The Watchmaker’s Daughter – Book Review
I read the Watchmaker’s Daughter last week and have been ruminating on a book review since then. I have been having problems as this was a book I neither loved nor hated. It is not dreadfully written nor brilliantly told. Having not sparked a strong reaction one way or the other, in the end all I can really say is that the book was Okay.
The Watchmaker’s Daughter is the first book in the Glass and Steele series by C.J. Archer. It starts, unsurprisingly with the daughter of a recently deceased watchmaker struggling to survive after her fiance dumps her and takes over her father’s business. Set in Victorian England (or something like that), the all important element of magic is alluded to briefly then introduced at the end of the story.
And that, I believe is one of the key reasons I was so lukewarm towards this novel – it felt like an introduction. I understand that this is book one in a series. However, I still want the story to feel complete and the threads left dangling made the story feel far from that. While I understand that authors, particularly of series, need to leave some threads loose to work into the subsequent books, these were rather large concepts. Why does magic exist in this world? Why are so few aware of it? I suppose the staunch defenders will say the book covered these points in the two paragraphs dedicated to magic – it is scary so most magicians were killed and thus the few remaining are hiding. That is an extremely weak response to the problem. There is no feel of magic in a world that is designed to be a real representation of historical times. For this to work you need weave the idea (or fear or love for or …) of magic into the world.
The other aspect that felt completely unresolved was the extremely negative reactions of other watchmakers to our female protagonist. Even India Steele herself comments on how peculiar this behaviour is. The lack of detailed histories, the predictable nature of the plot and the lack of depth to the characters made for a somewhat bland story. The mystery of the characters never felt important. The writing was fine, but there was no spark in style to really capture the reader. Our lead female wavered uncertainly between being a strong independent female – though right no I am struggling to think of an instance when she showed true strength – and the love interest of a romance novel. There was some promise in the secondary characters who at least demonstrated a little diversity, though all were subservient to the alpha male.
To balance out the negatives, I will say I liked the blending of American and British cultures. There were some amusing moments, as half the important characters came from America.
Would I recommend this book? It is difficult to answer. I want to support new voices and writers. And I am sure there are people who would derive much enjoyment from the book. It was, for me, too flat and simplistic a read to put forth effort of recommendation. With that I would give it a 3 out of 5 (or maybe a 3.5 out of 5 – as this time I feel I might be unnecessarily harsh towards the book). It was okay, not great or stellar but not terrible either. You might like it.