I’ve read all of Jessica Khoury’s other books, but I loved this one WAY more than the scifi books. Her writing and the story and the characters and the setting and concept and basically EVERYTHING *dies of happiness*. It’s seriously one of the best books I’ve read this year (right up next to The Boy Most Likely To and Wolf by Wolf).
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.
So I have three teeny tiny quibbles with this book (and that is all). One is that though the novel was narrated to Roshana, Zahra’s habiba, I didn’t think it needed to be except for in like three passages where that relationship was really needed to tell the story. There were also a lot of names—I kept forgetting who Nessa was, for instance. The other thing is that it was a little bit confusing in terms of the layout of the setting. Like at the end, it’s mentioned that the districts had been sealed off from each other, which hadn’t come up before that (that I noticed). It happened in a few other places too, where it was slightly confusing. But I’m just nitpicking, because everything else was really really good.
The writing in this book is to DIE for. I’ve read two other YA novels with Thousand Nights/ Arabian mythology pre-Islam elements in the last year (A Thousand Nights and The Wrath and the Dawn) and all of them had amazing writing. But Jess Khoury uses phrases to tell a story so well. Her style is very visual and impacting, but doesn’t meander too much.
“ We are adrift on a sea of moonlit sand , the silence as infinite as the space between the stars”
“I will betray you, and I will hurt you because that is what I am.”
“ I can almost picture it, the greatest prize, the deepest desire of my phantom heart. It tempts me more than anything ever could”
“I am smoke, airy and thin, spread wide over a vast sky”
The writing, as the above examples show, was so amazing, and it make me very happy to read.
Then there are the characters. Zahra is our leading lady, a jinn full of fear and magic. She says that ‘my fate is tied to the lamp”. And maybe that’s true in the start of the story. But she proves, over and over, that she can make her own choices. At first she might seem like an unusual choice of narrator, being thousands of years old—in a YA novel—but she still has that story to tell, the story every teenager knows, of growing away from your past while embracing it, accepting herself, and becoming independent. After what happened with Roshana, her friend and master, five centuries before TFW begins, has made her very afraid of love (basically she was ordered to kill Roshana). She also has this longing for freedom, and the idea of a master-slave relationship was so well explored. I loved her development through the novel as she grew to trust herself more despite the power imbalance between her and Aladdin. Aladdin was also an amazing character—he feels the weight of his parents legacy heavily on his shoulders, but he just wants to be carefree (and, y’know, flirt with anything with two x chromosomes). He wants revenge—though I kind of wish that had been emphasised more)—and plans to achieve by marrying a princess (who has an agenda of her own) I loved the evolution of his relationship with Zahra.
The supporting characters are fabulous too—the angry Darian, Sulifer the vizier who longs for total power, Princess Caspida who wants to rule the kingdom fairly and be free of others influence, her kickass handmaidens, and of course Roshana, who died a century ago and left a bereaved jinni behind.
The concept might have been done before—I’m not really sure—but it had the coolest idea: a retelling of Aladdin from the jinn’s POV. I thought that the story had the perfect balance between original and retelling material in terms of plot, and the ending was FABULOUS. Jessica Khoury clearly put a lot of effort into forming her world of magic and stories, and it shows. The magic system, the hierarchy of jinni, the landscape—it all felt perfect. I especially loved how the magic worked—Zahra had limited power on her own, and magic was given to her in proportion to the size of the wish. It was awesome.
The Forbidden Wish is an amazing retelling with excellent writing, a fascinating story, and characters who will make you happy.
Favourite retelling? Is The Forbidden Wish on your to read or read list? And what’s a slow burn romance you enjoyed recently? tell me in the comments!