Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Release Day Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Title: Of Metal and Wishes

Author: Sarah Fine

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Release Date: August 5th, 2014

First and foremost, you should know that I've never read or seen "The Phantom of the Opera." Secondly, you should know that I read Of Metal and Wishes not even knowing it was a re-telling of the above classic. So. If you're looking for a comprehensive review comparing these two novels, you've come to the wrong place.

Nevertheless, despite my lack of insight into the re-telling aspect of Of Metal and Wishes, I enjoyed it immensely. Wen assists her father in a medical clinic located in a slaughterhouse--a slaughterhouse where a ghost resides. The Noor, a cast hired on as cheap manual labor, begin working at the slaughterhouse. When one humiliates Wen, she impulsively makes a wish to the Ghost and is shocked when it is granted in a violent manner. In an effort to ease her guilt, she befriends the leader of the Noor, Melik. But before long, Wen is torn between her growing feelings for Melik and her friendship with the Ghost. After all, nothing but brutality and violence are certain in the slaughterhouse and if Wen isn't careful, the two just may follow hot on her heels...

Where Of Metal and Wishes shines is in creating a palpable atmosphere. I don't usually gravitate towards horror/thriller novels--so I can hardly compare Fine with connoisseurs of the genre such as Stephen King--but the tension throughout the narrative reminded me distinctly of the impending sense of doom one feels when reading Rebecca or Nine Coaches Waiting. It doesn't overwhelm the senses but, rather, it lingers, festering until the dam breaks and the plot finally reaches its peak. Fine paces her tale impeccably, adjusting the background sensation in tune, and I found this to enhance the experience of the novel memorably.

Of Metal and Wishes, moreover, features a sympathetic heroine in Wen. Not only is she compassionate and considerate, but her blunders early in the novel prove that she isn't above mistake or reproach. Thus, it is impossible not to feel a connection with well-meaning Wen. Where I grow weary of her character, however, is in her distinctly damsel-in-distress portrayal. Now, perhaps this is my ignorance speaking and Fine is simply sticking to integral plot points as she re-tells "The Phantom of the Opera" but I found myself disturbed by the treatment of women in Of Metal and Wishes. If a young girl is seen alone with a man, it instantly means she is "loose" of morals, or a prostitute. Seriously, the number of times Wen, our protagonist, was forced to ward off unwanted sexual attention became tiresome. It did little for the setting--which I will discuss in a bit--and even less for the character growth. Additionally, I'm not a fan of dilemmas which are created to be solved with violence. For the romantic interest to prove himself by beating up the men who wanted to sleep with Wen seems far too reminiscent of Beautiful Disaster to me. It isn't a flaw, exactly, as Fine handles the issues she brings up with aplomb, but I had hoped YA was moving away from the artificial love stories of fists and helpless maidens.

Fine's tale further lost me with its setting. The Noor are--I believe, but do feel free to correct me if I'm wrong--a fictional group whose physical characteristics are similar to those of Asian origin. Yet, the novel contains a distinctly historical feel to it which threw me off on more than one occasion. The conflicts within this novel are merely fictional, as is the political turmoil, but it felt as if it lacked a true historical thread to tie it back to reality--mainly because aspects of the Noor culture are, certainly, derived from historical origins in Ancient China. What I did enjoy about this twist was the fact that Fine pitted two opposing social classes of people--neither of which were Caucasian--and I found that the commentary she was able to make as a result was thought-provoking. Nevertheless, I feel as if Of Metal and Wishes could have benefited from a slightly more concrete--grounded, if you will--historical air to it, particularly as the treatment of women alludes to a much older time period in history though Wen's father's dreams of sending her to medical school allude to far more recent times. It continued to plague me as the tale went on and, let me assure you, confusion is not a sensation I welcome.

Of Metal and Wishes is ideal for lovers of thriller/horror/mystery novels, especially as its genre contains just a hint of steampunk, romance, and hints at a sequel (though, as far as I know, a follow-up has not been confirmed). So far, none of Fine's works have been able to compare to her debut--for me, at least--but I can easily see her latest becoming a favorite among many. If there's anything Fine has proved with this one it is that no genre can deter her--she is, well and truly, a versatile writer.


  1. I rally want to try it, I just do not want to get it because I fear I might not like it

  2. GORGEOUS review, Keertana! You've basically said everything I wanted too.. although I myself am a little confused as to whether the setting is supposed to be historical or not. After thinking about it for a while though, I thought it was steampunk because that would definitely help things make more sense. Especially how Wen could sometimes be a damsel in distress. That didn't bother me as much as it might have otherwise because I felt like it was essential to creating the atmosphere.

    I am SO glad to see you enjoyed this one overall though, Keertana!! :)

  3. This sounds really intriguing Keertana! I love the sound of the premise - definitely creepy! And it has bits of steampunk? Hmm...that's original! xD

    Wen sounds like a fabulous character despite the fact that she seemed to be a bit too helpless sometimes. I think I can deal with that though!

    Thanks for sharing Keertana and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

  4. KEERTANA!!!! YOU MUST SEE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA! I've never read it either, so I can't tell you much about the actual book, but the musical is absolutely amazing. My all-time favorite show on/off Broadway:) I thought the movie was pretty well done too, Emmy Rossum has an unbelievable voice, so you should definitely check it out!!!

    And on to the book - glad you enjoyed it overall! I saw a post Sarah wrote (I think on Heidi's blog) recently about the roles of women in the particular time period this is set - it was very interesting and might better explain some of the issues you had with Wen:)

  5. I did wonder about the time period and whether or not the setting was entirely fictional. That said, despite not having a concrete answer to any of that, I quite enjoyed the world building and thought the cultural aspects, harsh parts included, were well written. I agree that this was a very atmospheric book. I love how Sarah slowly built things here. Even though I enjoyed this slightly more than you, I'm glad you liked it overall. Great review, Keertana!

  6. Just from reading this review I would assume this was a historical novel. I just read a post over at Rainy Day Ramblings and I think Sarah was aiming to portray the heroine in such a way, and it's true it would be offensive to the modern day woman, like you or me. Didn't know it was a re-telling of Phantom until quite recently. I did enjoy the play. I have a copy of this and I'll have to get to it soon. Wonderful review, Keertana!

  7. I am sorry you didn't like this one more than you did, I absolutely loved it but you do make some very good points about lack of world building.

  8. I had no idea this was a retelling of Phantom of the Opera. I've seen the movie and broadway show, but have yet to read the book, so that fact definitely peaks my interest. Though the romance and the confusing historical time period kind of turns me off. I may or may not read this one. I think I'll read Sanctum first, a book that still awaits me on my Ipad,and then I'll see about reading this one if I fit it in somewhere. Lovely review!

  9. Wen sounds like a great character but, like you, I'm just not sure I'd be happy with the world in which she lives, the one that treats women like that. I'm interested...but just not sure I want to take the time to read it. Great review, as always!

  10. The damsel-in-distress portrayal is a bit disappointing, but it sounds like the novel has other good elements too. The atmosphere sounds incredibly well done!

    Nice honest review! :)

  11. I have never read or seen "The Phantom of the Opera" either so I dare say I'm in the right place. I'm really glad you enjoyed this one and that atmosphere sounds so good. I really want to experience that right now. Also Wen seems like someone I'll like too. Great review, Keertana :)

  12. I think you'll like Phantom. I haven't read it, but I did see more than one movie version. I did like the latest one.

    Oh I do like retellings and I love it when an author does something culturally different than we are used to getting, especially in YA. Just for those reasons I do want to read it.

  13. I didn't even know either that this was based on a re-telling of The Phantom of the Opera. I was actually considering giving this book a go, so thanks for the heads up on it. This sort of genre isn't normally something that I would go for, but as I've loved all of Fine's previous novels, I am eager to find out how well she's able to work with this different genre. Gorgeous review as always! :)

  14. I haven't read or seen Phantom of the Opera myself, although I have watched the movie version. Hopefully I can read the book/watch the play at some point! From the synopsis, I think I can see elements of it being a retelling coming through, but it also sounds like Fine really made the story into her own, which is awesome. The whole "damsel in distress" trope is something that was used in POTO, from what I do recall. As was a ton of violence.
    Despite a few pitfalls, I am glad to see that you enjoyed this one overall. I own - but haven't read - Sanctum and Fractured - so hopefully I'll be reading those soon. I definitely need to read this one as well, though, because it really does sound refreshingly different in so many ways.

  15. I'm a mega fan of Stephen King's novels and Thrillers/horror is my favorite. I'm definitely bumping it on my TBR. Great review Keertana :)

  16. The worldbuilding, although incomplete, didn't really bother me, mostly because I was completely in love with the atmosphere. With books like this, the atmosphere is what really counts for me, and I thought it was done brilliantly. I was so scared and depressed while reading this, I can't even begin to tell you.
    Anyway, maybe the world will be better explained in the sequel.

  17. Ah, I'm glad you liked this one! I think it totally works even if you didn't know it was a retelling of Phantom, Kim didn't realize as she was reading it, either. She brought up the same issues you did, re: the way women are treated. I think that's a valid criticism as far as perhaps exceeding what some readers might be comfortable with, though for me, I thought the way Wen was continually harassed seemed believable within the context of the setting. Loved this one, though. And it really is incredibly atmospheric.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  18. I've been really excited for this book for some time now. I'm not familiar with Phantom of the Opera, in film or text, but that still doesn't discourage me; I want to read this at some point! The atmosphere and culture are drawing me in! But I should probably read Fine's debut series first. It's been waiting for me on my Kindle app for ages, and you speak so highly of it, I'm curious! Even though you had some issues with Of Metal and Wishes, I'm glad you found a lot of good in it. I expect you'll be returning for the sequel? It's been confirmed there will be one. It's a planned duet. :)

    Marlene @ The Flyleaf Review


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