Review: Of Metal and Wishes

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Title:  Of Metal and Wishes
Author:  Sarah Fine
Genres: gothic, romance
Pages: 320
Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books
Review Copy: the publisher
Availability: August 5th, 2014

Summary: There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, 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. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: When I first started Of Metal and Wishes, I had to stop after three pages. Within those few pages, I was so strongly reminded of the 20th century Chinese stories and dramas I had to read in college that I couldn’t continue — it was that overwhelming feeling of reading nostalgia (that’s a thing, right?). I didn’t resume reading until a week later. When I did, I sat down and burned straight through it.

In Of Metal and Wishes, Wen struggles to adjust to her new life living in the factory compounds with her father, as a shipment of Noor workers arrive. When Wen’s wish to the factory ghost goes horribly wrong, Wen discovers that there is so much more to the factory, and the Noor workers… The writing vividly evokes the life Wen lives in the Gochan One slaughterhouse, both through voice and imagery.

Now I have to admit that this book hits all of my weak spots — ghosts, mechanical spiders, and family. And a gothic retelling of Phantom of the Opera? Sounds good to me. I came for the ghost story and stayed for the, well, detailed world building, multi-dimensional characters, and political conflicts. Issues of discrimination and labor rights are woven in among the drama of Wen’s encounters with the ghost of Gochan One, and her budding romance.

Who Wen will fall for is obvious from the get-go. She locks eyes with Melik, the mysterious jade-eyed Noor, and you know they’ll be in true love soon enough. It’s very much in the proud YA tradition of love-at-first-sight between a girl and the mysterious hot guy who stands out from the crowd. Of Metal and Wishes is advertised on the back cover as a “love story like no other,” but, to my mind, it wasn’t the most compelling aspect of the book.

In recent years, I’ve grown weary (and wary) of “Asian inspired” fantasy and sci fi books that end up being 70% cultural appropriation and names straight out of the dictionary. I was relieved and happy to find that Of Metal and Wishes is, as far as I can tell, not one of those books. Research has gone into this book and it shows, through subtle details and solid writing.

 

Of Metal and Wishes is definitely a book to put on your to-read list. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel (!!) when it comes out. 

Recommendation: Get it soon (er, when it comes out on August 5th, 2014 anyway)

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