Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014. Hardcover. 321 pages. 

I came across Of Metal and Wishes on a whim one day while perusing Goodreads. I had never of this book or the author, Sarah Fine (who apparently has quite a few successful books out that I would like to check out), and it sounded immensely appealing, so I made sure to pick it up at my library. Random book finds are always a gamble, but this one turned out to be quite rewarding.

This book follows a young woman named Wen who assists her father at the medical clinic of a slaughterhouse. There are rumours of a ghost that dwells within the factory that is believed to grant wishes to those that provide offerings, though there is no hard evidence. Ghostly things begin to happen when Wen makes a wish one day, and as a result we are pulled into a dark story surrounding Wen, her father, and recently hired Noor men, a foreign culture that is looked down upon.

Of Metal and Wishes has a distinct Asian culture setting, though there are no specifics on time period of location, which is actually somewhat refreshing. I actually felt rather unrestricted because of this, which really allowed my imagination to thrive without getting caught up in too many specifics regarding the locations and politics of an area.

Prior to reading Of Metal and Wishes, I had no idea that it was a form a Phantom of the Opera retelling until after I finished, but I can now certainly understand that element. This book had such a distinct style and atmosphere that it is difficult to describe. There is little warmth or gentle narration, but rather a distinct bleak atmosphere. Despite thinking I was becoming bored at various times or about to put it down, in reality I found I couldn't stop reading because I simply had to find out the fate of Wen, her father, Ghost, and the Noor.

This book does have romance, though it is in no way your typical story romance; the chemistry between the characters does become rather prominent, but I found it to be done in a very realistic and timely manner that did not take away from my enjoyment of other elements of the plot. This book is gritty, dark, gory, and unforgiving; at times it felt hopeless that life could ever change for the characters that dwelled within the story.

Fine has an elegant and precise form of writing that makes every sentence count, and her words stick in your mind hours after you have put down this book. It is hauntingly beautiful. The characters she has created are all nicely unique and embody varying personalities despite their limited circumstances and inability to live freely. Her plot is certainly unique, though at times it felt underdeveloped. Things happened too quickly and too predictably, and I struggled to understand where exactly the plot was going at various moments. Regardless, I still found myself interested in Wen and the story itself, which led me to continue reading.

Wen was a very complex character, and I enjoyed getting to know her with each page. At times, she is entirely complacent and obedient, knowing that she must do exactly as dictated by society, her father, and their strict, dirty boss, Mugo. However, at various points in the story we catch glimpses into her more stubborn and strong-willed side. She is both meek and bold. She is brutally aware of the horrors that occur at the factory and any accidents she has been involved in, and we often see her feeling the negative effects of being exposed to such a life. This also makes her a strong character, as she grows throughout the novel and becomes more involved with the Noor and the events at the factory. The only critique I have about Wen is that I never felt overly connected to her character. I began to understand her actions and empathize with her, but I never felt an overly strong connection. It was similar to the feeling of having a friend or acquaintance that you feel you know well and get along well with, but there always seems to be a thin wall between you and them, which always leaves that air of coolness and distance that prevents a true connection. Wen built her wall to keep out other people and her emotions, but at the same time she kept out her readers (or at least me).

The Noor themselves were a group of young men that I slowly learned to respect. In the beginning, they appear cold, distant, and disrespectful to women. However, we begin to see the other sides of the Noor as they struggle to survive at the factory, and we are able to watch them care for one another in a compassionate, loyal, and dedicated manner that is apparently foreign to Wen and their society's customs.

Wen's father is a character that I actually wish Fine wuld have expanded more or included more in the story. He is a quiet, exceedingly competent man and an excellent doctor. he is also extremely obedient to his boss, largely because the only alternative is likely a labour-type camp. Despite it not being overly apparent, he care deeply for his daughter and always tries his best to keep her safe ad provided for.

Overall, I a giving Of Metal and Wishes three-and-a-half stars because it is a solid, interesting story with strong characters and a unique, enjoyable plot. It lacked in some developmental areas, and it didn't feel like I always understood where the plot was going, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

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You might also like:
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Hidden Huntress by Danielle Jensen
Throne f Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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