The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
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.
I am not allowed to hope. I am forbidden a wish of my own. And so I will not think of the world above, of the open sky, of the fresh air and the light of day.
I will be lost, a myth, a dream. Trapped forever with myself in this prison of sand and magic. I cannot imagine a more terrifying doom. I thought I had resigned myself to this fate long ago, when it seemed no one would ever find me. Now I know this to be untrue, and that hope has pulsed deep within me like a dormant seed, waiting to flourish at the first sign of escape.
Holy smokes, this was great!
This book is a retelling of Aladdin in which the genie is a girl. To be honest, there is very little resembling Aladdin here, with the exception of the genie and Aladdin himself. Despite that, I found myself greatly enjoying thsi book. There’s romance, yes, but I did not find it overwhelming. There’s also incredibly vivid writing, really, the writing is awesome, there’s unexpected moments of humor…
“You’re a—you’re a—”
Say it, boy. Demon of fire. Monster of smoke. Devil of sand and ash. Servant of Nardukha, Daughter of Ambadya, the Nameless, the Faceless, the Limitless. Slave of the Lamp. Jinni.
“. . . a girl!” he finishes.
For a second, I can only blink at him
Heehee. And the genie herself is pretty bad-ass.
Zahra is a jinni. She has been trapped in the desert sands for 500 years, desolate, alone, and haunted by past memories of her last master. Zahra has almost lost hope of seeing the outside world again, when a boy named Aladdin appears and summons her from the lamp. They’re not exactly friends from the start.
“I’ve heard the stories,” he says. “I’ve heard the songs. They call you the Fair Betrayer, who enchanted humans with your . . .” He pauses to swallow. “Your beauty. You promised them everything, and then you ruined them.”
A thousand and one replies vie for my tongue, but I swallow them all, bury them deep, deep in my smoky heart.
Letting out a long breath, I shrug one shoulder. “So what now? Will you toss me away? Bury me again?”
He laughs, a cold, sharp laugh. “Throw you away? When you can grant me three wishes? Would I throw away a bag of gold just because I found it in a pile of dung?”
That’s where the similarities to Aladdin ends.
I really liked Zahra. She is powerful, but vulnerable. From the beginning, we know she suffers with regret over a girl, a “sister.” Over the course of the book, we uncover her story; Zahra constantly remembers this “Habiba,” addressing her directly in her memories, and it’s a constant guessing game as to what transpired that haunts her so much, that fills her with so much sorrow.
I found her actions realistic. She may be powerful, but she is still trapped by who she is. Zahra cannot go far from Aladdin without suffering greatly, bound by her curse. The whole “betraying Aladdin and gaining her freedom” thing isn’t the stupid romance-centric excuse it seems. Her reasons for hesitation is quite valid, and her feelings towards freedom is complex.
For the first time I think about what comes after I win my freedom. For so long that’s been my single goal, but what happens next? Do I return to Ambadya, where they hate me? Do I stay in the human world, where they would destroy me if they knew what I was? I have nowhere to go to and no one to spend my freedom with, and for the first time I begin to wonder if that’s really freedom at all, or if I’m exchanging one prison for another.
Aladdin is no longer a Disney prince. He is a charmer, at times a drunkard. He burns for revenge, yet is aware of his own weakness in obtaining it. He charms everyone with a vagina, and is an inveterate flirt. Yet I never found myself hating him. He’s not an asshole. He’s just who he is.
“Zahra, if I wished for someone to die, could you do it?”
Outwardly, I am stone, but inside I rock like a stormy sea. I loathe this wish more than almost any other. It is cruel and cowardly, and I reevaluate this boy thief. There is a darkness in him I hadn’t seen.
I also liked the fact that there are other female characters in this book! Such a thing is a rarity in YA fiction.
This book can be confusing. There are a lot of names to keep track of, and I wish that Zahra had more strength in her, but overall, this was a highly enjoyable book.