Series: The Forbidden Wish #1
Published by Razorbill on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
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
The Forbidden Wish is a cute, romantic Aladdin retelling wherein the Jinni is a girl and she and her lamp-holder fall in love. It was entertaining and well-written but didn’t strike me as particularly intriguing or overly exciting. Still, I generally enjoyed the fresh take on an old story even if I was left a bit underwhelmed after all the raving reviews.
What I liked:
❤️ The book is beautifully told with a writing style that’s pretty without being overly flowery and Jessica Khoury does a good job of evoking the Arabian-inspired setting with her descriptions of the desert, the palace, food and clothing. I felt immersed in the world and there wasn’t a need for any info-dumps or overbearing descriptions.
❤️ Zahra is a fantastic female protagonist. She’s clever, witty, resourceful and knows her own worth without it ever feeling like arrogance. She’s a jinni and thus powerful but is also very much aware of her own limitations and seeing her battle with her desires was interesting. I loved the fact that she didn’t throw all her priorities out the window as soon as she fell in love and that she remained a strong, empowering character throughout the whole story. She goes through moments of doubt, hesitation and fear but always picks herself back up.
❤️ Aladdin is also a likable character. He’s a thief, flirt and womaniser, a combination I generally love. He’s also flawed which was refreshing. However, I always thought of him as “adorable” or “cute” and so I could never really fall in love with him the way I would have liked.
❤️ The banter between Zahra and Aladdin was a lot of fun. They’re both witty and I enjoyed seeing the friendship between them grow. Khoury’s writing itself has a certain humorous quality to it that lent the book another layer.
❤️ Lady friendships and kick-ass female characters! This always makes me happy, especially considering how the Arabian Nights stories are pretty much the opposite of feminist and the Aladdin movie (as much as I love it) isn’t exactly the epitome of female empowerment either. But Khoury totally manages to turn that around. We have a couple of prominent female characters that save the day, in fact, it’s always the girls who save everyone, and the relationships between the women were full of loyalty and devotion, devoid of petty jealousies and woman-hate.
❤️ There was just the right amount of worldbuilding so that I felt immersed and yet wasn’t swamped with too much information. I also really like the way the author treated Zahra’s magic. I always get really worried when I read a premise wherein one of the heroes/heroines is extremely powerful because there is always a risk of either having too little suspense because they can do everything, or, a deus ex machina when the limits of a power aren’t specified enough. But the limits Khoury put on Zahra’s power worked well within the story and the villain was formidable enough to create tension.
❤️ The narration style. The book is written in a POV that is a mix between first and second person. For the most part, we get to see things from Zahra’s first person perspective but sometimes she directly addresses Habiba with “you”. It was an interesting stylistic choice that added depth.
However, despite all these positives, I did have a number of problems with the book.
What I didn’t like:
✖︎ I was really bored. The book is short and easy to digest, and yet I found my eyes drifting away from the pages after only a couple of chapters. When I put the book down I didn’t feel the like picking it back up. The plot was very predictable and cliché at points, nothing surprised me, it didn’t feel fresh or original and despite all the action I was never worried for the characters.
✖︎ I wasn’t into the romance. This is quite weird and I’m not sure why. It didn’t bother me that the novel was so heavy on the romance. I knew that going into the book and was ready for it. But I didn’t root for them at all? I had this weird feeling of the romance being simultaneously insta-love and slow-burn, which makes absolutely no sense. It’s not instantaneous since Zahra and Aladdin develop a friendship before they fall in love, but once it gets to a certain point, we suddenly go from “I’m attracted and want to kiss you” to “Omg you are my whole universe I will die for you let’s be together for forever and ever and ever”. It came out of the blue and I just didn’t feel the romantic chemistry.
✖︎ Aladdin’s character was bit inconsistent. I mean, he starts of as this kind of jerky, womanizing street urchin and but as soon as he meets Zahra he suddenly becomes super loyal and doesn’t look at another girl twice? A bit unbelievable.
✖︎ The side characters were more or less two-dimensional. The villains were Evil with a capital E and no redeeming qualities (both the supernatural and human kind), and Caspida, though I enjoyed her character for being strong and empowering, was very much an archetype and lacked depth. They all fell flat for me in comparison to the two protagonists.
✖︎ The cheesiness. I can handle some cheesy scenes no problem, I can find them endearing when used minimally, but this was too much for me to enjoy. Especially the ending. And that last sentence *shudders*. I know, my cold cold heart.
Overall, The Forbidden Wish is not a bad book and I think most lovers of YA that don’t mind romance will enjoy it. It features two engaging main characters and evokes the Middle Eastern spirit, however, I found it a bit too lackluster to be truly memorable.