An absorbing historical novel, this is a wonderful debut which was a pleasure to read. A tale of journeys both physical and emotional.
Set in the 1750s – 70s, the first part of the story is about Abel, a maker of clocks and automata, whose wife died giving birth to his son Zachary. Possessed of the strange power to look into people’s minds and prophesy the future, little Zachary is almost blinded in a workshop accident which only strengthens his gift. His father goes away on a secret mission to the court of Constantinople (Istanbul) in the Ottoman Empire and never returns, thought to be dead. The second part of the story sees teenage Zachary go on a quest to find his father. There are an interesting cast of characters and evocative array of settings. The book is clearly well-researched yet there is just the right amount of historical detail, which enhances the story rather than getting in the way of the telling.
The plot is fairly simple and wasn’t quite enough for me, but I didn’t mind, as the other aspects, such as the clockwork animals and the details of the palace, are enthralling. There is also a diversity of characters with regards to ethnicity, sexuality and gender, which bring a modern tone to the novel and increase its relevance to today’s society.
Thank you to the publisher Transworld for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 9th June.