Thursday, March 31, 2016
Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: Of Metal and Wishes, Book One
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: 4 August 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia
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. (summary from Goodreads)
Of Metal and Wishes was something quite imaginative but I can't help wanting more.
I can't say I'm much of a Phantom of the Opera fan. I've seen a movie version once only. But the idea of a retelling set within a slaughterhouse with both steampunk and dystopian overtones? Colour me intrigued. And the world building was definitely what I liked most about Of Metal and Wishes, but it could have been better. I wished we could have read more about the history of the Itanyai and Noor. Fine does a great job bringing Wen's immediate world to life. Descriptions of The Ring, Gochan One (the slaughterhouse), and life within it's walls are effective. But there was always this hint of more that we just weren't getting. Telling us there's been war, prejudice and rebellion is all well and good, it's easy enough to accept, but Fine's allusions to the truth not being so simple or not actually what Wen's always been told kind of became frustrating. I get that Fine was building up to her next book in the series, Of Dreams and Rust, but when this story was so ultra focused on just Wen and her relationships with Melik and the Ghost, hints of more felt like unsatisfactory deviations. If the outside world had have encroached onto Wen's contained world more substantially, it could have worked. But here, all hell breaks look simply because of a jealous Ghost. Sure, the Itanyai's prejudice against the Noor played a part but to me it ultimately felt like too much of a plot device just to cause romantic obstacles. Of Metal and Wishes was a fast paced novel though, full of just enough action and violence to keep things from stagnating. It's another plus for Fine's descriptive prose. The Ghost and his machinery, the horrific 'accidents', and the disgusting behaviour of the Itanyai men towards Wen, and females in general, kept things somewhat shocking and terrifying. But again, it would have been even better if the mystery behind the Ghost and the murders wasn't so predictable. Wen might have been unable to figure it out, but I think it was a little too obvious for readers.
The downside to the fast pacing and predictability is that Fine's characters fell flat for me. I never connected with them. While I appreciate that Of Metal and Wishes was a quick and easy read, unfortunately character development was somewhat lacking, and most especially in regard to their relationships. Wen was in a tough situation, and there's no denying I felt for her - Mugo and Lati's attentions had my skin crawling - but for someone so aware of her own precarious position she was awfully naive at times. I liked Melik well enough, but he had so much more going on that we simply weren't privy to, what with the novel being from Wen's point of view. Much like the hints of a big wider world, when it came to Melik I felt like something pivotal was missing. It didn't help that with such fast pacing his and Wen's relationship went from hatred to love in pretty much the blink of an eye. I like the idea of the two of them together, I just would have enjoyed more build up of the affection between them. Wen risks a lot when it comes to Melik, and while it's unfair it is so because of terrible prejudice, I can't help but want to appreciate the anticipation, believe that it's real and meaningful, and that's not what I got. Am I asking too much? I'm thankful Of Metal and Wishes didn't develop into a full blown love triangle at least. Though 'not yet' seems to be more the case, judging from the reviews of Fine's sequel. As it is, I didn't much understand Wen's being drawn to the Ghost, let alone his being an actual love interest. I think Fine meant the Ghost to be a much more complex character than I found him to be. One, because I found the truth of the Ghost much too obvious, but two, my not caring for him is also personal taste. Psycho's are not my cup of tea, and all I saw in the Ghost is a sociopathic, child-like, stalking murderer. Right from the beginning Wen's feeling like she'd found a like-soul who understood her pain had me scoffing. I just never felt any connection throughout Of Metal and Wishes.
Of Metal and Wishes had the makings of a fascinating retelling, unfortunately it just wasn't quite all it could be.