Domingo is a carver and an engineer, the two blending in a steampunk world where wood and metals are central, as opposed to our world where perhaps the valuable materials are silicone and carbon composites. His magnum opus is the figure he carves out of a magical trunk of wood which resembles his diseased wife. The notion of magic and connection to folklore permeates the story throughout; he’s working legendary wood that comes alive, there’s a sense of destiny beyond and free of human control and destruction, and a tender reassurance of love that transcends time and death.
But what fascinated me the most was Domingo’s approach to creating artifacts. Through him we see the engineer as something of an artist and a seeker. He’s very knowledgeable about the uses and properties of different types of wood, but also aware of the variations within each species. Engineering is precise and there’s a plan for what the artifact should look like; but at the same time each artifact has its own character and it takes an artist to shape it in a way that retains and emphasizes this character. The writing uses the phrase “to bring out” a lot; Domingo could bring out amazing things out of wood. This illustrates beautifully the notion of the engineer being a seeker, he is looking to bring out the escaping beauty and function of its pieces. It’s not longer a process in which the engineer operates upon passive material, but a mutual process of the material guiding and inspiring the engineer and the engineer bringing the best of it out.
In fact, they even say in the story that if you bring out an artifact against the character of the magical wood it would break apart soon.