YA Book Reviews

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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.

In a slew of books about the Jinn of old, The Forbidden Wish makes a lasting mark. A creative retelling of Aladdin, Zahra is a powerful jinni left in exile after befriending a human and ultimately facing the wrath of the Lord of the Jinn for it. A centuries long war now plagues both human and jinn, with a deep mistrust cultivated by stories of the Fall of Roshana – a queen whose friendship was betrayed by none other than Zahra herself 500 years ago.

My favorite Disney movie as a kid was Aladdin, and I watched it so often, my mother can still recite most of the film from memory alone. The Aladdin in this book is similar: a poor orphan (as well as a ladies’ man) who wishes to be a prince in order to win the heart of the princess, and overthrow a Jafar-like advisor to the Sultan in the process. The Forbidden Wish is a little different; instead of falling for a reimagined Jasmine, Aladdin falls for the jinni in a slow-cooking forbidden romance. This isn’t where the forbidden wish comes in, though: the reason it is forbidden to love a human is because they are the only ones able to set a jinni free – at the price of their life.

This book was a very cute YA romance with a little bit of light melancholy mixed in there that just made you want to give Zahra a big ol’ hug by the end of it. Before that though, she would have turned into a hawk to escape being confined to an embrace, but still fly close enough to turn around and land on your shoulder in acknowledgement. After all, what else would you expect from a girl who’s whole world has been smoke and ruins for the past five centuries?

What I liked: Although we don’t really see any of the deep friendship between Zahra and Roshana, it colored so much of what Zahra thinks and feels 500 years later in an honest and relatable way that made their friendship an integral part of the book, not just history or backstory. Caspida and her Watchmaidens are direct descendants of Roshana and her closest confidants at court, and although they know precious little of the true story between Zahra and her Habiba, what has filtered down generations keeps them cautious and jaded against jinni in the present. However, Zahra doesn’t make excuses for her past or hide behind “I had no choice!” or other statements that take the blame away from herself for what happened. She feels guilty and saddened, more so now that she is back in a world that remembers her as a wretched villain and the epitome of what the evil Jinn will do to hapless humans. Still, don’t think she is a shallow and wallowing protagonist – rather than carry on with a ‘fake it ’til you make it’ attitude, this is the story of Zahra accepting her past and taking control of her future in the most badass way possible.

Highlights: Caspida & the Watchmaidens (seriously, I’d choose these fierce and feminist young women over Jem & the Holograms any day of the week), the fascinating Jinni power of shapeshifting from smoke to something with mass, the much more annoying power of not being able to walk too far without turning back into smoke and being sucked into the lamp, a confusing game of “Who’s My Master?”, Phoenix gives the people power (and takes it away from gross usurpers), and the Habiba moment that made my heart burst with joy.

What I disliked: Even though I really enjoyed reading this, it’s biggest downside is that it’s too light to make any deep impact. A lot of my 5-star books are ones that made me cry, or ones I stayed up all night reading because I was so hooked, or even simply books that had me on the edge of my seat and craving more when I finished reading. A rich, emotional impact and captivating writing are sure-fire ways to climb onto my favorites shelf. So while The Forbidden Wish fills me with the need to hug somebody (or everybody), it didn’t grip me in the same way some other hit books this year have (see: The Rose and the Dagger, which I have yet to review because I am still an emotional wreck.) This is an absolutely perfect read for when I need a pick-me-up during a sad spell, or while I’m trying to keep an eye on the kids I babysit regularly and read at the same time. Basically, it’s engaging, but not engrossing. Still, I highly recommend it for those of you who are looking for a light and entertaining, genuinely sweet novel to snuggle up with this summer.

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One thought on “The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

  1. Yes, it is too light! But definitely perfect for summer and light reading. Like if you’re overwhelmed by feelings from other reads, lol.

    I’ve yet to read The Rose and the Dagger!! I’m so antsy, I just want Shazi and Khalid to be happy, and preferably together, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

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