The Forbidden Wish (2016) is a new release by author Jessica Khoury, a retelling of the Aladdin tale from the genie’s – or rather, jinni’s – point of view. Except in this lushly written YA fantasy romance, our jinni is Zahra, a beautiful young woman with a mysterious, four-thousand-year-old past. Inexplicably, a magic ring leads a charming young thief, called Aladdin, to find her lamp, and a timeless Arabian love story of magical magnitude unfolds between them.
Yet, jinn and humans are forbidden to love one another, lest the demonic jinn master, the Shaitan, destroy them all. Besides, Aladdin has made a wish to become a prince, and in order to avenge his parents’ deaths, must marry a princess. Princess Caspia is a remarkable young warrior with deep concern for her people, and an unforgettable league of powerful Watchmaidens, who are her partners in secret rebellion. She’s also the descendant of the jinni’s “Habiba” – her dearest friend – whom Zahra never meant to kill five hundred years ago. While Zahra admires both Aladdin and Princess Caspia, and does all she can to orchestrate their perfect pairing, the characters’ hearts have other plans.
This is one of the best-written books I’ve read in years. Khoury’s imagery was exceptionally vivid. I felt like I was learning so much about ancient Arabian culture and mythology, and like I could feel the sand beneath my feet, smell the wine on someone’s breath, touch the fabric of their clothing, hear the clinking of the gold chain around someone’s ankle. This is a fantastic, meaningful and exotic (for us Westerners) adventure by a master writer. Most books I find fairly predictable, but at no point did I have any idea where Khoury was going to take this story. If you appreciate serious, literary YA romance flavored with Mid-Eastern lore and bursting with ancient magic, you’ll love The Forbidden Wish.
“Wishes are born in the will of men and women, and it is the true and pure source of power all humans hold.” -p. 31
“Sometimes, you can’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose who you become because of it.” -p. 116
“I have been among these people too long, and their human problems and drama have ensnared me too deeply. I remind myself how fleeting they are. …Time has a way of…swallowing entire civilizations, erasing them from map and memory. Always, in the end, everything returns to dust.” -p. 204
“There is no secret to happiness. Because happiness itself is a mythical construct, a dream you humans tell yourselves to get you through each day.” -p. 217
“But my heart is a treacherous star, refusing to dim when the sun rises.” -p. 233
“The price of every lie is that the truth will always come out.” -p. 251
“‘There is only one thing more numerous than the stars,’ I say, looking up to the heavens. ‘And that is the darkness that holds them.'” -p. 257
“‘If you’re not free to love,’ I whisper, ‘you’re not free at all.'” -p. 279
“You don’t need anyone to give you permission. Stop thinking like a princess and be a queen.” -p. 336
“‘You’re ruled before,’ she says. ‘So tell me, does it get easier?’ ‘No,’ I reply. ‘But you get stronger.'” -p. 338