The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury was a gorgeous book. Now, I realize that gorgeous is a bit of an odd word to describe a story with, but it is definitely fitting in this case.
I loved the style of writing and the way in which the story was told. Zahra, the Jinni, tells the story in first person to her “Habiba”. Of course, she isn’t actually talking to anyone, she simply addresses this person in her head as she narrates. Normally I hate this style of writing, but it worked so amazingly well for this particular story.
Khoury tells a beautiful story, she describes everything in rich detail without going overboard. Khoury describes each person, city, palace, act of magic, and even the desert itself in such gorgeous detail that could feel the desert sun on my face while I sat in my room at midnight reading, I felt the rush of magic, smelt the spices and flowers, and heard the bustling of city.
Not only was the writing beautiful, but the story itself was wonderful as well. There were two main plot lines, the one that was happening in the moment, and one of the past that was slowly revealed over the course of the novel until the merged at the climax. The plot was well thought out, interesting, and not a total cliche -which is not easy when it comes to retellings!
I loved Zahra as a main character. Having spent thousands of years enslaved to the lamp and the whims of those in possession of it she has found her own way to fight back through their wishes. Zahra is far from perfect, after being trapped inside her lamp for 500 years straight, in the ruins of an ancient city, she will do anything to free herself from the lamp. Including manipulating Aladdin into helping her gain her freedom.
Zahra is a strong female character, a warrior and a fighter. But she isn’t the only strong female character in this book, the princess and her ladies are warriors, and fight -literally- to liberate the people. Caspida, the princess, and Zarha share a mutual respect which is extremely refreshing when so many books pit strong female characters against each other.
Now, Aladdin. I was worried that he would be a complete cliche, or end up being just a useless character that doesn’t really do anything. But luckily neither of those were the case. Aladdin is flawed, and grows in a very real way throughout the course of the book. Originally set out for revenge, he ends up helping to lead a rebellion. He’s a charming, funny, womanizing character and I loved him dearly.
Now, I should mention, although based on the summary it should be obvious, that this was a love story. But it was a wonderful slow building one, and honestly one of the best YA romances I’ve read in such a long time. Their relationship started off with Zarha flat out using Aladdin, grew into a funny and amusing friendship, and eventually blossomed into a true love. One of my favorite moments was when Zahra was in her true Jinni form, shapeless smoke and magic, and Aladdin was the only one in that moment that still saw her as a person. It was beautiful.
I would love to go on about the magic in this world, the Jinn, and how unique it was but I don’t want to give too much away. One of the best parts of this book is discovering everything as you go.
I loved absolutely everything about this book, from the characters, to the setting, to the plot. The climax was everything I hoped it would be, and more. The only problem I had, and I wouldn’t even call it a problem per say, would be that the final chapter, the epilogue so to speak, was slightly rushed. But I loved this book so much, I absolutely have to give it 5 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️