A reckless wish has tragic consequences in this homage to The Phantom of the Opera.
Sixteen-year-old Wen lives with her father at the medical clinic he runs in the Gochan One factory compound. Their family is far better off than the slaughterhouse’s workers, but they are no less prisoners to the debts they owe to the factory. After one of the Noor—foreign workers brought in to cut costs—shames Wen in the cafeteria, she angrily presents the Ghost rumored to haunt the slaughterhouse with an offering and a challenge: “Prove yourself to me. I want to be impressed.” She’s horrified when the boy who teased her is promptly injured in a violent accident; when she attempts to make amends by helping the Noor, she finds herself increasingly attracted to their charismatic leader, Melik. Fine effectively conveys the industrial and human horrors of Wen’s life, from the slaughterhouse’s gruesome work to automaton killer spiders to the underboss who preys sexually on young women. It’s unfortunate that the world beyond the factory remains largely unexplored and unexplained. Much of the novel’s action is driven by threats to Wen’s virtue, which quickly grows repetitive, but Wen and Melik’s star-crossed romance will likely satisfy many readers. The open ending leaves room for a sequel.
An imaginative but uneven retelling. (Steampunk. 12-18)