“Jima finishes writing and looks up at me, her delicate face full of expectation. “The Ghost will listen,” she says. “He’ll help. Tell him what you want.”
Synopsis: People whisper of a Ghost that haunts the slaughterhouse where Wen and her father live and work in the medical clinic. Wen believes it is a tale of nonsense, a story to give hope to the poor, indebted workers. A story of wishes granted to those who bring him offerings and serve him well, and of punishments for those who fail to please him. But when the Noor, an enemy race, are brought in as cheap labour for the factory, things begin to change. After one of the Noor men humiliates Wen, she is encouraged to turn to the Ghost. Impulsively, she makes her wish: “Ghost, show me what you can do.” And he does. Brutally. Now she is filled with guilt, and tries to make up for it by befriending the Noor. But between learning the ways and plights of the Noor, and discovering the mystery of the Ghost, Wen must decide which side she is on, and who she can trust, as the factory is about to change. And she might go down with it.
Upon hearing that this book was a steam-punk Phantom of the Opera retelling, I decided it was probably time for me to watch the musical. Me and my sister have a list of ‘popular’ movies that everyone seems to have watched apart from us. The Phantom of the Opera was at the top of that list. So I bought the 2004 movie version…
I LOVED it. I’m obsessed with it now, and watch it all the time. Which only made me 100% more critical of this book. I think that, had I gone into this book without the marvellous creation of The Phantom of the Opera playing in the back of my head as a comparison, I would have enjoyed this book a lot more. However, as it is, I did have a comparison, and it did change my reading experience.
First of all, I need to express that I did really enjoy this book, and there were many factors about the book that had the potential to turn this into one of my favourite books. The writing, for example, was beautiful. Sarah Fine’s crafting of the written word was just lush, yet still retaining an innocence and simplicity that made the writing so special.
And I did love the actual story. Despite any irritations I had, I could not get enough of this book! I read it in two sittings, and I didn’t want to put it down. The progression of the story is set at a great pace and the plot itself is really interesting. I love a story about different races, and prejudices that arise. I thought it was very relevant to our modern society, especially with the undercurrent of racism and prejudice in our own society. It made me want to shove the book in many people I know’s faces and say: “Read this! Understand why I get frustrated whenever you use the excuse of ‘immigrants’ for every problem in society!”
I also loved the relationships in the book. The main romantic relationship is a slow-burner, and felt genuine. The break-ups and make-ups happened for realistic reasons. It also made my heart do the jittery thing a few times. I loved the non-romantic relationships too. It was just when the characters were standing alone that there was a problem.
It was so hard to picture the characters, because there is so little description; physical, and especially emotional. One character’s hair and eyes are described multiple times, but I still could not picture him. Because I need to know characters emotionally too. I need to know their hopes, darkest dreams and most secret fears, to fully know them. Unfortunately this book failed to do that. The lack of description goes for the setting too. It is set in a slaughterhouse, but I didn’t get the smells, the sights or the sounds that placed me in such a setting.
I also didn’t love the way the book ended. It is open ended (fortunately there is a sequel though!) which I usually like in a book. But I felt the conclusion was unsatisfying and too confusing in terms of characters’ motives.
But despite this, I still really liked this book, and certainly intend on reading the sequel. Maybe the second book will be less of a Phantom of the Opera retelling, and I will be less critical and make less comparisons, and I will love it.