Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "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."
Review: Seeing as I spent half of my childhood pretending I was Christine Daae, this Phantom of the Opera retelling was a no-brainer.
Although a part of me will never believe that another setting could be as perfect for this story as an old Parisian opera house, somehow a mid-century, Asian-inspired slaughterhouse worked just as perfectly. (I don't think there was an actual date or country assigned to this story - it was appropriately left vague - but judging from the character descriptions and the technology available, I think it's safe to say mid-century and Asian-inspired.) Regardless of time or location, the slaughterhouse was truly a perfect setting. It is large, busy, hierarchical, dangerous, and carries an ever-present atmosphere of death.
The aura surrounding the Ghost was so well done. You could tell that these people were highly superstitious, and could understand why they would want to believe in the Ghost. It's sometimes easier to believe in something you haven't seen when there's precious little to believe in at all, so the little coins and hard-won trinkets offered to him were both touching and sad.
Wen has recently lost her mother when this book opens, and she is dealing with her grief along with her strained relationship with her father while learning the ropes in this hardened factory. She struggles at first, but eventually adapts. I wouldn't say that she becomes a force to reckon with, but she certainly progresses, and I appreciated her growth.
The Ghost was equal parts brilliant, childish, and cruel. He was a fascinating and really well-drawn character, and I loved every scene that featured him. The Raul character in the original book and in the famous musical always seemed kind of weak to me, but Melik was fabulous. He was layered, strong, and devoted to the causes he believed in. I did quite like Wen and Melik together, even though I pictured Melik as, like, twenty-seven years old, and Wen is clearly stated as sixteen. I do not approve of such shenanigans in real life, but in this story their wistful romance worked.
Seeing as the original story doesn't factor in any event outside the Opera House itself, the background of political unrest and racial prejudice was an interesting additional layer to this story. I actually quite liked the added weight it gave to the characters, and it left me really curious as to how the next book will play out.
I greatly disliked the lack to female friendship in this novel, however. Wen starts with friends, but either they abandon her or she abandons them by the end of the novel. I wished she had a friend with whom to navigate her difficult situation, or at least someone on whom to rely. I also disliked that every man with whom she came in contact either wanted to rape her or marry her. Ms. Fine apparently elected to have a strongly patriarchal and misogynistic environment in which to place her story, which is certainly her prerogative. But I found it to be irritating. Not all women are rivals, and not all men can't control their hormones. Some variation there would have been appreciated.
Still, I blew through this whole book in a single afternoon. It was chilling and gripping and haunting and really, really exciting. I loved reading it, and definitely recommend it!
Bottom Line: This haunting and exciting Phantom of the Opera retelling is perfect for Halloween season! Pull out this book and get delightfully sucked into a world of contention, mystery, intrigue, and ghosts.