Series: Of Metal and Wishes #1
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Reading Level: Young Adult, 14+
Pages: 320 (eARC)
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.
I love Sarah Fine. She is a good friend and one of my favorite authors, but upon the release of this book I questioned if I would actually NOT read one of her books because of my inability to deal with gore. Nevertheless, I armed myself with a nearby fan, lots of water, and a determination to not allow my squeamishness to halt me from plowing through one of my favorite author's books. And while one scene genuinely disturbed me, I can honestly say that I am so thankful I had the guts to read this loose Phantom of the Opera retelling. Sarah never disappoints me, and I can honestly say that I think even squeamish readers like myself can enjoy this, just as long as they know what they're getting themselves into.
What always impresses me about Sarah's writing is her world-building and her attention to detail. This world is among the most interesting worlds I've read as of late. Set in an Asian-like country, everything is built out of factories. One is a slaughterhouse that provides the Ring with meat, another is a machine-factory that provides the Ring with metal killing machines meant for protection (which lends this book an awesome steampunk air), and the last one provides the Ring with clothing. There is a huge separation between the rich and the poor, though it is even worse to be a vile Noor than to be poor. Naturally, with such a dark world and a book primarily focusing in a slaughterhouse haunted by a vengeful ghost and overseen by a wicked man with a fondness for young, untouched girls, this tale is going to be chilling, and chilling it is. However, I think this is attributed more to the atmosphere than grotesque writing. While there are some gross moments--only one that was truly unsettling to me--they're bareable. But there's this ever lurking threat, the constant need to look over your shoulder, and the fact that people want bad things to happen and you never know if they'll get what they want or not. This type of atmosphere is engrossing despite the horror and darkness it promises. It reminds me very much of Victoria Schwab's style of detail, and I loved every minute of it.
Another thing that Sarah always delivers on is the romance. Melik, despite his relatively young age, is a leader among the 200 Noor workers who came to spend the season at the factory to send wages back to their struggling families. He is very intelligent, passionate, and protective. He does not allow the blatant hatred of Noors to ruin him or his people. He and Wen are immediately fascinated with each other despite their friendship being considered disgusting and unfathomable by society's standards, and their time spent together slowly transforms from fascination to something more. It is easy to love both Melik and Wen, though I have to say I was drawn more to Melik. Wen is fiery and sassy, strong and opinionated. She does not allow orders or silent threats or even demeaning societal expectations to control her. She is very easy to respect and admire, but, at times, it's hard to connect to her. And, I gotta admit, she has terrible taste in friends for a good portion of the book. She tends to shoulder a lot of the blame for nearly anything and while this is respectable, you almost want to shake her sometimes. Furthermore, she tends to be blind to certain things and only realize them too late--especially in regards to the Ghost. While this is a necessary plot device, it's one of my personal pet peeves as a reader. One thing's for sure, though, and that is the fact that Wen always has medicine.
The Ghost is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this story because he is unpredictable and unique. He died seven years ago on the killing floor of the slaughterhouse as a young boy. Only a messenger, he got caught in a machine at the wrong time and Wen's father pronounced him dead after the horrific accident. Shortly after his death, weird things happened around the slaughterhouse that made the workers believe a ghost was haunting it. They set up an altar in an alcove outside of the cafeteria and left offerings to him, asking him to aid them in their desires and secret vendettas. The Ghost did both amazing things and terrible things, choosing who to help and when not to. It is said that when the Ghost takes a liking to you, you're in for a good life in the factory. But Wen sees a darker side to the Ghost after he takes a liking to her and is determined to uncover everything about his past.
With all of these plot elements combined, Fine takes us on a riveting journey full of hatred, first love, jealousy, obsession, awesome inventions, murder, and a fight to do the right thing simply because it is what is right. Powerful and gripping, I flipped pages at a lightning fast speed and I'm already anxious to read the second book in this awesome duology. I've come to expect nothing but greatness from Sarah Fine, and I'm sure anybody who picks up this book will agree. Her writing, her skills at creating a twisted and tragic mystery, and her ability to create such deep characters that will wrench your heart in two makes this book a must read.
FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for my honest review.