The Forbidden Wish | Thoughts
“I pour upward through the long dark tunnel of the spout. I am a funnel of smoke, a whirlwind of fire. I open myself and multiply, swelling into a great cloud over the boy’s head. I press a thousand smoky hands against the stone ceiling of the cave. I roll a thousand fiery eyes and stretch a thousand glittering legs. I unfold and unfold and unfold. How good it feels to be out! I crackle with energy and excitement, my blood lightning and my breath thunder.”
Okay, now here's a fantasy romance novel to set the bar high. Coming off of The Star-Touched Queen, I may be starved for a romance that is well-written and well-crafted, but for me The Forbidden Wish hits all the check marks.
The Forbidden Wish is a loose retelling of Aladdin, told from the Jinni's point of view. It is a romance, but such a subtle romance that for most of the read I felt more strongly for Zahra's inner struggle for her freedom than for the romantic feelings that are developing in the background. Jessica Khoury does a fantastic job bringing these characters to life, and her lush prose fit all too well with the mystic setting and Zhara's nature.
“Because happiness itself is a mythical construct, a dream you humans tell yourselves to get through each day. It is the moon, and you, like the sun, pursue it relentlessly, chasing it around and around, getting nowhere.”
I was hypnotized from page one, and applaud Khoury on taking a classic tale and making it her own. If you are familiar with the Disney version, then you'll see some key similarities pop up in terms of the three wishes granted Aladdin, an evil vizier, and a princess promised to marry someone whom she despises. Aside from that, however, I really didn't see much else to compare. We're given a history of the Jinn and the dark one who rules over them, and a backstory for Zahra that puts her thousand years into perspective.
“Time has a different meaning for me, and these events that seem so monumental in the moment will one day be nothing more than a line in a scroll. These humans are but letters to be inked into history. A hundred years from now, I will be free. I will have forgotten their names and faces, and the struggles they have will not matter. Time has a way of burying things, shifting like the desert and swallowing entire civilizations, erasing them from map and memory. Always, in the end, everything returns to dust.”
She's seen civilizations rise and fall, has risked everything for love and failed, had countless masters who were kind to cruel and every step in between. After breaking a fundamental rule placed upon all Jinn, she has not seen the outside of her lamp for hundreds of years, and when Aladdin becomes her master she has but one goal: attain her freedom at any cost.
Aladdin is the thief we all will recognize; handsome, devilish, and incredibly likable.
“You’re very pretty,” he murmurs, his voice thick with sleep, “for a jinni.”
“Have you met many jinn?”
“No.” His lips curl into a dazed grin. “But I’ve met a lot of pretty girls.”
After meeting the princess in disguise in the city streets, Zahra sees an opportunity that will serve them both, and a Prince is made. But where princess Jasmine had a fiery spirit, Caspida takes it to another level. Secretly warring against the injustices in her city, Caspida and her Watchmaidens are a tightly knit group of vigilantes, each with a badass (and incredibly useful) skill set.
I am in love with Khoury's writing, the way she is able to weave layers of time smoothly to gradually reveal one whole story. We see the past and the present, and may even assume we know where the future is headed, but I was still surprised by the route she takes to get there. Plus, the little mystery tucked in amidst the magic and mysticism, the courtly intrigue and assassin battles...it's really no wonder I was up until 5am (in a tent, with a lantern, in the mountains...) needing to read on. I just could not put it down.
"Find me, my thief."
I have one main complaint with this book, and it may just be my pickiness over naming. The only character in this retelling to keep a name we recognize is Aladdin, and I kept wondering, why? We'd know the story of Aladdin anywhere, and you've renamed all the other characters, so why keep his? Honestly, I wanted to forget the Disney film (even though it is arguably one of my top 3) and just let this world envelope me with no cartoon characters popping into mind amidst the lavish setting. So I would have voted for a change in name for dear Aladdin...even his name as a prince is different in this book!
Also, I like my rules on magic to have NO holes. Not any. I'm the person who will inspect that circle with hawk eyes and jump up in triumph when I find a break. So when we're told the city is protected by wards against jinni, I expect it to be all entrances. Including ones by ship. Wouldn't you say?
All in all, that's not much to critique, and I loved this story. Enough so that it will definitely be on my will read again list.
“As the poets say, stories are truth told through lies.”