Series Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Series Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah FineOf Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Series: Of Metal and Wishes #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry on August 5, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Horror, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 321
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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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.

Fun fact: this cover is one of my all-time favorites. I can’t even fully express why, but it’s perfection, and I love it. As such, I’ve been really excited to read this one. Of Metal and Wishes didn’t completely live up to my expectations, but it was a solid and clever retelling.

Of Metal and Wishes takes place in a giant slaughterhouse, and it gets just as gruesome as that might lead you to expect. My body was very much not ready for some of the descriptions in this book. There’s a lot of detail about Wen’s daily life working in the factory and as an assistant to her father (who runs the clinic). It’s a very slow starter of a book. At about two-thirds of the way in, shit hits the fan and the book became unputdownable, but up to that point I felt a bit meh.

Wen’s not the most vibrant heroine ever. She’s not funny or very voicey. However, I do love that she’s an awesome apprentice doctor. Like, I’ll be reading a description and going BLEAHHHHH, and she’s just like nbd and starts taking care of business.

Now, I’m not super familiar with Phantom of the Opera (I’ve seen the movie a couple of times, but that’s about it), but I thought the “ghost” was a really cool alternative to the opera coach. The ghost grants wishes, when he feels like it, and haunts the bowels of the factory with his metal machines. I really like the development he receives; his motivations, childish as they are, make perfect sense considering his development. He’s not a likable figure (for me, anyway) but he is sympathetic.

Of Metal and Wishes centers on racism within the microcosm of the factory and Itanyai society at large. It follows a pretty typical template (heroine grows up in racist society and only challenges those ideas when she meets people of the “savage” race and falls in love with one of them), but it’s done with a non-white heroine and the “savages” are pale-skinned. It’s a nice way of handling that narrative without making it all about white feelings. It’s not the most nuanced portrayal of that, but it is effective. The romance between Wen and Melik falls a bit flat, since they don’t really seem to have a lot to bond over, aside from intense stress and terror, but it’s not terrible.

Aside from the sluggish pacing of most of the book, I was pretty impressed with Of Metal and Wishes. Very much worth a read if you’re looking for a Phantom retelling or enjoy creepy mechanical creatures.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Series Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah FineOf Dreams and Rust by Sarah Fine
Series: Of Metal and Wishes #2
Published by Margaret K. McElderry on August 4, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 280
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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War erupts in this bittersweet sequel to Of Metal and Wishes, inspired by The Phantom of the Opera and called “relentlessly engrossing” by The Romantic Times.

In the year since the collapse of the slaughterhouse where Wen worked as her father’s medical assistant, she’s held all her secrets close. She works in the clinic at the weapons factory and sneaks away to nurse Bo, once the Ghost, now a boy determined to transform himself into a living machine. Their strange, fragile friendship soothes some of the ache of missing Melik, the strong-willed Noor who walked away from Wen all those months ago—but it can’t quell her fears for him.

The Noor are waging a rebellion in the west. When she overhears plans to crush Melik’s people with the powerful war machines created at the factory, Wen makes the painful decision to leave behind all she has known—including Bo—to warn them. But the farther she journeys into the warzone, the more confusing things become. A year of brutality seems to have changed Melik, and Wen has a decision to make about him and his people: How much is she willing to sacrifice to save them from complete annihilation?

Unburdened by the pacing issues of Of Metal and Wishes, Of Dreams and Rust was a quick read and much more compelling.

From the opening, there’s much more tension and consistent action. A year has passed since the events of Of Metal and Wishes, and Wen hasn’t heard from Melik. The Noor are rebelling, and Wen worries for Melik. She also finds herself a bit drawn to Bo. Thankfully, when she gets word of war machines about to head for the Noor, she decides to go and warn them, leaving her father and Bo behind (thankfully because a Bo/Wen ship would be awful).

Wen has to confront some lingering systemic racism, as well as the realities of war, which, as a healer, she super does not approve of. Her loyalties are tested, and she has to make decisions quickly. That was a pretty nice change, because, while she struggles, she doesn’t have time for anything else. I also appreciate how understanding she and Melik are of one another once they talk things out, and they’re willing to admit mistakes. They’re still not an amazing ship, but they’re making it work.

Bo has the most compelling arc of the book, and it really highlights the tragedy of his situation. Injured and isolated so young with almost no company aside from his machines, he has issues with empathy (i.e. having it at all). He cares about Wen as much as he really can, but he never really learned how to love people. He cares for her like a toy, not a person. His burgeoning friendship with Sinan is sweet, and it shows so much hope. View Spoiler »

The only downside of Of Dreams and Rust, aside from characterization still not quite being where I want it to be, is that it feels like the second book of a trilogy, only no third book ever happened. The book ends, and a battle is done, but the war super isn’t. I did enjoy reading this duology, however.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


One response to “Series Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine”

  1. lenore says:

    You love that cover because you know I would rock that dress 😉
    lenore recently posted…My Awesome Reads of 2016My Profile

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