This post originally appeared in Coffee-Stained Dreams.
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. (via Goodreads)
Jessica Khoury‘s The Forbidden Wish is a retelling of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp from the book of One Thousand and One Nights a.k.a. Arabian Nights – only this time, the jinni is a girl and she falls in love with HIM. Interesting, right? I can’t really remember the last time I read a retelling so this was really a thrilling experience for me: the familiarity, the references. First few pages, few chapters, and this book already charmed my socks off! I initially picked this in the list of recommendations for the Asian Lit Bingo challenge and I didn’t really expect to like this book so much — but man am I so wrong. This book haunted me even at work (I am a slow reader so it was daysssss) and that left me distracted most of the time. But I am not even the least bit sorry.
Jessica’s writing was immaculate. I can’t quite put my finger to it, but it was golden. The Forbidden Wish was written in the perspective of the jinni, Zahra. The voice that felt like having the wisdom of a thousand years and, at the same time, the uncertainty of venturing in unexplored territory, the panic and confusion of falling (romantically) in love for the first time. I honestly don’t know how Jessica Khoury did it. “Wishes have a way of twisting themselves, and there is nothing more dangerous than getting your heart’s desire. The question is, are you willing to gamble? How much are you willing to lose? What are you willing to risk everything for?”
Zahra and Aladdin are two lost souls – burdened by pasts they cannot escape, uncertain as to what they really want. The romance was spoiled by the blurb, but I got to shipping them not immediately after the first few pages. It took time – like the dance of Fahradan, it was tension-filled, passionate, a slow-burn. And did I already mention the tension?! For some reason, I am captivated and drawn to this world because the tension in the scenes are through the roofs! Maybe I was just reading the right things at the right moments but the goosebumps it induced in me was amazing.
But you know what? It feels too wrong to be calling it just another romance YA because there’s so much going on in here. For starters, there’s Princess Caspida and her Watchmaidens. Roshana the Wise, the greatest Amulen Queen to ever live. This book presented some issues that, even now, are still rampant throughout Asia and, to some extent, outside. That women are not fit to lead. That women need someone, others, to make it and be successful. That women’s choices are not entirely her own. This retelling broke many barriers and is very feminist in it’s own special way. Zahra is fierce, independent, willing to go to great heights for the ones she loves. Caspida was a destined leader, a queen in her own right. Roshana was a dreamer and a visionary. Even Caspida’s Watchmaiden’s refuses to take a shit from others. It was great, great.
“Our names are like the meaning behind names, sensations and images rather than words, communicated by thought and not voice.”
One unique thing that really caught my attention was how the jinns were named in this book. It was something I haven’t encountered before and it proved to be a charming aspect for the book. Like for example, Zahra’s jinn name is: Curl-of-the-Tiger’s-Tail, Smoke-on-the-Wind, Girl-Who-Gives-the-Stars-Away. There’s also Serpent-Scale, Water-Drips-in-Darkness, Echoes in Cave. Zhian’s is Sun-Burns-Bright, Scale-of-the-Red-Dragon, He-Who-Makes-the-Earth-to-Shake. Can’t you see how beautiful this thing is? “I am the Girl-Who-Gives-the-Stars-Away.” Awesome.
“Wish for her love, and I will deliver it for you.”He smiles grimly. “Then it wouldn’t be love.”“And what do you know of love?”“That it must be a choice.”“Oh, my naive thief.” I pause briefly to meet his gaze. “Love is rarely a choice.”
Despite it being a retelling, the plot felt fresh and not forced. The story line was heartwarming and at the same time goosebumps-inducing. I loved the way Zahra narrated the story, telling it to her Habiba. I loved the word, and how it was used in the ending. The story of friendship so dear was highlighted and a sight to behold – making that unexpected reunion near the end of the story heartwarming and heartwrenching-ly good. I loved how the element of time (“Time is the strongest magic.”) was used and how it gave the revelation at the end more impact. The ending was majestic and one of the better closures I’ve read in a while. Personally, I am at awe. Definitely recommended.
If you follow me on Twitter, here’s my The Forbidden Wish Reaction/Quotes Thread: CLICK HERE.
Stories are truth told through lies.
“Being underestimated isn’t flattering – but it’s an advantage.”
You can’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose who you become because of it.
“…nothing – nothing – is worth betraying someone you love.”
“Loving someone is never wrong. […] it’s not a choice. It just happens, and we’re all helpless in it’s power.”
“If you’re not free to love, you’re not free at all.”
This is the 22nd book I’ve read this year and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. This is also the 4th book I finished for my #AsianLitBingo Reading Challenge for Retelling with Asian Main Character. #Bookworm2017