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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.
“I’m not here to fall in love, am I? I’m here to avenge my parents.”
“Don’t the two work hand in hand?”
Abruptly, he stops dancing and steps away. He stares at me with eyes as deep as the night.
“No,” he replies softly. “I’m not sure they do.”
I stand still, bewildered, as he turns and melts into the crowd.
Roped into reading this as a birthday buddy read, I wasn’t a happy camper. I mean, no, I wasn’t mad or upset or anything, but come on!! I had so many other books I wanted to read at the time, you know??? And I’m about to lose a ton of time too, here soon. So when I picked this book up, I may or may not have had a rather disinterested look on my face. But, once again, I was proven wrong. And, by none other than my dear Banana. Shocking.
I stand still a moment longer, watching him. “Zahra.”
He pauses and looks over his shoulder. “What?”
“My name,” I stammer. “I mean…one of them. You can call me Zahra.”
He turns around fully, his grin as wide and as bright as the moon. “I’m Aladdin.”
I guess I just didn’t know what to expect….and that by far is this book’s largest selling point. This isn’t simply a retelling of Aladdin-it’s something so much more. Gone are the Genie and Jafar and the Sultan. Gone are Abu and the magic carpet and Jasmine. What we have here is a twisted imagining where Aladdin is still Aladdin…but what lead him to the magic lamp is so different from what we know and love. Jasmine is a rebel princess who is being forced to marry a man she doesn’t love (kind of the same?) and the list could go on and on. There are lots of twists, turns, and exchanges of characters in ways you never would have imagined possible. But by far my absolute favorite twist in this story is who Aladdin falls in love with. One hint: It sure ain’t Jasmine.
The way he looks at me-steady and silent, bold and bright-makes me feel as if the storm outside were trapped inside me, thunder and rain and light, rolling and crashing.
“You’re beautiful,” he murmurs. “How could anyone believe you were just a servant?”
So who could it be, then, if not our lovely Jasmine? Well, that is the biggest twist of all, and it isn’t even a secret. The Genie we know and love is no longer a big, friendly, blue guy who may or may not be a man-No, our Genie is none other than a centuries old Jinni….in the female form. Her name? Zahra.
“What did Caspida want?”
“To talk about elephants and dead queens.”
“Oh, stop frowning. She asked about you too-what you’re like, what kind of person you are. Don’t worry.” I pat his hand conspiratorially and smile. “I lied.”
I will admit-I didn’t think I’d like this twist. But from the moment Aladdin met Zahra, the Jinni (Genie), their spark was unmistakable. I mean, no, it wasn’t insta-love, love at first sight, or even friendship at first sight-But, from the very beginning, Aladdin’s beautiful compassion, loyalty, and determination were something that glued your eyes to the page, made your heart beat in time with his own as he went through each perilous activity, and compelled you to fall hard for this kind young man who is known as nothing but a thief…but is so much more.
He looks down, one of his hands moving closer, until the back of one finger comes to rest on my wrist. I stare at it, unable to breathe. My skin warms under that gentle contact. “You saved my life twice already. That doesn’t sound heartless.”
And Zahra-she captured you from the moment she is freed from the lamp. Hardened by years of servitude, loneliness, and an event that shaped the way people look at Jinnis forever, yet she still jumps to defend and protect our Aladdin from the beginning…no matter what the rules say. Yes, as you can most likely remember (I mean, Aladdin was beloved by almost everyone! I sure know it was a top two or three movie for me in the Disney era) there were many rules that came along with the Genie and the magic three wishes. And, in this story, the stakes are even higher. Not only are there guidelines in which the master of the lamp must abide by, but also, there’s a much more to be afraid of…..Now, for each wish you make, there is a price to pay. Each wish can be twisted, manipulated, and turned into something nasty and unforgiving, a feat our young Aladdin didn’t have to deal with in our beloved animated story.
A force, writing below. Not human. But then it is gone, and when I try to pursue it, I nearly go too far from the lamp. I stop, frozen at the edge of my unseen leash, and stand for several long minutes, unable to go forward, afraid to go back.
But probably the most dangerous and appealing rule that can never be broken….is not to fall in love with a Jinni.
I lift my eyes skyward and start to lean away, but then Aladdin reaches out and grabs my wrist, stopping me. I look up at him questioningly, and freeze.
His eyes are staring deep into mine, suddenly curious and thoughtful, and a strange wind rustles through my body. I go very still, not even breathing, as his hand lifts and he runs his finger so gently, so softly, along my jaw. He gazes at me as if seeing me for the first time, his lips just slightly parted.
That’s right, everyone, you heard me correctly: Forbidden love is the name of the game…and Aladdin is drunk in love with his Genie.
From the very beginning he had a soft spot for the misunderstood girl hidden in the lamp, even as she repeatedly told him she could manipulate anyone and everyone and immediately make all his hopes and dreams crumble into ashes. He didn’t believe she could possibly be that evil after subtlety saving him time and time again even though one of her rules is to not interfere with what is going on with her master unless it is wished upon. It’s clear they were closer than they ever should have been…yet they both couldn’t seem to pull away when they needed to most.
“You are worth every risk. I know what I want, Zahra. Do you?”
And, come on….ALADDIN!!! He was just…he was just beyond words perfect. I’ve seen a couple remakes of this book, and I know they were just horrible, from what I’d heard. And then there was The Wrath and the Dawn, which I’m not sure if it was a remake or not, but it was EPIC. So there is both good and bad for this story being retold. What makes this one different? I can’t really tell you. All I know is this: The writing was absolutely breathtaking and beautiful. The forbidden romance between Aladdin and Zahra was stunning and I could not breathe when I was reading about one of their secret moments. The re-telling was crafted in a way that made it impossible not to fall head over heels in love immediately. And Aladdin??? He was just fucking perfect.
I reach out and brush Aladdin’s hair back, my fingers lingering in his black curls. I can feel his life force crackling like sparks on my skin. So bright, so brilliant this moral boy, here and gone so quickly, a strike of lightening.
Loyal, intelligent, and fiercely protective of his girl, Zahra, I couldn’t help but to fall in love with him, you know?? Another boy in 2016 who immediately went onto my list, I didn’t even have to THINK about it after I had finished. It isn’t often I fall so deeply in love with both the book and the boy, but thus is the case with this masterpiece. And it’s no secret that I am obsessed with re-tellings, the good ones are just so rare and few and far-between. Aladdin’s breaking barriers to keep the lamp and Zahra safe resonated deeply within me, even as his world began to spiral downward into the dark abyss. His artfully crafted web of lies began to ensnare him, slowly but surely, just as the spider was meant to snare those in the castle. What?? I can be weird, I like what I like, OKAY? Jeez.
The chaotic roar of the fight fades away, replaced by a deafening rush of wind. Aladdin crushes me against his chest, his arms wrapped tightly around me, and he presses his lips to my forehead.
“Together,” he whispers. “No matter what.”
So, you know, I wanted to write a fangirl review on Friday right after I finished it and felt like gushing, but didn’t have the time (That real life I was talking about). Now I’m calm and have thought rationally (Not near as fun)-I wish I could have written this review then, but I think some of the crazy seeped through, didn’t it?? Either way, my message is clear and simple: Read the book. There are not many re-tellings that break the boundaries and excel in ways others have crashed and burned, but this is one of those that I don’t think you’d want to miss. Beautifully crafted with writing that draws you in at each and every turn, it is a winner in all ways, in my opinion, and is not to be missed. And hey!! Not only did it make me love the boy and the story, but also broke another wall in Chelsea’s harsh exterior: I NEED THIS ON MY BOOKSHELF-STAT!
(Belated B-day read for Banana!!!)
This book…I just…I can’t even…
I didn’t even want to read this book.
I mean, it was for Banana, so I couldn’t not read it for her-As creepy as it sounds, I’d follow her into a flaming inferno if she told me to read a book: I trust her with my life. That’s right, my book life is in her hands lol. My point in all this, if you will, is that this book, this story, these characters….they became an instant favorite. Hands down. End of story. My heart…it is in pieces. And my stomach?? Still tied up in knots.
Rif raf…street rat…
I don’t buy that… Lmao
RTC on Monday. I have all the words right now, but I’m at work so they will have to wait…unfortunately. Damn it.