I’m A Sucker for a Fairy Tale Retelling – The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

“The will of this boy thief flows in golden streams. It is the thread with which I weave, the colors with which I paint, the element with which I create.”

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Everyone knows the story of Aladdin, whether it be the Disney version or the original tale, it is tale everyone grows up with. But what happens when the Genie’s are giving their chance to shine in the spotlight? The Forbidden Wish. Though now they are called the Jinn and more than one Jinni appears in this novel.
Zahra has been trapped inside for 500 years when a young thief finally discovers her trapped in her tomb of glittering jewels. Punished by the King of the Jinn, Zahra is forced to offer her masters 3 wishes and be chained to the lamp for the rest of her immortal life. Until he offers her a deal that could grant her freedom, if only she can free his son from the depths of the Palace in Parthenia, a place where Jinni’s are illegal and hated.
But now she has Aladdin, who has his own reasons for wanting to be in the palace, all she has to do is convince him to wish to be a prince.But nothing is ever simple as emotions she has tried to ignore come floating to the surface and suddenly using Aladdin is the last thing Zahra wants to do.
But Zahra cannot focus on only her own problems as Parthenia is threatened from inside and out, and the only person who could save them all is her. Even if it means sacrificing the one thing she has always craved – her freedom.

Spoilers are coming. 

I received this book for my birthday and am quite pleased with how it turned out. Fairy tale retellings always have a lot to live up to because I love the original stories so much, and because The Lunar Chronicles did it so well while keeping it original. But I think The Forbidden Wish is a lovely, light read that pulls on the story we all know while still keeping things fresh and exciting. Khoury focuses more on the jinn in her novel, expanding their world and by making her main character the jinni we get the story told from a fresh point of view.

Zahra is instantly intriguing, especially as she is technically not human. When we first meet her, she is nothing but smoke in a lamp and this feeling is conveyed well as she senses everything around her –“I fold and unfold, I swirl and curl, waiting with bated breath. My sixth sense is blurred, like watching fish swim in a rippling pool, and I must concentrate very hard to see him at all.” Her point of view is unique, and though it took me a couple of chapter to get used to the present tense writing and Zahra’s voice, I never once considered putting the book down.

Zahra was definitely my favourite character in the book, she is good despite the stories told about her, sharp, loyal and strong. “I can’t stop Nardukha from killing us both, but I can choose to not be the monster he wants.” Thousands of years old yet acts like a teenage girl. Her banter with Aladdin is enjoyable and amusing. Her history is often referred to in the book and gives an extra depth to the character that was needed to make her more three dimensional; I love the detail about how she became a Jinni. Eventually Khoury finds her groove and her character comes to life. I loved the descriptions of Zahra’s magic, her deep history and the world of the Jinn, this for me is probably the strongest part of the book.

The writing itself is hypnotic and wonderfully descriptive. The world that Khoury creates is vivid and steeped in culture that jumps from the page.

Aladdin is quite like the Disney movie version, a lover not a fighter, can often be selfish but does the right thing when it comes down to it. Except this Aladdin likes being a thief, he even tries to train Zahra. He has a temper and a dark side that all stems from the fate of his parents – who were revolutionaries put to death by Khoury’s version of Jafar, Sulifer. He struggles with the mantle now placed on his shoulders to finish his parents work, and for most of the novel he simply wants revenge for his parents but this swiftly changes when his home and love is in need. In the end he is deeply loyal to Zahra, even though we had been warned that his attention quickly changes from girl to girl this does not seem to come into play at all (it could’ve brought in some nice angst scenes if this was developed further but it is refreshing to read a novel that doesn’t). I feel like there was a lot of expectation placed on Aladdin simple because of his name, but Khoury manage to bring in different aspects to his personality that make him a more complex character.

Another thing I loved about this novel was Princess Caspida and her Watchmaidens; the warrior girls who protect they’re princess with expert skill and fierce loyalty, even though I’m pretty sure Caspida could protect herself.  These are the good guys, the purely good guys who only want to protect Parthenia and it’s people.

As for the villains, they do not have the charm that the rest of the characters possess. Sulifer wants the throne (of course) and planned to used Zahra to get it. He does get to make wish for an army more numerous than the stars, and Zahra fashions them out of the darkness, but this quickly back fires on him when he cannot summon them in the daylight. He is supposed to be a big threat but for most of the novel he takes a back seat. Nardukha the Shaitan King of the Jinn is mentioned throughout the book as Zahra tries to win her freedom from him, and because she is terrified of him. He takes away the threat Sulifer poses by presenting a bigger one, he could easily wipe out the whole of Parthenia without breaking a sweat.

There are so many tiny plot points and stories going on in this novel that I feel like it should’ve been bigger so we could’ve explored it all and really developed this world filled with jinni’s. The main focus is the romance between Zahra and Aladdin, which takes up a large portion of the middle of the novel while the plot takes a back seat. However, their romance is sweet and lovely to read so I didn’t mind too much. (My favourite part had to be when they practiced dancing for the Fahradan festival, it was when I truly believed in their romance).
“We dance like this, wrist to wrist, twirl and turn, step for step, for several more minutes. He holds my gaze, our eye connecting at every turn, anticipating one another’s movements”   

The action at the end is fast paced and engrossing, I only wish it had gone of longer because everything was so quickly resolved in one fell swoop. It is a book that relies on it’s characters to carry it through.

A wonderfully light read in the midst of a lot of heavy Young Adult novels. Compelling, original, dashed with splashes of humour and filled with a endearing (and for once not complicated) romance.

“I’m not sorry I met you. I’m not sorry I fell in love with you, Zahra, and neither should you. I love you.”

Definitely recommend for lovers of fairy tales, romance, magic, who just want a light warming read.

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