Published by Razorbill on February 23rd, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Romance
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She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world...
When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.
But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?
As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.
The Forbidden Wish is a beautifully written book filled with exactly the kind of magic I needed. I shall do my best to be coherent, but there might be more swooning and gushing than one might except from a romantic cynic such as myself.
Now, I will be the first one to say that I am tired of the fairy-tale retelling genre. But Khoury did an amazing job with this one. This is a fantastic stand-alone fantasy novel that is a retelling of the story of Aladdin. At this point, I can’t even decide which version I love more.
Our protagonist is Zahra, the jinni. Formerly known as Genie voiced by our beloved Robin Williams. There are some major differences between the two. For one, Zahra is a woman. For another, she possesses an entirely different kind of humor.
Aladdin stumbles across Zahra’s lamp deep in a cave surrounded by a beautiful garden made entirely of gems. He manages to escape with the help of Zahra and forges an unlikely friendship beyond that of master and jinni.
I loved reading from Zahra’s perspective. She is a flawed character, witty, manipulative, and sometimes painfully insightful. Her life experiences have warned her against love in a way that is entirely realistic and plausible. I’ve read/watched too many heroes refuse to show or have emotion out of pure stubbornness and selfishness instead of having a justifiable reason.
The story is told in first person and is addressed to Zahra’s old friend Roshana, also referred to as Habiba. Roshana used to a previous master of Zahra’s but they formed a deep and abiding love for each other that transformed their bond into that of sisterhood. When Zahra spoke of Roshana, it was as if Khoury had weaved a spell around my heart. I could feel that love and connection resonate within myself, and it was a very powerful moment for me.
The princess of our story, Caspida, is freakin’ badass. She is a warrior princess with her own band of warrior-maidens. How amazing is that?! I loved every single moment with her and her ladies. Khoury did an amazing job creating a vast array of strong female characters with their own strengths, weaknesses and personality. Every character was distinct from each other and had their own role to play within their insular society.
The interactions between Zahra and Caspida had me pumping my fist in delight. Two strong women coming together to discuss politics and the fate of the kingdom? SIGN ME UP.
The romance that slowly developed and simmers between Zahra and Aladdin was absolutely swoon-worthy. Their relationship is built on friendship and mutual trust. There were moments when I would skim over some of the political intrigue in the story to get to an Aladdin and Zahra section. Of course, I made sure I went back and re-read what I missed.
Magic and the Jinni
I found the descriptions Khoury used to describe Zahra’s brand of magic to be breathtaking. I am typically not a visual imaginative reader. By that, I mean that I don’t picture things in my head. But when I was reading about Zahra, I couldn’t help but imagine the swirls of smoke that would erupt around her as she practiced a certain aspect of her magic and giggle over her ability to turn from a cat or a bumbling peacock to a tiger at a moment’s notice. I know I keep saying the same things over and over again, but this book was just beautiful.
If you’re interested in learning a little more about Zahra’s background, Jessica Khoury has written a free short story (HERE) on Wattpad aptly titled The Jinni.
I couldn’t recommend this book more. I strongly urge you to pick it up and give it a chance yourself.