My rating in stars: 4 stars
My rating in words: LOVED IT!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
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.
MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):
“Even a thief may have honor, and even a jinni may have a heart.”
I’ve had The Forbidden Wish on my bookshelf for almost two years now, and for some reason I never picked it up. Despite wanting to read it and despite being told it was good by many trusted fellow book bloggers, I just kept procrastinating and procrastinating (aka the story of 90% of my TBR). But this time I finally picked it up, started the first chapter and… finished it the next day. So conclusion: procrastination is bad. The Forbidden Wish is good. Why, you ask?
First of all, The Forbidden Wish is an Aladdin retelling. We all know the Disney movie with the loveable thief finding a lamp with a jinni in it who can grant him three wishes. Which Aladdin uses to win the hand of the princess. It’s one of my all-time favorite Disney movies so naturally, when I heard the words Aladdin retelling, I was already hooked. There are a few noteable changes to the story though. The narrator and main hero of the story is not in fact Aladdin, but the jinni. Also, the jinni is a girl. With a ton of backstory. And she may fall in love with Aladdin. Intrigued yet? I know I was!
Secondly, this story stands out because of the gorgeous writing. The writing style just perfectly fits the setting. It’s lush, vibrant and whimsical and not only does it paint the scenes so well, it also perfectly embodies the tone of voice of Zahra, our lovely jinni. Given how many years she has lived and all that she experienced, it’s a style that just perfectly seems to represent her tone of voice. I also loved that she tells the story, not to the reader, but to her Habiba, her oldest friend, who we slowly learn more about as the story progresses.
Thirdly, I loved the feminist themes of this story. Girl power is everywhere and I love it. It is there in Zahra, our all-powerful, yet lonely and troubled jinni. It is there in Princess Caspida, a strong leader who takes on a great responsibility and does everything in her power to help her people. And it is there in Caspida’s Watchmaidens, who are a brilliant group of powerful woman warriors who share the most awe-inspiring sisterhood and loyalty. There is no girl-on-girl hate, no harmful misogynist tropes or romanticed abuse. Just a whole lot of inspirational girl power.
What you need to know is that this book is quite heavy on the romance. For me, this only draws me in as I am a sucker for a good romance. Especially a romance such as the one between Zahra and Aladdin, which hits all the right spots: it’s a slow burn, with mutual respect and delicious banter.
The characters are so well developed, which really added to the story. Zahra especially has a lot of backstory, which is slowly revealed thoughout the book. She may be the most powerful jinni, but she is also scared and lonely. And Aladdin has just a little extra added to him as well. He’s a flirt, occasional drunk and filled with a bit of vengeance, but rest assured he’s also still the charming and cunning thief we already know and love. I also loved the character of Princess Caspida, who is everything Jasmine was, but even more wise and warriorlike.
Overall, the Forbidden Wish is definitely a must-read for anyone who loves the story of Aladdin, a gorgeous middle Eastern setting, lush and vivid writing, powerful magic, swoony romance and a lovely dash of girl power.
“You’re a—you’re a—”
Say it, boy. Demon of fire. Monster of smoke. Devil of sand and ash. Servant of Nardukha, Daughter of Ambadya, the Nameless, the Faceless, the Limitless. Slave of the Lamp. Jinni.
“. . . a girl!” he finishes.
“And what do you know of love?”
“That it must be a choice.”
“Oh, my naive thief. ” I pause briefly to meet his gaze. “Love is rarely a choice.”
“Do not say such things,” said the Queen. “We have today and yesterday, and we will seize tomorrow. We will have all the time in the world if we are clever enough to take it.”
“There is only one thing more numerous than the stars,” I say, looking up to the heavens. “And that is the darkness that holds them.”
“Wishes have a way of twisting themselves, and there is nothing more dangerous than getting your heart’s desire. The question is, are you willing to gamble? How much are you willing to lose? What are you willing to risk everything for?”