The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
Publication: February 23rd 2016 by Razorbill
Format: eBook Pages: 352
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. – Goodreads
Cruelty I understand. But kindness frightens me, for my defenses are weak against it.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to put The Forbidden Wish down as soon as I started reading it.
The Forbidden Wish is narrated in the first person by the legendary jinni, who, contrary to popular belief, is a girl called Zahra. The narration was one of my favourite things about this novel, it’s absolutely beautiful because it’s addressed to someone Zahra endearingly calls ‘Habiba’ (dear friend) – ‘Habiba’s identity and story are revealed later in the novel. The narrative style gives the impression that you’re reading a heartfelt letter and it makes you feel closer to the protagonist. And that’s exactly why I couldn’t tear my eyes away from my Kindle.
The world-building is fantastic with settings described in enough detail to help you imagine it all but not so much that you grow bored. There’s a sense of magic and wonder in the words Khoury expertly uses. The history concerning Zahra’s imprisonment and the jinn was fascinating. I liked that these elements were woven so well into the storyline that it didn’t feel like a giant info-dump.
“Oh, my naïve thief.” I pause briefly to meet his gaze. “Love is rarely a choice.”
I was expecting a romance; it is a retelling of Aladdin after all. But the romance wasn’t instant, it developed slowly and more so in the background than being the entire focus of the story. I was far more involved in Zahra’s history with the long-dead queen, Roshana. Which brings me to the women in this novel.
Good lord this is female friendships done right. The women in The Forbidden Wish are exceptional independently and united. Princess Caspida plays a much larger and epic role in The Forbidden Wish than Jasmine ever did in Aladdin. This princess is not one to sit and watch her kingdom suffer, she is fast-acting, kind and inspiring. Princess Caspida does not need rescuing from Aladdin or anyone else because she has her own incredibly loyal team of highly trained, lethal women called the Watchmaidens. It was uplifting to read about a team of women, friends even, working together to form such a strong, cohesive unit. The Watchmaidens are not only great at working together to fight and defend their princess, but they also care about each other and they actually like each other.
Aladdin’s character was hilarious. A street-rat turned prince who can’t control his alcohol intake and finds himself out of his senses more often than Zahra would like. Aladdin is also a softy who starts off not wanting to do anything but steal and avenge his parents’ death. His character develops and he becomes brave, as well as a better poet.
“All the world is in your shadow, Zahra. I cannot help but see you when I close my eyes.”
I never thought I’d come across a retelling of Aladdin that I’d fall in love with, but The Forbidden Wish caught me by surprise. I was about 80% to the finishing line and already so infatuated with the story that I called my friend up and eagerly told them all about the story and how amazing it was. Said friend doesn’t read but is also an Aladdin enthusiast and agreed that the story did sound pretty cool – they also noticed that the princess had a better role.