Title: The Forbidden Wish
Author: Jessica Khoury
Genre: Fantasy, Re-telling
Date Read: August 05 – 06, 2016
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.
Okay, so here’s the thing. I’m really excited to do this review because 1. This is a re-telling of Aladdin. And he IS my childhood Disney crush, and 2. because I really enjoyed reading this book. So be warned, this is going to be a loooong review. A little heads up! This might involve a few spoilers. Please bear with me.
Now, let’s get started!
I’ve only read a handful of re-tellings and most of them are based from Peter Pan and fairy tale princesses. I read one based on Little Red Riding Hood, but that was more like a gender-bender and well it’s, uhm, adult-fiction. Like a Fifty Shades of Grey-ish kind of re-telling. But let’s not talk about that. We should talk about Jinns, Aladdin and this magical book.
Like what I mentioned above, Aladdin was a childhood crush of mine when watching the Disney film. Now, I don’t know if there are other Aladdin re-tellings among the many YA Fantasy books (and if there is, do let me know on the comments below), but so far this is the only one I’ve encountered. As soon as I read the Synopsis at the back of the book, and the names of those in the review highlights (Sarah J. Maas, Marissa Meyer, Colleen Houck and Renée Ahdieh), I knew I would finish this book in a flash. And I did! A new record for my lazy 2017 reading habits! *ba-bam-tss!*
This book really revived that crush thing I had when I was a kid. I know, I know. Pathetic, right? But the way Jessica Khoury described Aladdin made me picture that same awkward but adorable little thief we’ve all come to know from the Disney film, minus the monkey. (WHY WAS THERE NO MONKEY?!) Putting Aladdin and my little crazy crush on him aside, let’s talk about the main protagonist, Zahra, and the whole story.
If you guys aren’t aware, I am very much attached to fantasy books with female leads. And I’m not talking about those damsels in distress. I’m talking about ass-whooping, butt-kicking heroines. Zahra, however less physically strong (because duh? Who uses a fist when you have magical, wish-granting powers?), was that kind of heroine. Now we all know that in the Disney film the Jinni is no doubt a guy. But, who cares? This is a re-telling. THIS IS YA! This breaks the ice of that fairytale we’ve all come to know. And yes, I do find that a little cliché. But don’t worry, there is a far more worse than the twisted romance between a Jinni and Aladdin.
The way this book started was really good. I loved that first sentence, “I sense the boy the moment he sets foot in the cave.” I’m glad I didn’t have to read through a few chapters before our protagonist actually meet Aladdin. Then again, she is in a lamp, so I guess there’s nothing much to talk about in such a small and hollow space. Still, I’m really glad I didn’t have to wait long.
Anyways, the characters in this book is still mostly similar to the one in the film, but of course with a touch of that YA fictional characters we are all familiar with. They’re a much more evolved character in a way that intrigues us YA readers. So as the story goes, asides from a very powerful Jinn, Zahra and our cheeky and stubborn thief, Aladdin, we get to meet a lot of these evolved characters, like Darian, which turned out to be Aladdin’s childhood enemy (I think he might be the Parrot, Iago. LOL) and Darian’s father, Sulifer, who I think counters Jafar in the film, is truly a hateful character. There’s also the king, who is nothing alike from the jolly one in the film. And then of course, there’s Caspida, another ass-whooping, butt-kicking heroine that counters Jasmine. (I loved this princess better, of course.) And I’m sorry, but oh how I wished Caspida was the female protagonist in this book. She has such an outstanding personality with her sense of justice and kind-hearted nature for her ill father and her city’s people. (This is probably just an effect after watching the Wonder Woman film :P)
Back to the story, the plot started off amazing, like I said. And the story offers friendship, an easy and imaginable backdrop and a good and detailed introduction of the Arab people and their culture. And boy, do I have a thing for learning about other cultures. We also get to discover there is not one, but several types of Jinns. Which is another icebreaker, since we get a much wider context of how the Jinns came to existence and what started the wish-granting and the lamp imprisonment. Whereas, when you’re a child, you don’t really question those sort of things, right? But when you’re much older, and you’ve become a YA reader, you actually start to wonder about the what, where, when, why and how. So if you were looking for the answers to your curious questions, then this book has it for you. At least, it would give you an idea in a YA sort of way. (I haven’t read One Thousand and One Nights, so I don’t know if an even further description of Jinns was explained there, but you can check that out as well if you want.)
So in this book, Zahra, our main character sets out a goal on finding the trapped son of the King of the Jinns, Zhian, in exchange for her freedom from her lamp imprisonment. Now, in order to do that, she needs Aladdin as a facade to get her safely through a city who finds Jinns like her a threat to humans. Zahra, of course, has had something to do with the reason why the humans hate the existence of Jinns because thousands of years ago, Zahra betrayed a queen and brought the whole city down with her. And so, thousands of years later, afraid of history repeating itself, the humans lived to fend off Jinns away from their city.
To make things short, this book was amazing and beautifully-written by the author that I could have read through it without a hassle. The story was so easy to follow, and I could picture the events and the setting in my mind. Everything was so good, you know? Most of the characters are easy to love and hate. I couldn’t manage to put down the book until after a few chapters to the end.
Now here’s a few problems I’ve encountered in this book. The story was well-written, okay? There is no doubt about that. But with every book, comes with a few loopholes. Take note that I am no expert, and this is just my own personal opinion. I may have missed something while reading this. The first problem I’ve encountered was with Zahra. As mentioned in the book, it’s been 400 years since she’s been out of the lamp. Meaning, that’s four centuries worth of changes in the world she missed while she was imprisoned in her lamp. So I wondered, why is Zahra familiar with the present time? Or to make it more clear, isn’t she supposed to have a four-century old mindset? Like, yes, she’s still very history-wise, but why is she familiar with so much of what was going on in the world 400 years while she’s inside the lamp? Maybe she can hear what was going on outside like how she sensed Aladdin through the cave looking for her lamp or something, but I don’t know. I’m still not convinced.
My second problem is something I’ve somehow expected but still ended up cringing anyways. Zahra and Aladdin falls in love with each other. *Surprise, surprise* The romance between the two started just as fast as they first met. The ever-so-famous playboy from the slums falls hard for the Jinni whom he’s only met a few days before. Maybe he only really fell for her after a few weeks or a month but what exactly triggered him? Because she’s pretty? No. Because of her personality? Maybe. Because she’s magical? Eh. We’ll never know, and I couldn’t possibly care any less. Because romance will always find a way to stick its nose to a story. And even though the romance between the two main characters made me cringe, there is something far more worse than this that’ll make you question WHY?
The love triangle.
Now, just a little spoiler. Zahra baits Aladdin to wish himself into a prince and win Princess Caspida’s hand in order to get his revenge against Sulifer and for her to find Zhian in the castle, which is a win-win. Though Aladdin, of course, doesn’t know of Zahra’s plan. But!!! Let me capitalize this for you all. BUT I am not talking about Zahra-Aladdin-Caspida love triangle. Since Caspida and Aladdin doesn’t really have that much verbal, much less intimate, interaction. What I’m talking about is this random and sudden Aladdin-Zahra-Zhian love triangle. It was so out of place that I might have gave myself a short break before continuing on to the next page. But you know what, I’ve decided to ignore this and thought this couldn’t get any worse, right?
W R O N G!
What started off as a random love triangle suddenly became the cause of the entire human damnation. How could a lame love triangle cause the end of humanity, you ask (asides from leaving us cringing to death)? Well, if you don’t accept the marriage proposal from the ever egotistical psycho prince of Jinns, then you shall burn along with your human boyfriend and the rest of his species. Let me just go get my dad, the king of Jinns, to lay down his magic and rain fire at your world’s end and let me transform into a scary looking Jinn while I’m at it. (He he he!)
Now, don’t be fooled by this part of the story. I’m not giving you some second thoughts as to whether you should or should not read this book. I still believe this book was definitely worth a try and I’m not adding this among my small list of books I regret reading. The good parts in this book definitely outweighed the bad ones. However, this is not the kind of book that I would probably pick-up and read again.
I would, however, recommend this book for people who is fond of re-tellings. I still found some sort of attachment with the main characters, like Aladdin and Caspida. Especially Aladdin. I can still picture the same Aladdin I’ve grown up to know in this book, and I’m deeply happy to re-live the same moment I developed a crush on the same fictional character. To which I hope that readers like me who has found an escape on Disney films as a child would find the same contentment in this book as much as I did.
Read away, my fellow magical bookworms! You never know! You might develop a different opinion and actually appreciate and enjoy the parts that I personally didn’t find appealing. 😉 😉 😉
. . . . .
“Aladdin is the sun, and I am the moon. We must stay apart or the world will be thrown out of balance. But what I must admit is that I do understand the insanity that drives humans to chase happiness they will never grasp. Because I feel it too… Every time I pull away, I find myself drawn back to him.”