Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

The Forbidden WishThe Forbidden Wish
Jessica Khoury
Release: February 23, 2016
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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 Arabian Nights from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury. 
In the five years or so that fairy tale re-tellings have been The Thing, The Forbidden Wish is the first re-telling of Aladdin that I've seen. So in some ways I'm disappointed that it doesn't take the story into the modern era, or outer space, or someplace else radically different from the original. But what makes this story unique is that it's told from the jinni's point of view. That change allows Khoury to tell multiple stories, juxtaposing the tale of Zahra's last master, Queen Roshana, with Aladdin's. We see how those events five hundred years before shaped the world that Zahra finds herself in now.

Aladdin's part of the plot is not that different from the Disney movie which, to be honest, I'm more familiar with than the original Arabian Nights. His backstory is expanded in an interesting way though, which gives his feud with the prince a bigger impact. And of course, his romance with the jinni is a new addition, and probably my favorite thing about the book.

I also liked the secondary plot involving the missing jinn prince that Zahra must rescue to win to her freedom. I enjoyed learning about the different types of jinn and their history, and seeing that their rulers were not so different from the human ones. And I appreciate the fact that the book features several strong female characters. In addition to Zahra and Queen Roshana, there are Princess Caspida and her Watchmaidens who are all badasses.

But I found it odd that Zahra addresses her narration to the long-dead Queen Roshana. There are times when she's comparing the events of the present to the past and it makes the flashback feel more natural, but most of the time it just feels unnecessary. If the story were framed as letters or a journal, the device would make more sense to me. The end of the book also didn't really work for me. There's too much new magic introduced that I didn't completely follow. An in general, it felt like it took too long to wrap up all the loose threads.

Still, I liked the characters and was rooting for them. And I loved getting to read a story about the jinn, who I think are underutilized in paranormal romance. If you're a fan of fairy tale re-tellings, but tired of the same old Cinderella story you might want to give The Forbidden Wish a try.

Recommended for fans of: Fairy Tale Re-tellings

ARC provided by the publisher via Penguin's First to Read program


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