Review: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Review: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
The Forbidden Wish
by Jessica Khoury

Genres: Romance, Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Publication date: 23 February 2016
by Razorbill

Format: E-book


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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 Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

You can’t imagine how happy I am to announce that I liked The Forbidden Wish -I have been having an awful 2016 reading wise, this little gem was so refreshing. Amongst a sea of tepid heroines and a distinct lack of strong female bonds, The Forbidden Wish shone bright.

“As the poets say, stories are truth told through lies.”

Trends favouring fairy tale retelling is still going strong this year. Lately, they tend to veer towards non-Western setting and stories – something that excites me endlessly. I would take Aladdin, Sinbad and Scheherazade over Snow White any day of the week. The world this novel explores is rich is mythology and tales. Our protagonist is the very stuff of legend, being a jinni who brought about the fall of a once glorious kingdom. The narrative alternates between her regretful thoughts on the past, and how time and telling have twisted the story. Was Zahra a deceitful jinni, or was she another victim of love and cruelty? I loved seeing the contrast between her account and the version of the take Aladdin was familiar with – and how we teased out the truth in the end.

“We have today and yesterday, and we will seize tomorrow. We will have all the time in the world if we are clever enough to take it.”

The thing I love the most about The Forbidden Wish is its female characters, and their relationships to one another. Although most of the trappings of the story is heavily centred around a romance, we get heroines and side female characters who have their own agency and motivation unrelated to Aladdin. Even while we saw Zahra became more merciful and attached to Aladdin, her emotions were possible because of Roshana – a queen she once loved like a sister. Zahra’s guilt and nostalgia for the relationship she once had with Roshana provided a lot of incentive for her initial interactions with Aladdin, including one which saved his life. While Roshana was long gone by the time this novel started, the book did a great job illustrating the powerful bond between queen and jinni. Despite the passing of half a millenia, the ghost of Roshana still motivated and inspire Zahra, as she did when she was alive. Aladdin was not the first human Zahra loved, Aladdin was not the first human who wished for her to be free – it was Roshana! How awesome is that? I can’t even put it into words!

Princess Caspida and her Watchmaidens were also delightful as side female characters. The Forbidden Wish could have easily took the predictable and easy route: making Caspida vie for Aladdin’s attention, making her gang of girls malicious and mean, turning Zahra into a poor and bullied servant. However, what we got instead was a lovely subversion of expectations. Caspida is far more interested in the welfare of her kingdom and people, romance is the very last thing on her mind and she barely spares Aladdin a second thought. Instead, she develops a much more meaningful and complex relationship with Zahra. Her Watchmaidens are steadfast and loyal, although they’re no adoring, thoughtless cronies. They each have their own opinions and personality, their interactions were a delight to see. It’s so refreshing to see female characters build one another up! I need more of this in not just YA, but in all fiction!

“You’re a—you’re a—”
Say it, boy. Demon of fire. Monster of smoke. Devil of sand and ash. Servant of Nardukha, Daughter of Ambadya, the Nameless, the Faceless, the Limitless. Slave of the Lamp. Jinni.
“. . . a girl!” he finishes.”

The heart of the story lies in a forbidden romance blooming between Aladdin and his mysterious jinni. As you might have noticed with my past reviews, I don’t tend to do well with romance-centric books – while shipping is essential to me, I find it more enjoyable if there was a bigger picture to the story. However, I found myself quite invested in the romance of The Forbidden Wish – because, let’s face it, I’m a sucker for forbidden romances. I had initial reservations about the master-jinni relationship – but these were quickly dashed when Zahra rapidly asserted herself as a cunning, malevolent force who was capable of calling the shots, regardless of who was holding the lamp. Aladdin was her equal, challenging her at every turn with his razor sharp wit and street smarts. Together, they made a fearsome duo. Theirs was first and foremost a friendship, with the romance coming in a slow and steady burn. I love characters who have to learn to trust one another – especially when it culminates in steamy makeout scenes.

Another thing I found utterly fascinating about The Forbidden Wish was how Aladdin was never the revolutionary, which goes against all expectations. When rumours of The Phoenix rising to help the weak and poor – my eyes almost rolled out of my head. Yet, the book once again crumbles my prejudice by presenting Aladdin – who has lost faith in the fight. Zahra was similarly disenchanted due to her 500 years long imprisonment, and millenia long servitude to Nardukha. Instead, it was the lovely Caspida who spearheaded the revolution, who did not need anyone to be her symbol – she would do fine enough ruling on her own, even without the help of the protagonists – thank you very much.

The writing and pacing of this book was also excellent, I finished the book in two sittings – stopping only for compulsory Netflix breaks (How To Get Away With Murder keeps ending on horrible cliffhangers, you guys!). There was constant momentum in the plot, driven mainly by Aladdin and Zahra’s audacious plot to pass the former off as a foreign prince. Although the plot was in constant motion, it also paused plenty of time to allow for character developments and some important themes. I loved seeing our protagonist find their own identity amidst the chaos. I also really enjoyed the book’s take on the themes of freedom, using Zahra’s bond to the lamp as a grand metaphor for choices.

I would highly recommend The Forbidden Wish based on the quality of female relationships alone- however, it also has great romance, beautiful writing and a grand plot to match! What are you waiting for?!

Rating Report
Overall: 4.3
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I'm Aentee, a 20-something lover of books and shiny things. By day, I attempt to prescribe books to all the patients in my optometry clinic. By night, I read books, watch TV, and spend way too much time on twitter.


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  1. says

    OOoh very nice! Looking forward to this one! I loooove fairy tale or even mythical retellings! Glad to read more of the unexplored ones!! Also glad to hear you really enjoyed this one! It makes me happy when my blogging friends enjoyed a book I have my eyes on!! Great review!

  2. says

    YAAAAAAY! I’m so glad that you enjoyed this one as well! Zahra is such a fantastic heroine – and you’re totally right, it was wonderful to see female characters building each other up! Especially when Zahra and the princess easily could have been mortal enemies. Zahra and Aladdin are the swooniest! I had hoped to love this book but I’m really REALLY glad that it was so good. :)

    Fabulous review, Aentee!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!
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    • AenteeAentee says

      Seeing your review of this book on Goodreads was actually one of the reasons I bought it, so thank you Alyssa <3 Your recommendations are on point ;)

    • AenteeAentee says

      I hope you’ll enjoy it if you get around to it! This book was definitely the breath of fresh air I needed to dive back into YA.

    • AenteeAentee says

      I think you’ll love this one Pili, it has a great mix of romance and friendship and gorgeous writing :D

  3. says

    AHH I’M SO GLAD YOU LIKED THIS AENTEE!! :D I’m really excited for this although a teen bit worried, because I hadn’t read a Jessica Khoury book before? But it sounds perfect. :) And I love strong female friendships and honestly can barely ever think of any…especially in newer books. *stamps foot* This should not be allowed. ahem. Bumping this one up the -need-or-will-explode list clearly. xD
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    • AenteeAentee says

      I think you will love it, Cait! There is so much positive female interactions and empowerment in this book – the writing is gorgeous, too!

  4. says

    YES! I am so glad to hear this was such a hit for you Aentee. It’s one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so it’s great that it lived up to the amazing premise. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥
    Zoe @ Stories on Stage recently posted…PassengerMy Profile

  5. says

    It’s great that you loved this one, Aentee! I hope you’ll get to more amazing books soon! :)
    I finished this one at the beginning of the month and loved it. I didn’t know what to expect but it was a great retelling and yes, amazing female characters! I liked that no matter what the society thought of them, The Forbidden Wish showed everytime how strong they were: with Roshana, Caspida, Zahra in her both lives, and so on. Moreover, I liked the twist of Aladdin falling in love with the jinni, it was quite refreshing, because it doesn’t always have to be about perfect princesses. Great review! :)

  6. says

    I loved Aladdin when I was young and this book sounds like it could have went through it in a number of cliche ways – but at every turn it surprised you with the character development, meaningful character relationships and female friendship and strength! I love that in the novel, it sounds absolutely fantastic and I can’t wait to read it! Lovely review Aentee!
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  7. says

    I’m so glad to read such a positive review of this book! It’s on my TBR list and, like you, I’ve had a lot of disappointing reads so far in 2016… and I was really hoping this wouldn’t be one of them. It sounds like there are so many great things in The Forbidden Wish, and I’m now even more excited to read it than I was in the first place!

    Thanks so much for writing such a wonderfully positive and informative review. :)
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