The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
Published February 23, 2016 by Razorbill, 352 pp.
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.
How goes it?
Strong female characters are what made this book for me, but it’s definitely the yummy icing on a really good cake.
This book has one of the most satisfying endings ever, for everyone – main characters are together (fist pump!), princess has her kingdom back, jinni is free, and the bad guys get their comeuppance. And the best part (for me, honestly): time travel! More like time manipulation, but close enough, hah.
I wondered how the Aladdin fairytale could be re-imagined – the genie aspect is one thing I maybe could’ve predicted, but the rest was a nice surprise. Caspida is a princess not only fighting to lead her own destiny, but also to free her kingdom from her uncle’s oppressive rule. Aladdin is not just a street rat, but the son of martyrs, and who honestly, I think, just didn’t know at first how to deal with the expectations thrown his way. And Zahra is just trying to while away the time quietly, without ruining more lives than she has to.
The female characters in this book are awesome: Roshana, the long-dead, legendary queen who Zahra once served, was wise, fought her own battles, and despite the gulf between jinni and humans, managed to develop a friendship with one. Caspida takes things into her own hands – while she isn’t queen quite yet, she goes out and becomes a Robin Hood figure. Zahra uses her smarts to twist wishes – basically, be careful what you wish for, because she’ll give you exactly what you want. The Watchmaidens were a nice addition to the cast as well, the Merry Men to Caspida’s Robin Hood. They’re all independent, and stand quite well against male half of the book, who really aren’t a stellar bunch.
I also loved the setting. With the desert, I think, it’s hard to conjure a world, especially when all you’ve got to work with is sand, but obviously I’m wrong. The books I’ve read so far (that I can remember) that are set in deserts are all described so well, especially this one. How do you infuse color in a barren landscape? How do you describe how water and trees look like against a backdrop of sand?
As far as the romance goes, it’s solid. Spending so much time together and having only each other to confide in certainly brings people together, and both Aladdin and Zahra are attractive, funny, and smart. It also helps that they always haul each other’s ass out of trouble. Until Aladdin is supposed to marry Caspida I was chill, because I know my ship will carry on! I KNOW IT, but I didn’t expect Aladdin to actually leave Caspida hanging because he can’t do it, not when he knows another holds his heart. Aladdin you big sap (and I say this with the goofiest smile on my face, because I am a romantic at heart, so you go Aladdin.)
The only thing I’d like to know more about is Darian, because the bits we do see of him he comes off as lost. Caspida and him were friends once, which makes me think he isn’t that bad, but as he grew up around his father, he stumbled and just didn’t know where to go. There’s this scene that makes me wonder, if he were treated better, would he have turned out differently? But as Aladdin goes, it’s what you choose to become, because you always have a choice.
5 paper planes! Read this for strong ladies, a richly painted world, and if you want to feel good. Really. Also there’s time travel.