[Review] The Forbidden Wish – Jessica Khoury

Title: The Forbidden Wish
Author: Jessica Khoury
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2016
My Rating: ★★★1/2

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 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 the Aladdin story. (From the book jacket). 

I liked this very much at first. Khoury’s descriptions evoked a lot of pretty images in my head. Sand dunes and jewels and Arabian decor. Fighting princesses, ugly ghuls, and monstrous jinn who turn into dark, sexy men. I loved that the princess, who Aladdin tries to marry, surrounds herself with handmaids who kick serious ass.

But towards the end, I just wanted the book to hurry up and end. The romance turned too sappy and the final battle scenes didn’t hold much tension. First person, present tense isn’t my favorite for fantasy novels that are based in an alternate past and there were a few instances where I was flung out of the story. For example, the use of “um” and “man” sounded too modern to me. But hey, man, who am I to judge?

Aladdin wasn’t as swoon-worthy as he could’ve been. I mean, it’s ALADDIN. How am I not drooling over him? He should’ve been an immediate addition to my book boyfriend harem. The Disney version made my heart flutter more. Then again, they drew him quite nicely. He’s got those eyes that just…and that hair. Wow. And his voice…*sigh* (If you didn’t just picture Disney Aladdin rubbing the back of his neck and nearly swooning, you’re doing it wrong.)

I think what bothered me the most was that the jinni didn’t have enough personality. I wanted Zahra to hate Aladdin for being her master. I wanted her to be more spiteful, more conniving, more evil. Like a jinni is supposed to be. I wanted her to make Aladdin’s life miserable until she finally, reluctantly, fell in love with him. But no. She was too good. Too . . . human. Granted, she was human before she sacrificed herself to save her people. Thing is, I don’t enjoy selfless characters like that unless they eventually break. Give me a good anti-hero any day.

Though I have not yet read the original Aladdin story, I think The Forbidden Wish is an interesting addition to the canon. I would not shake you by the shoulders and demand you read this, but I would perhaps nudge it in your direction.

What are your thoughts? Have you read it? Do you have another Aladdin retelling you could recommend?