12/09/2014

Review: Of Metal and Wishes {Sarah Fine}



Written by Sarah Fine

There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where Wen assists her father in his medical clinic. Of a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor – men hired as cheap labour – humiliates Wen, she makes a wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally. Guilt-ridden, she befriends the Noor and their outspoken leader, Melik. But she is still lured by the mystery of the Ghost and soon learns he has been watching her for a long time. As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik– who is enraged at the sadistic bosses and the prejudice faced by his people – and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat. Real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her . . . and she might go down with it.

In the most basic terms, this is a Phantom of the Opera re-telling, but it stands on its own in a way that allows the original story, and everything you may have known about it, to fade into the background while Fine weaves her own world. One that is utterly compelling.

The story has an air of dystopia, the old mixed with the new, and hints of Asian culture circling through the chapters. It's non-specific and the reader is left to determine when and where, exactly, the story takes place, which adds to the surreal nature of the tale and is a really effective way of telling such a whimsical story.

Wen was so different from any character I've read about before. She's a lot more internal – a quiet, thoughtful protagonist who says so much without ever needing to say it. That's not to say she wasn't strong, because she was. Thoughtful, does not mean weak and Wen showed that by remaining brave in the face of all the dangers around her.

The ghost was a surprisingly disturbing character, in a different way than I anticipated. He had a warped view of justice, and thought the horrific acts he committed were okay if it meant protecting Wen. It was a chilling and heartbreaking devotion, coated in obsession and melancholy.

Another thing worth a mention, is that the ghost has free-reign of the factory and with years spent in solitude, he's had time to Frankenstein some pretty creepy pets. His mechanical spiders, for one, were brutal and had a fantastic steam-punk element that was more than welcome in this gorgeously indecisive world.

And as if a eerie wish-granting ghost wasn't enough, there's the Romeo-Juliet aspect. Wen and her people are Itanyai, and so when the brutal and barbaric Noor are hired to work at the factories, tensions splinter. After Wen's wish is granted, leaving a Noor being seriously injured, she devotes herself to being compassionate to them. She takes care of them, stands up for them, and tries her best to make sure they're treated as equals.

This touches the Noor's resolute leader, Melik. He watches with wonder as Wen tends to his sick comrades and shows them kindness the Itanyai never bother to extend. He was rough, yet sweet, and a completely fearless leader who wanted nothing more than to protect his people. And, let me tell you, every time Melik utters the words 'Wen always has medicine' your heart will die a thousand deaths

Melik and Wen's relationship was tender, intense and with that oh-so-forbidden tang there wasn't much I couldn't love. Their flame was slow-burning and then, all at once, a rapid fire. It was marvellous. The romance spurred the story on and amid all the injustice and death, it was beautiful to see something so pure come to life.

This re-imagining is enigmatic and vividly beautiful. It's a story that manages to be haunting; sending a creep through your veins, and gorgeously romantic; sending a smile to your lips. From the fiercely kind Wen, to the dauntless Melik, to the forlorn ghost, each character captured me completely and left me with an aching as I turned that last page.

"There's nothing wrong with being scared. It only means something important is at stake." 


Allie is a Pimm's-obsessed reader, who dreams of road tripping over America, learning to surf & becoming fluent in all the languages of her heritage (which, sadly, does not include Elvish). If she's not reading or blogging, you can find her catching up on Teen Wolf, or reigning supreme with Scrabble/Mario Kart
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28 comments:

  1. Okay. I'm even more excited to read this after reading your wonderful review, Allie! I didn't know it was similar to Phantom of the Opera, but I'm glad to hear that it's original enough to not be classed as a retelling as such. Thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. It's similar, I suppose, in the way that Cinder is similar to Cinderella. Same basic premise, but just a completely different version :D

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  2. Ohhhh I like that quote! I like that it's non-specific-Asian! I like that there's a freaky ghost! I like that her name is Wen! Okay, actually I don't like that so much...because it's making me think of Wren just misspelled which is the oh-so-favourite name for YA heroines these days. Bleh. BUT ANYWAY! I really love the Phantom of the Opera. Literally! The PHANTOM! I was always a Phantom/Christine shipper even though he tried to kill her. True love is tough, okay? You can't expect it to be smooth singing.
    *whispers* I definitely want to read this.

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    1. Noooooo phantom / Christine, I am shaking my fist at you! You'll definitely be a Wen and Melik shipper in this BECAUSE HOW COULD YOU NOT? You'd be (even more) insane if you weren't.

      There is no singing here though, so don't expect Wen without the R to start dancing along the factory floor haha

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  3. Yay! I LOVED this and want more people to read it because I think it was just so beautifully done. I am so glad you loved it too!

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    1. Agreed. It was GORGEOUS. Apparently the author wrote it in only three weeks! LIKE, WHAT?

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  4. Wow! Sounds great! Is it wrong that I love stories that a romantic but creepy too? I love beautifully haunting stories! <3

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    1. It's romantic, it's creepy, it's a story that's too addicting for words!

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  5. Oh YAY! I am so glad you loved it. And that quote is amazing, it makes me so, so excited to read this one (I have been trying to decide which book to read next, and this is definitely a contender!). The romance sounds so perfect, and hints of dystopian, and culture and... yes. I need to read this! GREAT review!!

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    1. It's like a dystopian that could also not be a dystopian. Like it could technically, bar a few minor details, take place in the present day. It's not that far off, and I kind of liked that. The eeriness of it being so close to our world

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  6. I bought this for myself for my birthday and I'm so excited to read it! So happy to hear it was an awesome read! I love the way you described their romance! And the quote is awesome. Great review, Allie!

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    1. The romance was *swoons* Oh, Melik. Slow-burn doesn't begin to describe it

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  7. Your bold face typing has intrigued me

    This is one that I'll add to my TBR. I didn't really get "Phantom of the Opera" from the synopsis, but that is probably a good thing.

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    1. I'm bolding a lot now. I think it makes people more likely to read the review, because they can see key points.

      Katie, seriously add it. I didn't realise it was Phantom of the Opera when I first added it to my TBR, but then I saw a review that mentioned it and I got all intrigued. And then I read it AND OH MY GOD.

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  8. Does sound eerie, but a great mix of genre and characterization

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    1. It's very character-based, but also very plot-based lol. It's hard to explain. Once moment you're like 'this is such a character-driven novel' but then the plot just gets insane and you're like 'WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?'

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  9. I LOVED THIS TOO ALLIE! It was so original and well done, and I completely agree with what you've said here. I am so glad to see the awesome character diversity in this one - it made it so much more real and tangible, you know? And Wen was such a strong protagonist, and her romance with Melik was oh-so-swoony. Thanks for sharing Allie, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3

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    1. It's so hard for re-tellings to be original I feel, but this and books like Cinder just NAIL it.

      AND YES DIVERSITY. It was so nice to see an Asian protagonist and explore some of that culture. It was a lovely welcome change, and I even loved the diversity between the two different groups in the story. Fantastically done :D

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  10. Oooh, I just read a different review that said it was set in China, so I guess it does change with every reader. I like the fact that there is no specific genre or setting that the book falls into, really allows the reader's imagination to run wild. The ghost sounds creepy as well, not sure what I make of it haha. Wonderful review Allie xx

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    1. I can't remember it specifically mentioning China, but it's for sure an Asian setting. It's just ambiguous and I think, since the races of Noor etc. are fictional, perhaps the country is just a fictional Asian country. Either way, like you said, it gets your imagination going!!

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  11. AHHH i've read so many good reviews for this one i'm super excited to read it now Allie. Admittedly, I wasn't all that interested in the story (even though I LOVE Phantom of the Opera) but I love how this one seems to be able to stand on it's own! Great reveiw :)

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    1. It's amazing, Lils! Even as someone who didn't really love Phantom, I just adored this book! It's a great re-imagining AND AND AND Melik *swoons*

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  12. Oh wow Allie! 5 stars? I am excited enough as it is for this one and you just made me want it more. I admit I'm in this because they said this was a Phantom of the Opera (which I loved to pieces. I know all the songs I swear) retelling but it seemed like there's more to it than that. I'm so ready to be amazed! *makes grabby hands*

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    1. You'll be more than amazed, love! I was just enthralled by the whole thing: the creepiness, the setting, the romance. BEYOND WORDS

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  13. I really want to read this book! I love the asian culture in this one along with the retelling of my favourite musical ever. The romance sounds like it went really well too, I love how it is developed over time. Lovely review Allie!

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    1. I honestly didn't know if I'd like the romance but I DID. I so did. It was just done so well!!!!

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  14. I have seen the cover so much but never really looked at what the books about. A retelling of Phantom of the Opera?!?! How did I not now this existed? This sounds incredible, you have me utterly convinced that this is a book I am going to love. I will definitely be trying to get my hands on a copy. Thanks for the great review.

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    1. I think the blurb doesn't really give away the fact that it's retelling. Which is good, in a way, because it means it totally stands on its own :D

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