Published by Razorbill on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
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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 the Aladdin story from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.
I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like The Forbidden Wish, as retellings can always go wrong and I love Aladdin too much for that. But thankfully, I found myself absolutely loving the trapped jinni Zahra, the ever charming Aladdin and the magical Persian setting.
Here’s 5 things I loved about it:
1. A successful Aladdin retelling
I love it when retellings take on the setting and characters of the original, but breathe new life into the story and the characters. It was refreshing to see Zahra (the original Aladdin Genie) as a woman, also striving for her freedom. I loved how Aladdin retained his street rat, charming personality, but he wasn’t the cause of the rebellion. But the setting still remained as the original with the wonderful Persian setting, the magic and the lamp. It felt familiar, but it added enough twists in there to be unique.
2. Well developed characters
I love how this wasn’t all about the romance – both Zahra and Aladdin had their own goals and motivations – Zahra wanted freedom, and Aladdin is a thief who wants revenge for his parents. Each of these characters had internal conflicts – Zahra about the eventual betrayal of Aladdin, and Aladdin who started falling in love with Zahra and not wanting to let her go, which would sacrifice his own goal. Zahra is all powerful, determined to meet her goals but her compassion is her ultimate downfall. I loved her character and her voice.
3. Slow burn romance
I knew there was going to be a romance in the novel, there always is going to be one given it’s about Aladdin, but romance is probably at the back of everyone’s minds. Aladdin is focused on his goal to avenge his parents, using his wishes to achieve that. On the other hand, Zahra wants to gain freedom from her lamp by freeing the King of Jinni’s son from Parthenia. It’s almost as if falling in love was something that happened over time, and when they did, oh my gosh there were so many feels. Their chemistry felt completely natural and you could see their feelings developing over time.
4. Magical Persian setting
I love the Middle Eastern setting in books, from the desert and it’s perils, to the sultan and the princess, to magic and mythology. The setting in Forbidden Wish was done beautifully. With the addition of Zahra’s perspective as a Jinni, it had such a sumptous, magical setting. More books like this please.
5. Focus on female friendships
Discovering Zahra’s greatest love of all time was for the queen Roshana, who treated her as an equal despite being a slave to her commands was such a pleasant surprise. I loved the sisterly friendship that they had and how they could move mountains with it. I also loved Princess Caspida and her gang of Watchmaidens who acted like maidens at the court but when night came, they were each deadly in their own right. I just love the heavy focus on feminism in the novel and how, even in the olden day Persian setting, females can kick ass.
Some minor issues
There were of course, some things that I did have a problem with, which included:
- the second-person narrative which would crop up every now and then where Zahra would address her “Habiba”. It’s written as if the whole thing is addressed to this person in mind, but it does jar you out of the story when she randomly appears as if she’s speaking to them, rather than being in the story which is written in first person.
- the ending, although incredibly epic, was quite rushed and I wanted more of a build up.
- the villainising of the evil Nardukha was so convenient, particularly where Zahra makes a particular choice in the book.
If you’re wondering whether to give The Forbidden Wish a shot, then I definitely urge you to pick it up. It’s a beautifully written Aladdin retelling with strong characters, girl power and feels that will make your heart soar. I’m so glad I ended up giving it a shot, I love the Middle Eastern setting!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5