It’s 1837 in London and Julius Higgins lives a quiet life, trying to fly under the radar of the bigger boys at school and helping in his grandfather’s book store at home. On the day that he fails at the former, unexpected salvation is found at the latter. An unusual customer, who has a preoccupation with finding the diary of a master watchmaker, scares the bullies off.
No one could have predicted the events that unfold from that – least of all Julius. Soon he is a thief, unwelcome in his home with nowhere else to go. In desperation, he turns to the shady stranger from the shop…
Julius and the Watchmaker draws you in from the first page. It shows the seedy underbelly of 19th Century England complete with violent gangs of street urchins, thieves, and kidnappers. The language is kept in the vein of its time as well, without slowing the pace of the novel.
While Julius and the Watchmaker lacks the unhurried pace of 19th Century texts, it captures the essence of the era beautifully. As a bonus, the era doesn’t seem forced. It’s evident that a huge amount of research went into the time period; but that research is used to make the setting authentic, not to bog the novel down.
It’s obvious that Hehir is a huge history buff and there are some nods to major historical figures in Julius and the Watchmaker. For the most part this is a really lovely introduction into literary, philosophical, and scientific individuals of the past. However, the fact that most of these people are lauded as even greater than they were in life while the only female historical figure mentioned, Mary Shelley, is reduced to a plagiarist, is deeply problematic. More so considering a long history of women writers and writing being discredited or accredited to the men around them.
The world-building of Julius and the Watchmaker is vividly entertaining. It’s massive on action and adventure, but maintains a grip on the technicalities so that the storyline always makes sense. And there’s a lot to make sense of. Julius and the Watchmaker spans various time periods, countries, and even parallel worlds. It takes a talented writer to work this degree of detail into a novel without the prose descending into info-dump territory; but Hehir manages, seemingly, with ease.
Julius and the Watchmaker is an imaginative adventure that drags you away from real life completely. It’s aimed at a slightly younger age-group: more middle-grade than YA, but is interesting enough that it shouldn’t deter anyone who likes a good adventure story. It’s a lot of fun to lose yourself in for a few hours.
Julius and the Watchmaker – Tim Hehir
Text Publishing (May 22, 2013)