Published by Razorbill on February 23rd, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Retelling
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.
Once upon a time, I read a cool book with a genie in it. Ever since then, I’ve been weirdly convinced that this is something I need so much more of in my life. And so, it was no surprise that when I heard about The Forbidden Wish it instantly got put on my TBR list. And this book sure did a lot of things well. But other things… were not quite there for me.
The Forbidden Wish is kind of a retelling, or more like a reimagining, of Aladdin. Aladdin finds Zahra’s lamp in the desert, where she’s been abandoned for hundreds of years after a haunting betrayal of her former master. She does the whole three wishes pitch, and Aladdin decides to use them as he tries to get revenge on the corrupt rulers who put his parents – leaders of a previous generation’s rebellion – to death. A partnership develops in a vibrant Arabic-inspired world that slowly develops into something more…
Let’s start there. Because the romance kind of… frustrates me. Like, the story was going just fine: Zahra and Aladdin are a bit suspicious of each other, but they work together well. You find out about both of their back stories. And you think that Aladdin’s revenge and the corrupt rule of the current government are the focus of the story, while Zahra also aims to find her freedom. Then out of LITERALLY NOWHERE, Zahra comments that she keeps feeling drawn to Aladdin. That she can’t help but look at him all the time. And she feels a pull to be near him.
Like where did that come from? There was no basis! Suddenly this romance began to take over the focus of the story. And I would maybe be more open to it if it didn’t just APPEAR OUT OF NOWHERE. It wasn’t even instalove. It was like… retconning a long building attraction since the very start which just felt WEIRD. And that felt cheap. Like, is this necessary because it’s YA? It also leans very heavily on the forbidden romance trope, which is not one of my favorites… because it leads to denial, lying, moping, and (self-sacrificing) sap. I honestly feel like I could have liked this book so much more if there was no romance.
The world was pretty cool, to be honest. Considering this is a standalone, Khoury did a great job at building up a unique world with its own rich history and vivid mythical creatures. It was easily accessible and understandable, not full of holes. I liked learning about Zahra’s past and the complicated relationships between humans and the jinn. I also extremely liked the political side of the story when Aladdin poses as a prince to get inside the castle. It was very well-thought out and had an authentic and respectful feel to it.
I also loved the second half of the story because of Caspida. Caspida is the princess and she is amazing. (Side note: would have greatly loved this story more if I got to read her perspective instead of Zahra’s.) Like, she can kick ass, pretty damn literally. She’s wrapped up in political games, but no one is pulling one over on her. And she has such a strong sense of justice and morals that just instantly make you want to put her on the throne. She was amazing, and she kept impressing me more and more as the story went on.
The plot definitely kept my attention because it had the right mix: political maneuvering, magic, deception, mystery… It read smoothly, although in the parts without dialogue I did get distracted because Zahra’s voice has some quality to it that’s distancing to me. She tries to be too verbose or flowery for me or something. But I was really interested, and despite not caring about the romance basically at all, I was cheering on the characters because they were fighting for the right things.
To be honest, I was incredibly impressed with the quality of the story, and I was planning to give it a higher rating… but then we got to the end. The end is one of the most horrifically clichéd disappointments I’ve encountered in recent weeks. Zahra literally becomes all powerful. The villain is pushed out of the story in one of the most bizarre and hastily, messily wrapped up ways. The writing becomes incredibly lazy in the process. Because I’m not even kidding you, but the sentence, “I conjured like I had never conjured before,” actually appears in this book. Like where is the vivid magical battle that I can picture in my head like one of the most stunning animation movies ever? No. Just no. So disappointing. And sappy. And meh.