Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release: August 5, 2014
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.Of Metal and Wishes tells a story gilded with cold, dull metal, a tale sharply edged with danger. Set in a fictionalized factory full of sadistic supervisors and deadly accidents, this book holds an eerie atmosphere reminiscent of The Phantom of the Opera, the novel on which it was based. Sarah Fine sent chills down my spine with this hauntingly beautiful and scary story, and it is all thanks to the richly developed and atmospheric setting.
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.
Fine crafts a vivid, original backdrop for her tale, a soul-draining slaughterhouse that appears to be cut off from the outside word. Readers hear a few mentions of lands outside the complex, but for the most part, characters do not venture outside the gates surrounding their place of employment. In fact, I never even gathered when the story takes place, and I could only guess that the backdrop was an alternate historical setting, twisted and warped to fit the author's will. Readers do not receive enough information to fit the story with a specific time or location, and the story sits suspended in a bubble, frozen in space and time.
Thanks to the factory's isolated atmosphere, Fine was able to devote impeccable attention to developing her setting, achieving a spooky mood that weaves throughout the story's pages. She makes the smallest details seem sinister—for example, she describes Wen's hair by saying it is long enough to wrap around her neck—and includes scenes describing dangerous accidents or recounting past ones. Eeriest of all, the author binds workers to the factory through debilitating debts, keeping them captive as prisoners in a killing machine. This atmosphere of constant, inescapable fear punctuated with sharp spikes of terror makes Of Metal and Wishes an absorbing, thrilling story that readers will not want to put down.
This book's setting creates the perfect backdrop for a stunning love story that will wrap around readers' hearts, holding them in a titanium-strong grip. Strung with a strong storyline about prejudice, Of Metal and Wishes tells of a society with strong racism that keeps Wen's race separated from Melik's. I adored watching the two characters fall in love despite what they have been taught to believe about each other, and I cheered for them to survive the brutal consequences of their feelings. Fine also creates a relationship between the Ghost and Wen, including an aching romantic longing on the Ghost's part. This setup hints at a love triangle, but the apparent hopelessness of both relationships keeps the romance fresh and prevents it from succumbing to typical indecisive annoyances.
All of these elements—the ominous backdrop, the spooky atmosphere, the prejudice and the love formed in its face—intertwine to form a setting so shockingly real that it will not only seep into readers currently engaged in its pages, but stay with them long after. Fine's story may be fake, but racial divides and evil employers are real, especially in the past and even today. This story's harsh reality will imprint itself on readers minds even more than the mood and the romance, making Of Metal and Wishes a long-lasting, indelible story. It has been over a month since I turned its last page, but I still hear its whispers winding around corners and slipping through my mind in the moments before sleep—and I would not have it any other way.