I was feeling very skeptical even when I decided I wanted to read “Of Metal and Wishes” several years ago. I was afraid of being disappointed, of the story falling into another cliché routine that would mangle what was a very promising set-up. But I was proven quite wrong, something I am very happy about, because “Of Metal and Wishes” not only proved itself to be a powerful and emotional book, but it also returned me to the kind of reading experience I’ve been longing to go through again lately, the kind where you feel a burning curiousity about what will happen next every time you close the book.
This is the first time, at least from what I can remember, that an author has attempted to retell The Phantom of the Opera, and it was very well done. There is a lot of the same, familiar details as in the original, such as the character of the Ghost and his hideaway, which reminded me of the Phantom’s maquette of the Opera house and all of its inhabitants. And just like the original, the character of the Ghost made half of me fall for him and wish he could end up with Wen, despite the dark side of his nature. He was also much saner, I think, than the original Phantom, so that was a good improvement in my opinion.
The story is dark, and that should be put out there right away for anyone who plans on reading this book. There’s descriptions of rather gory injuries and the atmosphere of the slaughterhouse is written in such a way that I felt the terror of being there. There are also a lot of references to rape or prostitution, and the topic of being “pure” in a virgin sense is also prominent. But where some readers complained about the rape culture or the dark nature of the writing, I thought that was the strongest point of the book, that the writing was so alive and vivid that I felt a wave of emotions every time I picked the book up and resumed reading. All my senses were put into use, and over the course of the book I not only warmed up to the story but also became emotionally invested (to the point where I even teared up near the end of the book, although I won’t mention where as to avoid spoilers).
I loved Wen’s character. I also loved Melik and the Ghost. It was a wonderful trio to follow along, especially our lead Wen. I loved the diverse canvas of her emotions, the balance of guilt and desire and hope and fear that she felt that were all tangible and felt authentic and dare I say “logical”. She responded in almost the exact same way as I responded to the writing, and for once I could understand the heroine’s torn feelings when it came to the romantic interest. Melik also managed to avoid the typical love interest stereotype. He was strong, independent, and logical, but there was no sacrifice made to his charm and appeal which could be felt coming off the page. I understood why Wen fell for him, and loved seeing the natural progression of their feelings and relationship. And the Ghost…ah, he was quite the tender spot for me that I can’t wait to catch up with in the sequel to see what happens. But he played upon my softer, conflicting nature and I loved that. I love when characters challenge me and make me feel like I’ve formed a bond with them to the point where finishing the book feels like losing a friend.
I was won over completely. The only thing I wish for is a little more backstory, especially in terms of the geographical part of the world building. However, since the author’s primary focus was the character development and the social question in the story, which can easily be forgiven. The question of social hierarchy which has been addressed in countless YA novels before this one is done, again, in a very natural way that isn’t forced upon the reader but rather makes them grow attached to it, developing an instinctive sympathy. That’s the one word I would use to describe this book: natural. Something I instantly fall in love with whenever I encounter during my reading experience. I’m so glad my skepticism was proven wrong in this case, and I cannot wait to see where the author takes the next book, as there is quite a lot of potential for the story to be even stronger and the characters to grow. All I know is that I haven’t been moved this much by a book in quite a while, and it was delightful to experience once again.