Written by Jessica Khoury
Published February, 2016 by Razorbill
Genres: Arabian, Fantasy, Re-Tellings
Purchase: The Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia
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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 accomplishes something not many YA fantasies manage to do these days – tell a well fleshed out story in just ONE BOOK. I caught myself at times flicking back to the Goodreads page to make sure that, yes, this was just going to be a standalone. There seemed to be a lot of set-up and I was worried that Jessica Khoury wasn’t going to be able to pull it off with a mere 352 pages. She did, however, and I was so very thrilled.
“I have no form, I have no name. I am the Slave of the Lamp, and your will is my will. Your wishes are my commands.”
Yup, this one is a ‘re-telling’ of Aladdin, but don’t expect to see all the characters from the Disney movie appear as they do in the cartoon. I’m not familiar with the original folklore, but the only character that preserves his name from the film is Aladdin himself. The focus is also not on the relationship between Aladdin and the ‘Jasmine’ character, Caspida, rather the developing romantic relationship between Aladdin and his jinni, Zhara.
Zhara is a fascinating female lead, and I found myself wanting to learn more about her. Trapped for centuries, Zhara wants nothing more than her freedom from the lamp – but she isn’t ruthless in her quest for freedom. For all her ‘I’m a monster! I’m poison’ speeches, Zhara has quite a soft heart despite her history. Once a human herself, she has managed to preserve her humanity, even though she believes the contrary.
“Even a thief may have honor, and even a jinni may have a heart.”
Aladdin was just ‘okay’ for me, I never grew particularly fond of him, nor did I understand Zhara’s undeniable pull toward him. I found that it was often Zhara doing the saving (she had to get Aladdin out of so many tight spots!) and for someone as eternal as she was, I felt that Aladdin should’ve brought something new and interesting to the table in order to capture her affections.
For a standalone, I felt that the world-building and lore was crafted spectacularly. There was some great mythology and history wound in with the contemporary story and I adored learning about the cultures that had existed and in turn been thwarted by the raging jinni. Zhara herself played important parts in some of the stories, too.
“At any moment my bond with the lamp could break, and my feelings for him must break with it. But my heart is a treacherous star, refusing to dim when the sun rises.”
My main problem with The Forbidden Wish (other than feeling a little ‘meh’ about the romance) was that I just didn’t have that much FUN while reading it. Sure, it was interesting and had some wonderful imagery (that jewelled garden! The baby elephant!) but I became bored at times with all the political drama. The Forbidden Wish, again, is one of those stories where a rebellion is brewing within a kingdom and the people want to oust the monarchy/government. I have read SO MANY of these lately and it would be a breath of fresh air to have a fantasy revolve around something else.
I applaud Jessica Khoury for penning some fierce female characters and developing a solid fantasy world within a standalone book! I’m so very glad that I read The Forbidden Wish, but I sadly won’t be adding it to my ‘favourites’ shelf. HOWEVER, if anyone ever needs proof that a fantasy of this scope can be contained in 350-ish pages, look no further.