Title: The Forbidden Wish
Author: Jessica Khoury
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Retelling
Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Zahra is the world’s most powerful jinni, but still faces confinement to her lamp and obedience to her master. As a punishment she hasn’t been out hundreds of years—as punishments for an old war—but then Aladdin finds her lamp. Thrust into a world where magic is now illegal and her existence leads to persecution, Zahra is offered the chance at freedom but it might just mean betraying Aladdin—the boy she finds herself falling for despite previous heartbreak and lessons learned.
This is an Aladdin retelling with the hook being that the jinni is female. That itself was enough to get me interested and reading. It was probably enough for me to enjoy this book, but The Forbidden Wish ended up being so much more and so much more than the classic tale we all know and I loved that.
The writing was really beautiful and lush—as described in the Sarah J. Maas blurb. I think it has a lot to do with the point-of-view character, Zahra the like ancient jinni. Her experience, wisdom, and strength really ooze into the language of the book.
I like the world. It is a fantasy but obviously not the typical like medieval European landscape, it is Middle Eastern desert-like setting and culture. There isn’t a ton of building around it, it is very realistic and kind of just comes to mind through the vivid description and the realness of the place she creates. It isn’t Agrabah, but of her own creation with its own kind of politics and such going on. There is a Jafar-like character that is trying to exert influence, but the political conflict is brought to the forefront a bit more and in a bit more drastic way.
The only real building going on is with the world of the jinni and that relationship to the human world. There is this whole hierarchy and monarchy for the jinnis and a lot of history there as to their relationship with man, their creation, and some wars going on. Jinni and humans currently aren’t really friends. Jinni have done some shit and screwed with humans and humans are either fighting them or like worshiping them out of fear.
Zahra was magical, like literally. As a jinni, she is really different than the Disney-version we all love, although her lamp is found in a similar way. She has a long past that has burned her and left her jaded. She is too afraid of the consequences to want or care for anything.
I loved her, she is very wise from having been around so long, and while she is reserved she is also very open if that makes sense. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind and (jokingly) insults Aladdin, even when she is pretending to be his servant. As a jinni she has power, but as a woman she has fire.
Aladdin is a bit like the Aladdin we all know—no monkey sidekick though. He’s still an orphan, a thief, flirty, and clever, but his backstory and motivation is different. I liked him, don’t know if I love him. He had charm and was really well defined and written though.
There is a budding romance going on between the two. I went in knowing that and was a bit disappointed because it takes like half or even more than half for even an inkling of that to be really brought up between them. It felt like too long and then the attraction didn’t have much action around it or it was kind of rushed toward the end.
There isn’t a Jasmine in The Forbidden Wish, but another princess. She is pretty badass—she even has her own lady squad of fighters. Like most of this book, her storyline isn’t a direct retelling but distantly related. I don’t want to say too much more because of spoilers, but the whole situation with her is a bit complicated.
A beautiful, diverse, and definitely recommended read from me. If you’re a fan of retellings or Aladdin I especially think you will adore this. I really haven’t heard of or read another story like this. You can find The Forbidden Wish on Amazon and the author at jessicakhoury.com.