The Forbidden Wish
By: Jessica Khoury
CAUTION: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Summary: 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?(via Goodreads)
I’d been meaning to start this book since I heard of it shortly after it was released. I originally did not intend to post two reviews of the fairy tale retold sub-genre in a row, but I simply couldn’t wait any longer to read this.
I admit, I was attracted by the cover the moment I saw it; way before I knew the contents of the story. Full of mystery and teeming with a slight air of magic, I had a sneaking suspicion that this book would be a wonderful follow-up after the roller coaster that was The Lunar Chronicles, and for the most part, I was right.
- Zahra: I loved her character. At times she could be a bit too stubborn and fearful for my taste, both of those traits were deeply seeded in her backstory, and therefore, though annoying, made for wonderful character development. She is respectable brave, witty, and somebody that I would want as a friend. It’s impossible not to root for her. She had a rich history that just left me wanting more, and still does even after finishing the book. It seems her story is over, but I would very much enjoy reading a prequel or something to that effect about her life before the lamp.
- The Mythology: I know nothing about the mythology used here except for what was written into the book, and that includes whether it was rooted in historic or simply sprung from the author’s mind, but either way, I am going to be looking it up, as I found it extremely intriguing and engaging. The world of the Jinn seemed so vast and rich, and I want to learn everything I can about it.
- The Backstories: This is somewhat a pro and a con, but more so a pro. All of the main characters, (Aside from the villains; I’ll get there in a minute.) seemed to have such enriching an intricate backstories, and I wanted to sink my teeth as deep as I could into every one. The good news is that this made me love all of them, and root for them as hard as I could. The bad news is that I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked. This is relatively forgivable, considering the story is not about the side characters, but Zahra and Aladdin. However, I sincerely hope that the author is coming out with a series of short stories or something to supplement this book because I feel like there’s still so much left to explore with the other characters. (Short story about Cas as the Phoenix, or Aladdin’s father, The Tailor, anyone?)
I didn’t have this category in the last review, but there’s one issue I want to address that I was neither super impressed with nor super against, so I had to add a section.
- The Villains: I can’t speak for the rest of you, but when I picked up this book, my only other reference to this fairy tale was the 1998 Disney classic movie. It is for this reason that I can be somewhat forgiving when it comes to the, in my opinion, lackluster villains. There is more than one villain in this story, and some are truly terrifying, but the two that are present the most often did not leave much of an impression on me. So much so, in fact, that 20 minutes after finishing the book I forgot one of their names’. As with the film, there is a Vizier and advisor to the king who desperately wants to rule, but seems to fade into the background. It is said that he has captured many jinns, but there is only one true act that shows any real evidence of his evil nature. One of the characters even makes the comment: “He won’t even come down and fight…. The coward,” (Khoury 289). Instead, a new character, his son, does all of the dirty work, but his only true motivation is that he believes marrying the princess is his birthright. There is no indication that he loves her until about 80%-90% through the book, and even then it is only a brief scene.
- Point of View: The book is written in first-person from Zahra’s perspective, and while the narrative and writing style were quite pleasant, I felt this choice hindered my enjoyment in places, and increased it in others. For example, in the beginning of the novel, Zahra feels Aladdin approaching the lamp, but she cannot see him. Because of this “sixth sense” however, we are able to follow his path to her lamp through her eyes, which works quite well. There are several other scenarios, though, where Zahra is not needed as a character, only as an observer so that we know what’s going on. In my opinion, those scenes are rather clunky. One passage reads: “Nessa and Khavar slice through their midst like a sharp and deadly breeze, while Endsu flings poison powder in a glittering arc,” (Khoury 250). A beautifully written glimpse at a battle scene, but at this point, Zahra is trapped in her lamp. Perhaps I am being too picky, or perhaps I do not understand her sixth sense as well as I would like to, but instances like this confused me because I didn’t understand how Zahra was able to explain the goings-on in such detail without seeing them. Even if she can sense where people move, I doubt she can sense exactly what they’re doing. The other limitation with this point of view is that there are chapters that focus on characters other than Zahra, yet we are still only able to witness them through her P.O.V. If it had been written in first person point of view that alternated with chapters, as opposed to being solely narrated by Zahra throughout, we would have been able to get a closer look inside some of the other characters’ heads. I wouldn’t be left hungering for so much of their backstories.
Overall, this was a solid and gripping tale that I was very reluctant to put down. It had a rich world that I would love to explore further, and dynamic characters that drew me in completely. I recommend it for any fairy tale lover, or lover of magic in general.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Recommendation: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother’s death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls’ academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions “for a bit of fun” and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. (www.goodreads.com)