Of Dreams and Rust
by Sarah Fine
Of Dreams and Rust is the incredibly bittersweet, fast-paced sequel to Of Metal and Wishes. It picks up a year after the end of the last novel. Wen is now working in Gochan 2, the war machine factory, and overhears a rumour that leads her to believe Melik’s life is in danger and so she leaves the safety and familiarity of her father and Bo to warn him. When they finally reunite however, he’s not the same person she knew a year ago and she begins to question betraying her own people for the sake of his.
It is not a happy realization. It does not bring me any pleasure, not even the savage, animal kind. I thought my own people were the villains, but now I see the truth: all of us are villains. The Noor are just as bad, just as bloodthirsty, just as willing to cause suffering and death. If they had war machines, they would use them. When they have the ability to hurt, they do.”
Never fear however! Despite all the obstacles keeping them apart, Melik and Wen’s relationship is just as heartwarming as ever, if not more! Although I couldn’t blame Wen at the beginning for believing the worst of Melik – I mean come on, if someone threw down decapitated pinkies at my feet, I’d probably have good reason to think he had killed them too! But of course Melik proves his love to be loyal and true, using his super intense gazes that just melt me from across the pages and an ultra-protective but not overbearing attitude that I seriously could not get enough of – I find that often in YA and NA we get a lot of alpha-male personas that are swoony on paper but whom I’d never want to have a relationship with in real life, but Melik is a whole ‘nother story. He would be protective of Wen but he respected her as a person who was capable of actually making a change. (Wen, you lucky, lucky duck.)
‘I am not Itanyai, Ghost. I am Noor and we value our women for what they can do.’ He gestures to the group that will journey into the hills, some of whom are female. ‘We do not shackle them the way you do. They may not fight at the front line, but they are strong, and they do fight.’ “
I also love that Fine didn’t shy away from the grittiness of war and its profound effects on character development. Melik did whatever he had to in order to survive and fight for his people, even if it came at the cost of his conscience. I think I respected him a lot more because of the actions he took and how the war forced him, and Sinan as well, to grow beyond their years. So clearly, nothing but love for the Red One!
As the novel progressed however, I found myself missing that intense social division that Fine wove into Of Metal and Wishes. It seemed to me that this book was just so focused on the romance that it lost some of the intensity of the plot being carried over from the first novel in the series. (Not that I can complain too much, Melik and Wen did have me swooning left, right and centre after all…) The end especially left me without a sense of closure – years and years of social oppression ended with a single battle and a treaty? Where was the political strife? The glaring tensions between the Itanyai and the Noor? Not only did I find it a little unlikely that the Itanyai would even propose this but I WANTED MORE. I wanted dirty, gritty politics, I wanted a face-off between the leaders of the Noor and the Itanyai. I wanted all the Noor to unify and rise up as a whole against the injustices they’ve faced. The final battle felt like a triumph for Wen, Melik and the village of Dagchocuk when I wanted it to belong to an entire people.
Overall though, I have nothing but love for this series. It’s been a wild rollercoaster of emotions, with both tears and laughter alike. Fine has this raw, emotional writing style and wonderfully complex characters that never fail to hook me in and never let me go, even long after I’ve read the last words.