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 such a sucker for YA retellings, especially for ones rooted in Middle Eastern folklore. I love seeing an author’s take on a well-known story, and The Forbidden Wish was no exception, which retold the story of Aladdin. While I am not entirely familiar with the original version of Aladdin, this was nothing like the Disney version, opting to take a much more fantastical and, dare I say, magical approach. Mainly this is because the story centers on Zahra, a powerful four thousand year old jinni who is released from her lamp when Aladdin discovers her in the ruins of an ancient city. Between a brewing revolution and an offer that could change the rest of Zahra’s existence, they are thrown into a whirlwind of political schemes and mythical danger that they must navigate—all in three wishes.
Jessica Khoury does an excellent job in building this world, both Aladdin’s and Zahra’s. Aladdin’s world is rife with political tension and uprising, Zahra’s is ancient, vast, and ruled by a cruel and deceitful king. Watching both of these worlds mix was so much fun, both full of culture and beauty and mystery, and it was wonderful to see how it shaped the characters.
The characters. The characters. Guys, the girls absolutely ruled this story, which was so SO awesome and not at all like the Disney version where Jasmine is the only female character with a speaking part. No, the girls in this story kick butt and take names and bow to no one. They are all strong, witty, and independent, and the sisterhood that is present is so heartwarming to see. Zahra is a strong and clever jinni who can grant (almost) any wish in the world, and hates that she is not completely of her own free will while tethered to the lamp, desperately searching to be free. Aladdin is quick, brave, and charismatic, but to me he seemed a little lacking, and I didn’t really understand what was so special about him that drew in a jinni, who has been around for multiple millennia, and then fall in love. Do not get me wrong, he was funny and had serious guts, but I just didn’t think he was that awesome. Maybe it is just that other characters completely outshone him, which is fair, because there were some really fantastic characters. For instance, this story’s “Jasmine” character, Caspida, is incredibly clever, strong-willed, determined, free-thinking, wonderful, etc. The list really could go on and on, but just know that this girl deserves all the high-fives and I could read a story solely focused on her. Her handmaidens were just as fantastic, and I really wished we could’ve spent more time with them because they were just so wonderfully fun and kickass.
It was so fascinating to explore Khoury’s take on this story, from the plot to the characters, and the beautiful world that she crafted to make her own, which was really set apart from the already known story of Aladdin. This story is vivid and well executed and aside from the ending, which I found to be just a smidge lackluster, this book was an all-around excellent read that I finished in just one day, and would recommend to anyone looking to put a little magic in their day.