Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: August 5th 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
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.
Of Metal and Wishes is a sad story about human greed and human grief. Its setting is as much a character as Wen herself is and Gochan One presents a city that could easily fit into anyone’s nightmare. What I found so interesting is that the postcolonial discourse has moved to a different, perhaps fantastical group of people, but in this instance, neither of the races is blatantly Caucasian. The Noor have coloured eyes but their skin is coloured some shade of brown or red, I’m not sure and the Itanyai are Asian inspired. This gives the postcolonial subject a fresher perspective and finds new ways to discourse on the same subject – it brings oppression to the forefront of the discussion. I liked Wen very much as a character. She is not snarky and she is not particularly witty. She is human though and aware of her own flaws and powerlessness in a society that exploits the poor and rewards the rich. She changes as she experiences new things and challenges her own notions of right and wrong. In particular, the arc of her growth from the Wen who blindly believed her mother’s warnings about the Noor to the Wen who sees the Noor for the people they are is very rewarding.
The romance is poignant. There is a love triangle but without the whole mess that is the usual YA love triangle fare. The book has enough similarities to The Phantom of the Opera for me to call it a retelling of the classic tale with a twist. I enjoyed the novel more than I expected to. It’s sad; there is no frolicking in green meadows. It’s graphically violent at times and calls for both the reader and the character it focalizes on to deeply examine their motivations and desires. In other words, it has a lot more substance than I thought it would and I liked that. Also, it’s obviously the first installment in a series but unlike other books I won’t mention, the book contains a complete story that can be read on its own. Obviously there are questions remaining at the end but it doesn’t end on a dire cliffhanger but on a note that invites the reader to pick up the next book and find out what happens to Wen next.
I quite enjoyed this novel and recommend it to anyone who is looking for some depth in their novels.