Of Metal and Wishes: Review

August 7, 2014 2014, 4 star books, sarah fine 77 ★★★★

Of Metal and Wishes: ReviewOf Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Series: Of Metal and Wishes #1
Published by Simon and Schuster on August 5, 2014
Genres: gothic
Pages: 320 pages
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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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 goodness. This is a beautifully written, gruesome, creepy, and yet somehow intensely romantic read.

Going into this I had no idea that it was a Phantom of the Opera retelling. I thought it was a paranormal read with an actual ghost featuring in there as a love interest. I do think it best to inform you this is not the case! Still, that is not to say there is no mystery to the Ghost of this story and the unfolding of that is one of the central joys of the book. I’ll leave you to it. :)

I loved the characters in this story. Wen is such a courageous person, perhaps more so because, truly, she is timid and vulnerable. Full of self doubt and quick to take on the burden of self punishment, it is great to watch her transformation over the course of the story. The supporting cast is decently large and all feel fully realized. There are hard choices to be made here in this harsh environment and they are skillfully portrayed in such a human and empathetic way. Maybe you would not have done the same thing, but you can easily understand why some of these characters do.

There is a great element of disillusionment and the story focuses on many social issues. Wen lives in a completely isolated society that may or may not take place in a historical fantasy China. The brutal factories are her entire world (though they were not always) and the surrounding “town” that the lucky few may escape into is a source of eternal resentment and conflict for the workers. It doesn’t help the local population when “cheap, foreign labor” is brought in by the overseers. Xenophobia, classism, sexism, poor factory conditions…these are all issues examined. The cover becomes a thing of true beauty once you’ve read this novel and fully comprehend the themes.

And this might all sound so depressing, but even in the bleakest of circumstances love just might insist on thriving. The romance…THE ROMANCE. We have here one of my favorite couples I’ve read this year. I do hesitate to make a comparison with a book so hyped and so beloved, but I definitely felt shades of The Winner’s Curse in this story. If you, like me, are absolutely captivated by forbidden romance you will find much to love here. It’s definitely a slow burn and there is much joy to be found in the slow exploration of each other. There is struggle and hardship, moments of tenderness and connection, and all of the things that make a relationship truly worth it.

If there was anything that kept me from enjoying this story more it’s that I found the misogynistic society of this book to be so incredibly bleak. Wen is under the constant threat of assault or rape either through individuals isolating her or the institutional crime of the powerful preying upon the weak. It is truly pervasive and in one scene she is actually groped by her boss. I would absolutely make a content note/trigger warning for readers who might be harmed by such a scene.

And there is really, really a creepy element also. There are incresdibly scary mechanical spiders that are ready and willing to tear your guts out. The book does not shy away from such gruesome scenes. It is good to remember that much of the story takes place in a slaughterhouse and there are appropiately attendant scenes of horror and creepiness.

From my perspective, I don’t think this is really a love triangle. This is a Phantom retelling, and so we do understand the appeal of the Ghost. Truly, Sarah Fine does a wonderful job making him seem human and relatable despite the many flaws. Yet it never seemed, to me at least, that Wen was seriously considering The Ghost as a partner. There was simply too much built up between Wen and Melik. The shade of feelings between the Ghost and Wen just couldn’t compare.

The ending isn’t really a cliffhanger and this could serve as a standalone. Yet the emotion, the balance of power, the characters…they make you want more. It just strikes that perfectly tantalizing balance that makes you want to read on and on despite having a resolution. And isn’t that endorsement in and of itself? With incredible character development, complex worldbuilding, an intense creep factor, and one seriously swoonworthy love interest there just isn’t a way you could go wrong with this book.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

kim teal




Check out Wendy’s review on GoodReads as well!




77 Responses to “Of Metal and Wishes: Review”

  1. Alycia

    While I ADORE the movie (the one with Gerard Butler), Phantom of the Opera, I have never been able to complete the book…it’s just, well, boring. As soon as I saw this post, I ran right out and got it from my local library. Modern adaption of Phantom? Yay!!! It sounds incredibly intriguing!

  2. Thomas

    You sell this book so well! It sounds bleak and harsh in some parts, but the protagonist’s strength and unique background really make me want to read this book – unlike other books receiving a lot of attention in the YA realm lately, Of Metal and Wishes appears like a standout with little similarity to the works of John Green or Suzanne Collins.
    Thomas recently posted…Why Gender Roles Start in the Womb

  3. starryeyedjen

    Beautiful review for a phenomenal book. I don’t think you can go wrong with this one either, but I’m a bit biased because I’m a total fangirl for Sarah Fine. :) I am worried that people think there might be a triangle…I didn’t see that myself, either, but I know how it bothers some. :( Forbidden romance, yes…triangle, no.
    starryeyedjen recently posted…Review: The Best Things in Death by Lenore Appelhans

    • Kim

      I have to say I really, really didn’t get a triangle vibe here (and I am very sensitive to them). But it makes sense that people would maybe get the impression there is one. I just tried to do my part to say, “No! None here!” I mean, I really hate triangles and I wasn’t bothered at all by triangle-esque nature of the story. I think most people won’t have a problem with it if they actually give the book a shot and see that it’s not the case. Well, I hope anyway. And I have recently come to be in possession of SANCTUM. Can’t wait to start it! I hope you can join you solidly in the fangirl realm. :)
      Kim recently posted…The Giver: film review

  4. Shilpa Rajagopal

    Great review! Of Metal and Wishes is quite a jump from my preferred read of contemporary novels, but this sounds really interesting. I’ll definitely be putting it on my tbr list.

    • Kim

      Oh I hope you do! I’m normally not a contemporary reader at all but i’ve been fortunate enough to recently go through a streak of great ones. It proved to me that it’s worth it to venture out of my normal genre cave every once in a while.
      Kim recently posted…The Giver: film review

  5. Lia

    I do love strong MC’s, and the relationship in The Winner’s Curse, I think the only think I’m a bit iffy on is the creepiness. Is it more, or less creepy than Angelfall by Susan Ee? I loved that book but certain parts left me a bit freaked and grossed out.

  6. Jenn Greiving

    Ack! So excited – I saw this on my library’s pre-order list and snagged a hold. I just got the email that it’s at the library. Which doesn’t open till noon tomorrow. ARGH.

    And I’ll +1 the Secret Garden musical. I saw it when it first came out and it was at the Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta, which is one of the most beautiful theatres I’ve ever been to.

    • Kim

      Dang libraries and their whole “we’re not open 24/7” thing. :p I understand the struggle! Except I work at a library so I can always get my books right away (I’m worst, I know). I can’t wait for you to get your hands on this one. You’ll love it.

      Hee! I know Wendy will be delighted to see another Secret Garden musical fan! I really must get to see the actual musical someday.
      Kim recently posted…What’s on Your Nightstand? with Larissa from YA Midnight Reads

    • Kim

      Ohhhh yes. Do not read this while eating. There are some pretty gross/gory moments and it takes place in a meat processing factory. Nopenopenope. Otherwise, enjoy the creep factor! And the romance factor! And the beautiful writing factor! And the PHANTOM factor! ;)
      Kim recently posted…If I Stay film + book giveaway

  7. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    This sounds absolutely fantastic, Kim. I admit that hearing it described as The Phantom of the Opera (YAY!) meets Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle ( . . . not yay!) gave me pause, b/c yes, The Jungle was incredibly bleak, and it sounds like some of that definitely carried over here, BUT . . . hopefully not nearly as bad, and I don’t think I could stay away from it regardless b/c PHANTOM. Great review, and glad you liked it!
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Recap: Atlanta Book Signing with Ilona and Gordon Andrews

    • Kim

      Oh totally! It is absolutely PHANTOM meets THE JUNGLE. With perhaps a bit of steampunk thrown in there. There is a definite bleakness to this story, but it is also a story not without hope. I mean, there’s a really sweet forbidden romance in here so it can’t be soooo bad, you know? :) You’re gonna love it. Can’t wait for you to read it!
      Kim recently posted…If I Stay film + book giveaway

  8. Ashley C.

    *shudder* creepy stories keep me up at night, yet I can’t seem to keep my hands off them! Think I’ll stay away from this one, though. :)

  9. Layla A

    Ah, I don’t think I would ever have found this on my own. Excited about a POTO retelling! It seems from your summary like Raoul / Melik might undergo a reversal in social class here – what’s that like? Also interested to read how Wen / the Ghost’s dynamics change with the presence of a live father figure. :) Eeee, seriously excited by this.
    Layla A recently posted…Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction

    • Kim

      I am afraid I’m woefully unequipped to answer your questions! I haven’t read the original book and I don’t think I’ve ever even actually seen the musical. I’ve just heard the soundtrack a million times. :\ So I was reading this with pretty fresh eyes and no real comparison other than the backbones of the original story. I’ll be interested to see what you make of it, though!

      And has there really been internetty debate re: trigger warnings? What do people argue that it’s “too much” or “overdramatic” or some such? I mean, maybe it can be seen that way? In my mind there is the simple fact of the matter that some people really do get triggered by certain content. If I can do some small thing that maybe is not aesthetically pleasing or seems silly to some people in order to give fair warning and spare someone a trauma then I am going to do that. Seems pretty simple to me. Personally, I prefer to say “content note” but I know that is not as universally recognized as “trigger warning.” Thanks for letting me know it’s appreciated. :)
      Kim recently posted…If I Stay film + book giveaway

  10. Christina R.

    LOVE reading about forbidden romance and it’s awesome you loved this one!!

    She’s a wonderful author, her other series is excellent!! :)

    Lovely review :)

  11. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Wonderful review Kim, I’ve read many reviews on this so far and I think I’ll pick it up when I get around to it, but I love how you mentioned the social issues that were explored here. I love books that get into some pretty deep topics, and this one sounds like it will do that. Wen sounds like a really great character as well.
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…Introducing Our New Co-Blogger Michelle!

    • Kim

      Thanks, Jeann! I’m happy to hear this one’s been getting attention as it’s well deserved. And yes, you and I are the same. I love when deeper themes are explored (especially in YA). And then especially so when they deal with social justice. These are issues that we still very much are dealing with in the real world and it’s important that younger readers encounter them in their reading experiences as well.
      Kim recently posted…If I Stay film + book giveaway

  12. Jordan

    I’ll have to check this book out! It sounds like one I would like!

    • Kim

      Oh it is definitely unique despite being a retelling. And it stands completely on its own as well. You really don’t need any familiarity with the original. Either way, it’s really a lovely book. Romantic, and atmospheric, and grim, and horrific. You know, all the best things.
      Kim recently posted…If I Stay film + book giveaway

  13. Sashana

    The cover of this book is gorgeous! And it makes me happy to see an Asian-American on there cover. Yay for diversity!

  14. Carina Olsen

    Aw, great review Kim :D I’m so glad you enjoyed this book so much. <3 That you loved the characters. And the romance so much :D Sounds so sweet. But yeah. I don't think I would like this book :\ Which is depressing. You say you didn't think if it as a love triangle, but it would probably bother me, lol. But anyway. Thank you for sharing. <3 So glad you liked it :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

    • Kim

      Ack but it sooooo isn’t a love triangle if that’s what’s keeping you away! No worries, though, honestly. I’m pretty sensitive to/anti-love triangles so I understand staying away from anything that might be even remotely triangle-ish.
      Kim recently posted…If I Stay film + book giveaway

      • Carina Olsen

        Ohh, if you are sure :D But yess. Anything that is almost a love triangle is a big no for me :p Just not my thing, lol. But I am interested in this book. I just. Ack. I don’t have the money to buy it, lol. I pre-order SO MANY books each month, but it is so expensive to buy them once they have been released :p bookdepo is evil that way, lol. Anyway. I am glad you loved it :)
        Carina Olsen recently posted…Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

  15. Leandra Wallace

    A slaughterhouse for a setting is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. Not that I’d like to be put there, but it does seem like a place where some crazy stuff could go down! =) You’ve definitely made me want to read this, and I had no idea about the Phantom of the Opera comparison either, which is pretty dang neat.
    Leandra Wallace recently posted…Interview w/Lori M. Lee + A Giveaway!

    • Kim

      I honestly think this was brilliantly set. I loved the worldbuilding and the atmosphere of horror-and the “real world” horror of social injustice. So happy to hear you’ll be picking this one up. If you’re already a PHANTOM fan know that there’s a lot to love here!

  16. Jocelyne

    Your review has got me really interested in this book! I am a bit hesitant because of the creepy factor… but I’ll give this a try :)

    • Kim

      Don’t be hesitant! I’m really a big ol’ scaredy cat but I thought this perfectly hit the line of being creepy without being horrifying. I don’t think you’ll regret giving this one a try. :)

    • Kim

      Yeah, it’s really not. But I was delightfully surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it! There’s much to love: the romannnccee, the creepy, the important social themes. The beautiful writing! I hope you end up liking it!

    • Kim

      If it helps at all I am deathly afraid of spiders and am also terribly squeamish. I cannot handle horror movies at all. But I found this book hit just the right note of delightfully creepy/bloody without being tooo much. So, you know, that’s my two cents from this frightened little mouse!

  17. Jasprit

    Oh this book sounds fabulous Kim! I’ve loved all of Sarah’s previous books, but when I first saw this book around, I really thought that it wouldn’t be my sort of book, but I’m glad to see that you’ve enjoyed it, as you’ve definitely given me the extra encouragement to want to give this book a go. Also the romance definitely sounds like something that I would enjoy!
    Jasprit recently posted…Event Recap: Blogger Tea with Mila Gray

    • Kim

      I think it’s safe to say that if you loved Sarah’s previous works you will love this one! I wasn’t so sure it would be my sort of book (especially after I saw that it wasn’t really paranormal after all), but I ended up loving it! The romance is so lovely, the writing so beautiful, and the creep factor so high! Haha it’s nearly everything I could ask for!

  18. Larissa

    I need this book in my life, omfg. I love Fine’s Sanctum series and that cover. Oh my goodness, that freaking cover is so gorgeous. I actually didn’t know about this one like at all till Rashika’s great review. Now that both you and her enjoyed this story, I’m like 99 percent sure I will too. I just need it in my life so much haha.

    I really love the idea of this being a Phantom retelling, it makes this one definitely stand out from all of those Beauty & the Beast retellings lol. I also love the fact that it’s so spine chilling and has the horror elements, it’s something you just don’t see that much (and well done) in YA unfortunately.

    I heard about the social issues and I’m really wanting to read them. I know they certainly won’t be easy to swallow, but I think it’s so important that these issues are shown in YA- even if to just inform people of discrimination. Really though, I think Of Metal and Wishes will do more than just showcase the awful treatment, but cause me to really feel. I’m already certain I’ll be raging for the unfair and unjust treatment of the workers. Also these social issues are not even just a thing of our past, I still see it today :s The romance in this one sounds frankly beautiful, and the contrast of it to the awful conditions of the factory would seem downright gorgeous. It’s really amazing to me how something so amazing can blossom among all of the hate.

    Great review Kim <33 made me want this one even more.
    Larissa recently posted…Review: The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer

    • Kim

      I don’t think I’ve seen any reviews for this one where someone who loved her other series didn’t like this. I think it’s safe to say this one is for you, Larissa. :D Ha, there really are a lot of fairy tale retellings aren’t there? It’s nice to see something that isn’t usually covered get some attention!

      And I agree with you. Sexism and assault are, unfortunately, a part of life and it is worth it to include these unfavorable aspects in literature. It wouldn’t do to pretend they don’t exist. And, I mean, this is a bleak, immoral, corrupt slaughterhouse Wen is living in. Certainly no sunshine or rainbows here. The important thing here is that all of the problematic aspects are treated seriously and are obviously not good or condoned behaviors.

      The romance is such a beautifully unfolding sweet little slow burn. *sigh* What more could I need? And you’re right. I especially, especially love “different sides of the tracks” romances. It’s incredible when love can rise above all. :)

  19. Liv_The Absent Historian

    This book popped up recently on my newsfeed on Goodreads and I was definitely curious. After reading both yours and Wendy’s book reviews, I am eager to get my hands on a copy. I fell in love with the musical Phantom of the Opera, and really enjoyed the dramatic, spookiness of the novel!
    Although spiders *shudders* that definitely sounds creepy. I will almost certainly be adding this book to my to-read list and thanks for the great review! :)
    Liv_The Absent Historian recently posted…Return to Blogging

    • Kim

      Ah! I am honored to hear that you want to read this after reading our reviews! I’ve never read the novel actually, but I sure do love the musical. But if you like dramatic spookiness you’re going to like this one! And yeah..gah..those spiders. So creepy. Maybe even more so because real spiders (usually) aren’t so large and don’t have sharp metal fangs that will tear you to pieces. Yeeeeeeaahh. *shudder shudder* It sounds like you’ll definitely enjoy this one. I hope you do. :)

    • Kim

      Whooooa what? Pili! You must at least listen to the soundtrack for the musical! Ha is this passe? I totally love Andrew Lloyd Webber and I’m not ashamed to admit it! :p

      But yay! Glad you want to read this one now. You’ll be able to enjoy it just fine without any prior PHANTOM knowledge. I mean, the sexism here is supposed to make your blood boil. So at least it’s not casual/implicit sexism that’s just getting a pass, you know? Still, it is difficult to read at times. Otherwise, there is so much to adore here and I know that you will LOVE it! Can’t wait to see your rating/review!

  20. Wendy Darling

    I peeked at your draft to see what kind of star rating you were giving this–I’m relieved that you enjoyed it!

    The constant threat of rape was really difficult to read, but to me it seemed realistic to the situation of a young girl living in a slaughterhouse. Maybe toning it down would have made it a little easier to handle, though–I saw Sarah Fine saying on Twitter that she thought of this book as a lighter book than her Guardians of the Shadowlands series, hah. It’s dark! It’s beautiful, but it’s also dark. I like the dichotomy of that, though.

    • Kim

      Hee, yes I loved it! And I see you loved it even more than I did!

      I agree that it was realistic. And I think it doesn’t do to never portray such things in literature. Sexism and threats of abuse are part of life and I actually think it’s worth it to include for those who it might help to process their own real life feelings. But here it was just too difficult for me. When Wen was assaulted I was especially upset. A heads up on this content would’ve been great for me so I figure might as well do a solid and include one in my review, you know? And ha. This is lighter than her other series? Oh geez. I’ve really been meaning to get to them knowing how much you and so many other friends rave but gah! This book was certainly bleak enough! I can handle beautiful but dark, though. The beautiful hopefully balances things nicely.

      • Wendy Darling

        Oh yeah, I’m glad you talked about the assault because that could be a definite trigger for a lot of readers.

        I think GOTS is dark too, but you kind of expect that going in–I mean, it’s set in hell, hah. There isn’t as much beauty per se as there is in this book, but what SANCTUM does have is a lot of great action, strong characters, serious tone, and seriously swoony romance. The relationship dynamic is very different than the one in OMAW, but it’s just as compelling.

        Incidentally–that relationship reminds me a lot of the Rose/Dimitri relationship, though, so I hope you’ll try out Vampire Academy before you try out SANCTUM. That’s just my personal opinion, though. I like both series a lot. Though I guess if you read all the books I want you to read, you’d never have the time to do anything else. :D

  21. Kris @Imaginary Reads

    I’ve heard a lot of fantastic things about this book, and your review has me wanting to read it even more. I love how it explores a lot of different themes. The characters and romance also sound fantastic! I can’t wait to read this :)
    Kris @Imaginary Reads recently posted…Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

    • Kim

      Yes, this one is definitely a keeper! It just touched on so many things I love…forbidden romance, strong themes on social justice, creepy as all get out…yeah. What more could I need? I can’t wait for you to read this one too! I think you’ll love it. :)

    • Kim

      Hee I’m so glad, too! :D I can’t wait to read Sarah Fine’s SHADOWLANDS series. I’ve heard such good things!

  22. Nikki

    Phantom of the Opera is one of my favorite stories of all time. In all it’s versions. This sounds like it could be a really interesting but fresh take on such a classic story.

    • Kim

      Then you will LOVE this, Nikki. It is definitely an original take on the story; I really loved the sort of steampunk influence, for example. I hope you can get your hands on a copy soon!

    • Kim

      I know! I do love me some forbidden romance. Give me it. Give me all the forbidden romance! And I love having that vulnerable element in characters, especially brave ones. It grounds them and makes them more real, you know? Hope you got yourself properly caffeinated, Mary. ;)

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