by Sarah Fine
To be published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
on August 5, 2014
Source: Borrowed ARC from Around the World ARC Tours
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.My take: Of Metal and Wishes tells a story that's doesn't fit perfectly in any genre. Aspects of the book feel historical, and it is set in an invented -- yet Asian-inspired -- country. The story includes some steampunk elements, and also feels a bit Gothic. In addition to all that ... it's a retelling. You probably wouldn't guess the inspiration right off, and since I think I might have enjoyed this retelling slightly more without knowing what book it was based on, I'll put the name of the original book under spoiler protection here: Phantom of the Opera.
Wen was a fantastic heroine. The daughter of a family that has fallen on hard times, Wen misses her dead mother and assists her physician father as he cares for the workers in a slaughterhouse. Wen can't help but notice how cruelly the laborers -- men from a different province and ethnic group -- are treated by the factory bosses. One day, Wen is taunted by one of the laborers, and she angrily makes a wish for vengeance to the mysterious Ghost, who grants it. This sets off a chain of events that leaves Wen wracked with guilt, but also draws her closer to Melik, one of the workers. When Wen sets out to discover the Ghost's secrets, she is drawn into his mysterious underground world.
I learned that Of Metal and Wishes was a retelling about half way though my reading. It was a big "a-ha" moment for me, but then it also became somewhat of a distraction -- and also a little bit of a spoiler. While the time and place and some plot points have changed, Of Metal and Wishes stays pretty true to the emotional core of the source material. (The original story does have a bit of a love triangle feel, though it's not one of those back-and-forth triangles.)
I really enjoyed Of Metal and Wishes. It was beautifully-written, imaginative and unique, with a story world and a heroine I won't soon forget. After I finished, I checked out the author's Pinterest board for the book, which explains some of the inspirations behind her story. If you like stories that are dark and Gothic, or are just looking for something a little different to read, definitely check this one out!