The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

ForbiddenWish_BOM.inddShe 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 magical book. I know you probably are more than familiar with the story of Aladdin – I, myself, have not only watched the movie a million times, I’ve also seen the Broadway musical, listened to the soundtrack on repeat, and read the original tale in various forms – so you might be thinking, as I thought, that a retelling of Aladdin isn’t likely to be that new.

Well, I’m delighted to tell you that if you thought that you’d be wrong.

This is no ordinary retelling of Aladdin. In fact, I hesitate to even refer to it as a retelling. It’s more of a reimagining, because this world barely resembles the Arabia of Disney’s Aladdin. Really, the only thing that these stories have in common is that there is a genie (or Jinni) who is trapped in a magic lamp which grants whomever finds the lamp three wishes, and a thief named Aladdin finds the lamp through mystical means and then impersonates a prince. Those are some pretty bare bones, which allows Jessica Khoury to go wild reinventing this tale into something unlike anything you’ve see before.

I adored Zahra, the Jinni in the lamp, both as a narrator and just as a person. She’s got a very robust voice, and she parcels out information in perfect quantities so that the reader is constantly enthralled by her history and the mystery surrounding it. She speaks like she is telling the story to a dear friend she once lost, and the details of what went down between them are incredible. She’s got a rich background, which makes watching her present situation unfold all the more interesting. I felt that I became very invested in her fate pretty early on.

Then there’s Aladdin, and the fact that he gets the chance to really shine as a complex hero. His beef with the monarchy dates back to a truly harrowing childhood experience with the wicked vizier, but in the end he still has the decency to not to betray his own humanity in his quest for revenge. I appreciated his sense of humor, too.

And then there’s the princess, Caspida, who is much more than meets the eye. Her and her watch maidens were a force to be reckoned with and I loved every bit of page-time they got! Seriously, those are some great role models for young girls right there.

Basically, The Forbidden Wish cast a charm on me that I couldn’t resist. By the end all I was wishing for was another book (*hint hint* I would love a sequel or another book set in this world). It’s diverse, the prose is beautiful, the love story feels true, and the world Khoury conjure is spectacular. I want to go visit now.

I only have one real complaint about this book, and it’s a small thing, really. So small that I consider it a mark of what a great story this is that this is the only thing I came away feeling nitpicky about. I really hope that Jessica Khoury will forgive me for even mentioning this, because I really did adore this book – it’s earned it’s place on my favorites shelf for being original and magical and such a fun read. But this one little tiny detail just drove me crazy, and it’s the only reason that I gave this book less than five stars. You see, Jessica Khoury and I share a trait: we both love a clever turn of phrase. This is a retelling of Aladdin, which of course originates form The Tales of One Thousand and One Nights. Early on in the story, Zahra using the phrase “a thousand and one” to illustrate a point, which I thought was cute and clever, and totally acceptable to do in a book that is paying homage to the original Tales of a Thousand and One Nights. But then, not long after, she uses the phrase again. Then, a while later, a third time. By the end of the book it had been used more than half a dozen times (and potentially closer to a dozen). I began, after the third or fourth usage, to find it irritating, and by the end of the book it was starting to really get on my nerves. This is such a great tale, and the repetitive use of that cliche just kept jarring me out of the story. Within the last few pages it turns up three more times.

But, as I said before, when your only complaint is something as small as a repetitive turn of phrase popping up a lot, then you know you’re reading a darn good story.

Pick this one up. You won’t regret it.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars 

Have you read The Forbidden Wish yet? Did you love it? Who was your favorite character? If you haven’t read it yet, why are you most excited to?

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