When burned in the air, zinc takes on a fluffy white character, so in ancient times it was known as philosopher’s wool, white snow, or flowers of zinc.
“I found work with a traveling carnival, and for the Midsummer Festival in Crown City, our games and rides were set up right in the middle of the Square, beneath the Angels. One night, amid the noise and the confusion of the rowded midway, I saw a man working with wires and wooden barrels. He stood and turned—the Anarchist!—holding a clockwork detonator in his hand. I called out to warn the crowd, then suddenly he threw the device at me, and I caught it automatically—just as the people turned to look my way. I escaped, but in disgrace, and fled down the Winding Pinion River to the sea.”
Zinc relates to transformation. It’s one of the metals alchemists were able to change simply by burning it. It transforms into what’s known as the flower of zinc, a fluffy white material. In a sense the protagonist has been transformed against his will from an innocent midway worker into an outcast. It’s interesting that the anarchist is using a clockwork detonator to destroy the society, which runs like clockwork but is also held together by the grand artifice of the clockwork tower and the clockwork angels. In other words, the anarchist is intent on destroying the society using the same means that the timekeeper is using to hold the society together.
More on “Carnies.”