July 25, 2016 by Zoë
The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury is a retelling of the story of Aladdin. Zahra has been trapped within a lamp for hundreds of years when a boy named Aladdin comes along and brings her back into the world. Aladdin is searching for revenge and Zahra is searching for freedom. Their goals do not necessarily align, but Zahra knows how to manipulate wishes and get what she wants. Unfortunately, she didn’t plan on developing feelings for a human. Again.
I admit that going into this I did not have my hopes set very high. I love retellings, but they’re often just not done very well. This one also didn’t sound especially good, what with the whole female-jinni-falling-in-love story line. However, my fears were misplaced. Even the romance, while not necessarily the most believable, was not grating or pointless.
A major part of the conflict in this story hinges on the idea that jinn are forbidden from falling in love with humans. Again, this seems like a rule that could easily lead to cheese, but it actually worked really well here. First of all, this rule plays an important part in the climax, thus making it not an utterly pointless rule to only add romantic drama. Secondly, Zahra isn’t depicted as a jinn who suddenly fell in love with a human–she’s made the mistake of caring for a human before, and paid the price.
Now, I’ll be honest, Zahra and Aladdin’s love story isn’t the most believable since they’ve really only known each other for one month and Zahra is thousands of years older than Aladdin. I was much more invested in the relationship between Zahra and the first human for whom she developed feelings: that relationship developed over a longer period of time and there seemed to be much more at play from both parties. Nevertheless, the Aladdin and Zahra romance wasn’t too badly done and actually didn’t bother me, despite the fact that romance normally makes me roll my eyes.
There are also a ton of awesome female characters in this book, starting with the one from Zahra’s past, but also including Zahra herself as well as the princess whose favor Aladdin is trying to win. That’s worth a lot in my mind–interesting female characters are very important to my enjoyment of a book.
The narration was also very nice. Zahra’s voice is great and the way she describes things is very beautiful and lyrical. The dialgoue, however, was not as nice. For the most part it was fine, but characters were occasionally throwing around words like “man” and “okay,” which was a little jarring given the setting. Why couldn’t everyone talk as prettily as Zahra?
This book obviously involves jinn who are granted a whole lot of power in this world. I was worried that the climax would not go over so well when the jinn have so much power and can basically raze cities whenever they feel like it. Once again, Jessica Khoury surprised me. The climax and resloution were both done really well in a fairly believable and definitely satisfying manner. No complaints there from me.
Overall, this as a really nice retelling that put a new and interesting spin on the story. Definitely go check it out if you’re interested in fantasy or retellings.
“In that eternity between heartbeats, I think.