Mori. Mori owns a small shop filled with his exquisite clockwork creations that seem to be imbued with a touch of…magic. And Mori has another special talent: he can see possible futures.

Overwhelmed by Mori’s kindness and quirkiness, Thaniel takes the room Mori has available to let. But Thaniel goes from renter to reluctant spy when authorities suspect Mori’s clockwork is tied to the bombs in recent terrorist attacks. Grace, a practical young scientist, also suspects that Mori is a danger to Thaniel’s self-determination and sets out to stop the watchmaker.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is ethereal commingling of suspense and love story. If it were a song, I think it would be in the key of D Major. Pulley’s characters are beautifully drawn: every tiny detail contributes to their depth and plausibility. I want to have a cup of tea with Thaniel and Mori and Katsu, they are that real.

Adding a vibrant layer to the story is the rich history of Londoners’ fascination with all things Japanese. Pulley’s portrayal of the Japan Native Village and the debut of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado is fascinating: both deepening our understanding of Mori and offering a unique contrast to English cultural norms.

I had to catch myself as I was reading. I was horribly conflicted because the suspense is hideously stressful, and my desire to scan a couple of pages at the end (just to make sure everything and everyone turns out o.k.) fought hard with my desire to savor every word and whimsical image. (I withstood temptation.) As soon as I set the book down, I wanted to read it again. And I wanted another one.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is suffused with an affecting, quiet joy. A deeply satisfying track- down-the-bomber-historical-thriller that’s also about following your heart.

rating system five crows


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Review: The Night Crossing

The Night Crossing – Robert Masello, 2018.  3.5/5

It is 1895. Bram Stoker is a harried theater manager searching for a breakthrough idea that will become his magnum opus.

When he rescues a suicidal young woman, he discovers a nefarious scheme involving occult rituals, soul-eaters, and dark ties to ancient Egypt. He is catapulted into personal danger but finds great fodder for his writing. Enter Mina Harcourt, the half-Gypsy daughter of an English Egyptologist. High in the Carpathians, Mina finds the statue of a Sphinx as well as a mysterious, deadly gold box. Together, Stoker and Mina unite to put an end to a deadly plot.

The Night Crossing is an enjoyable blend of historical fiction and horror. Masello does a wonderful job recreating Victorian London with all its textures and complexity. From the British Museum, to the Lyceum theater, from séances to funerals to gentleman’s clubs to labourers’ meetings, it is clear Masello relishes the era and he passes that excitement on to us.

While Masello spends the most time developing Stoker and Mina’s characters, many other figures of the age have cameos. Among them, we meet Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lady Jane Wilde, the actor Henry Irving, and the famous journalist W.T. Stead.

The Night Crossing is a page-turner. The plot is intriguing and the setting springs easily to life. But there are a few hitches. I wished for more follow-through or consistency on some of the supernatural elements that Masello uses to good effect then drops—such as the monstrous creatures that pursue Stoker in a subterranean chase, and the hinted significance of Mina’s special amulet. The story also takes an odd, somewhat jarring, jump forward in time and location towards the end. While this gives Masello a great opportunity to depict another major historical event (I’m not telling you!) it initially feels like a frustrating disconnect. Masello reels us back in and we become engrossed in this second episode as well, but the plot threads feel raveled.

Those issues aside, The Night Crossing is an engaging, action-packed read. I enjoyed seeing the addition of the paranormal story line to Masello’s detailed period writing.

rating system three and a half crows


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Review: The Invisible Library

The Invisible Library  Genevieve Cogman, 2016.

Irene is a Librarian with a capital L.

She is careful with her grammar.  (By necessity: the language of the Library is very powerful.)

She is level-headed.  Capable.  Passionate about all books.  (She does harbor a secret fondness for detective fiction.)  And she is highly effective at self-defense.

She needs all of these qualities, because her job is to infiltrate alternate realities and retrieve, that is, steal, books unique to that reality.

Just back from a taxing assignment burgling a book on necromancy from a school of magic – which involved a rather narrow escape from hellhounds and gargoyles – Irene is ordered to a quarantined, chaos-infested alternate.

This is less than optimal.  Natural laws don’t apply so much in chaotic worlds.  Plus, the Fae tend to cause extra disorder there.  Not only that, Irene is saddled with a handsome, mysterious student named Kai who is much more than he appears.

The two arrive in an alternate Victorian-esque London suffused with magic and steam technology: dragons and zeppelins and werewolves and clockwork centipedes.  Their task is to pilfer a special copy of Grimm’s fairy tales.  In the process, they befriend a dashing private investigator but run afoul of almost everyone else: a secret Iron society, one of Irene’s unpleasant colleagues, and a mesmerizing Fae ambassador.  Oh, and a rogue Librarian who has turned to the dark side and become an agent of chaos. Everyone wants the book.  Irene has her work cut out for her.

The Invisible Library is simply a joy.  Cogman deftly blends fantasy and sci-fi to create a version of London so wonderful and immediate that the reader wishes they could hop on the first plane – or dirigible – and go visit.  Irene herself is a plucky heroine whose proper (mostly) and wry inner monologue is just delightful.  This is a splendidly satisfying adventure packed with highly imaginative action sequences, novel characters, fun literary references and a wicked sense of humor.  The Invisible Library is a book to curl up with on a grey day and immerse yourself in the bewitching chaos of a reality where almost anything is possible, and yet be ultimately comforted by the notion that there is a magnificently powerful Library where order does indeed exist.  And, thank goodness, The Invisible Library is the first in a series.