Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems in Fantasy

Top Ten Tuesday(9)

Hello fellow book lovers!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is Hidden Gems in whichever genre you’d like to pick! Of course I adore hidden gem recommendations and I have more than a few to give but fantasy is my most read genre so that’s the genre I went with. Some of these may be a little more iffy as far as having them be considered fantasy but there are fantasy elements none the less and most of them are 100% pure fantasy. Some of my choices also might be a little more popular than others and some of you may not consider them a “hidden” gem but they still aren’t super popular so I’d like to recommend them!

I will link up each title to my full review as well if you’d like to be convinced some more to add these to your TBR! Also these aren’t in any particular order!

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10.) Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1) by Christina Henry

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This is more of a horror book than anything but it still counts as fantasy in my mind especially since it’s a dark retelling of “Alice in Wonderland”. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s truly terrifying, graphic, brutal, and violent and yet it’s still an addictive story. I highly recommend reading it if you’re looking for a unique retelling!

You can read my full review of “Alice” here.


9.) Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

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A collection of three short fairy tale-esque stories all revolving around a kiss but trust me when I say it’s not the gushy romance fest you think it would be! Laini Taylor’s writing is gorgeous and she weaves together such creative tales with mythology of her own making, these stories are fantastic. Plus the illustrations are gorgeous as well!

You can read my full review of “Lips Touch: Three Times” here.


8.) The Impostor Queen (The Impostor Queen #1) by Sarah Fine

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This is such an underrated fantasy novel it isn’t even fair! The magic system is one of the best I’ve come across with both fire and ice users but the magic doesn’t come without it’s costs. The Valtia is the queen of the land who is the only wielder of both ice and fire magic and when she dies it passes on to the next but when the magic doesn’t enter Elli she is forced to flee. Great characters and great world building, go give this book some more love!

You can read my full review of “The Impostor Queen” here.


7.) The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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This book is a little more well known but still not enough in my eyes! It’s an Aladdin retelling where the genie is female and they have a relationship, it’s got some great world building, badass female characters, and gorgeous writing! What more could you want?

You can read my full review of “The Forbidden Wish” here.


6.) Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Cordova

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Not only does this book have a gorgeous cover and diverse characters but it’s also filled with magic and a very Wonderland-esque adventure. Alex is a bruja (a witch) and wants to rid herself of her powers but when she tries her whole family vanishes into thin air.

You can read my full review of “Labyrinth Lost” here.


5.) Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

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I recommend this book ALL the time and it’s probably the book on here I feel is the most underrated. It has a great story, world building, and characters plus on top of all of that it has four retellings weaved into the plot which include: Sleep Beauty, Cinderella, Hua Mulan, and Jane Austen’s Emma. It’s a fantastic story!

You can read my full review of “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” here.


4.) The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

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This is a dark fantasy featuring a witch with the gift of necromancy who goes to train under another bone witch. She must control her powers if she is going to aid her fellow witches with the war that is brewing in the kingdoms. I really loved how dark and sometimes creepy this book got especially with the necromancy, great world building too!

You can read my full review of “The Bone Witch” here.


3.) Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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Once again this one is a little more popular so it may not be considered a true hidden gem but it’s not a book I see tons of people talking about all of the time either. This is a Peter Pan retelling revolving around the character Tiger Lily, her backstory, and her relationship with Peter. It’s a darker version of Neverland and you’ll definitely be heart broken by the end.

You can read my full review of “Tiger Lily” here.


2.) The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen #1) by Emily R. King

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A girl raised by the Sisterhood is chosen to be the Rajah’s 100th wife and she must fight in gladiator style battles against his other 99 wives in order to secure her place. This book is full of magic and some badass females, it may not be the best written book ever but it was highly addictive and entertaining!

You can read my full review of “The Hundredth Queen” here.


1.) Mask of Shadows (Untitled #1) by Linsey Miller

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This book is pretty hyped up at the moment but still isn’t receiving as much hype as it should. This is everything I wanted and expected “Throne of Glass” to be with the brutal competition to be the Queen’s assassin, plus we get a genderfluid main character!

You can read my full review of “Mask of Shadows” here.

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Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

What are some of your hidden gems in YA fantasy?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

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Books With Romances I Actually Enjoyed

Top Ten Tuesday(77)

Hello my fellow book lovers!

I think it’s safe to say if you’ve been following me for a bit that you all know that I am not the biggest fan of YA romances, romance heavy plots, or just the romance genre in general. However, I promise you my heart is not completely made of ice! Here are a few of books that had romances that melted even my heart!

Also just a fun little side note that I had “We Go Together” from Grease stuck in my head the entire time I wrote this for some reason:

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So of course I’m going to be talking freely about the romances in these books and why I loved them so much and as a result there will be potential spoilers for some of the books. Some books it comes pretty obvious who is going to get involved with who but a few of these are surprises so here is the spoiler warning!

**** Please note that there are potential romance related  spoilers for the following books: The Night Circus, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Queens of Geek, The Diabolic, And I Darken, My Lady Jane, The Forbidden Wish, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Winner’s Curse, and Six of Crows!!*****

Anyways! I will link up my full reviews for each title if I have them!

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Celia and Marco’s romance is subtle, magical, and star-crossed what’s not to love about all of that? Their romance does have elements of insta-love but I honestly didn’t mind it at all since it felt like they were fated to be together from the very first pages (which of course they were since that’s what the book is about but you get what I mean!). They’re the kind of pairing that felt destined, like soul mates and I couldn’t wait for them to be together!

I don’t have a full review up for this book unfortunately, I just don’t know how to review it!


The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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This romance is between Aladdin and Zahra, the genie of the lamp, and as the title implies it’s a bit of a forbidden relationship. There were no tropes present here at all and Aladdin and Zahra’s relationship actually takes quite a while to develop, a nice slow-burn romance if you will. I was so desperate for them to get together while reading and was so satisfied when it finally happened!

You can read my full review of “The Forbidden Wish” here.


The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

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I don’t think I’ve shipped a paring so hard in a long time! Monty and Percy were straight up adorable and I think what made me ship it even harder was that they were both so clueless to the other’s feelings that they spent a majority of the book thinking their love was unrequited! They’ve been friends forever though and we start the book with both of them secretly loving the other so there aren’t any tropes such as insta-love here!

I do have a full review up for this book!

I just can’t link it since both posts were pre-scheduled as I am currently on vacation sorry for the inconvenience but if you’d like to read it you can search for it under my review index or search bar!


Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

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Love, love, loved the romances in this book! There are two different relationships that develop throughout the story and that would be between Taylor x Jamie who have been friends for a while already and Charlie x Alyssa two YouTube vloggers we also get to see some awesome diversity here since Charlie is Chinese-Australian and Alyssa is African- American and both are bisexual. Plus on top of all of that the romances are just so positive, fluffy, and adorable!

You can read my full review of “Queens of Geek” here.


The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

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Nemesis and Tyrus kind of  had a “forbidden love” romance and there were definitely NO tropes or cliches with it either this was a complete slow burn romance and it definitely is secondary to the plot. I think that Nemesis and Tyrus fit so well together because they’re both ruthless but also with a strong underlying goodness to them. I also spent a good chunk of the book waiting for them to just love each other already! 

You can read my full review of “The Diabolic” here.


And I Darken by Kiersten White

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The romance definitely isn’t the only thing going on in this book which is probably part of why I liked it so much, it was more in the background. There definitely isn’t any insta-love at all and it’s actually quite a slow-burn romance, however, there is a love triangle but it isn’t your typical love triangle since it’s two sibling competing for the same man and is completely unrequited on the one side. It’s actually really complicated now that I think about it….

Anyways I really wanted Lada and Mehmed to get together just because they both spent so much time pining after one another in secret. The tension! I just wanted them to kiss!

You can read my full review of “And I Darken” here.


My Lady Jane by Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton, and Cynthia Hand

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While this may not be the most swoon-worthy romance to me it was still amazing because it was slow-burn and trope-free! Jane and Gifford were extremely cute and adorable and I loved how they disliked each other right away but slowly grew to care for one another by being themselves. It was realistic!

You can read my full review of “My Lady Jane” here.


The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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This was one of those books that I thought was going to be a mess of YA romance tropes but fortunately I was proved very wrong! There is no insta-love, no love triangles, or anything! Kestrel and Aren’s romance is very much slow-burn and forbidden love but I loved all of it! I felt that both characters were just really good for each other as well.

You can read my full review of “The Winner’s Curse” here.


Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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The romance between Karou and Akiva is a little rocky for me because on one hand it’s very much insta-love (even though that’s justified later on) but on the other hand I loved the forbidden romance elements in this story. I think when characters can’t be together my brain rebels and declares “THEY MUST BE TOGETHER NOW!”, I’m seeing a pattern here. I digress, I really liked how well developed their romance was though and blame any misgivings I have on the romance due to the fact that I’m not the hugest fan of Akiva in the first place…I’m just not.

You can read my full review of “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” here.


Honorable Mentions

(aka romances I also enjoyed but not enough to go into great detail)

  • Alice by Christina Henry
  • The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  • Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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Have you read any of these books as well? What did you think?

Did you enjoy any of these romances or not so much?

What are some of your favorite bookish romances?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

Book Recommendations: Retellings

Top Ten Tuesday(76)

Hello fellow book lovers!

Time for a couple more book recommendations! Woohoo! I absolutely love giving out book recommendations but unfortunately I don’t have a ton to ever recommend usually since I read so many different genres and sometimes I don’t like the book! However, I have a decent amount of retellings that I adored so I wanted to share a couple of them with all of you!

I will provide links to my full reviews of each book if you want some more details!

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Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1) by Christina Henry

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This is one of my most favorite books of all time and definitely one of the top retellings! This is a very, very dark, horrific, and graphic version of “Alice in Wonderland” where the characters we all know and love are twisted versions of themselves. I have to say it’s one of the most unique retellings I’ve ever come across since it takes elements of the original story and does so many different things with them including making them absolutely horrifying.

So if you’re a fan of Alice retellings and aren’t afraid to see the darkest side of it then definitely check this one out!

You can read my full review of “Alice” here.


Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Another wonderful “Alice in Wonderland” retelling that is also an origin story for the Queen of Hearts character. While the beginning half of the book was pretty slow and filled with descriptions of food and moony eyes, the end half was full of action and plot twists! It was really fun getting to see all of the different characters come into play as well!

You can read my full review of “Heartless” here.


The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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This is an AMAZING “Aladdin” retelling where the genie is a female and falls in love with Aladdin. However, there is plenty of action and great world building so this isn’t just a romance focused story! On top of the unique plot there is Khoury’s beautiful writing, seriously it’s just so gorgeous and made reading this book such a breeze! There is also some kickass feminist themes as well since Princess Caspida and her Watchmaidens are basically Robin Hood and are super badass.

You can read my full review of “The Forbidden Wish” here.


Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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A “Peter Pan” retelling that centeralizes around the character of Tiger Lily, it’s narrated by Tinkerbell as she watches Tiger Lily grow and eventually watches the romance the develops between her and Peter Pan. It’s a very warped version of Neverland that we see in this story it’s dark and very saddening. Overall I highly recommend reading this one just for the unique take on Neverland as well as the story of Tiger Lily but be warned you’re probably going to cry!

You can read my full review of “Tiger Lily” here.


Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry

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Another “Peter Pan” retelling but, as the title states, it’s the origin story of Captain Hook. Like with “Alice” Christina Henry takes the Neverland we all know and love and flips it upside down, this is a dark and very gritty version filled with many horrors both monstrous and more realistic. Trust me when I say you probably won’t be the biggest fan of Peter anymore……

You can read my full review of “Lost Boy” here.


Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

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This is it’s own unique story but it also weaves in four other retellings throughout as well. That’s right, four! We get to see Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hua Mulan, and Jane Austen’s Emma and while I can’t really speak for the Emma retelling I can tell you the other three are well represented within the main story line. I recommend checking this book out for the great story and world building alongside the retellings too!

You can read my full review of “Kingdom of Ash and Briars” here.


The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

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This is a “Little Mermaid” retelling with a F/F romance and quite a bit of Norse mythology weaved in as well. While I did have a couple problems with this book I generally did really enjoy it and thought it was a really unique take on the “Little Mermaid” story as well as adding in a bunch of original elements as well.

You can read my full review of “The Seafarer’s Kiss” here.

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Have you read any of these books yet? What did you think?

What are some of your favorite retellings?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

Top 5 Wednesday: Books That Aren’t Set in the Western World

Top Ten Tuesday(1)

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey @ Ginger Reads Lainey. You can check out the group’s Goodreads page for this month’s topics!

This week’s topic is books that aren’t set in or inspired by the Western World, so nothing in North America or Western Europe! That also means no Fantasy or Sci-fi that may have been inspired by these places so nothing medieval based in a fantasy for example!

This is such a fun topic that calls for us to really think outside the box and opens the way for us to potentially find more diverse reads!

These are also in NO particular order and if I have reviews I will link them up as well!

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5.) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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While this is YA fantasy not directly set in the real world it’s pretty clearly based off of Russia and Russian culture. Therefore I’m just going to say it counts! It’s also a very well written, fast paced, heist book and I say the hype is worth it!

You can read my full review of “Six of Crows” here.


4.) And I Darken by Kiersten White

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This is a historical retelling with a gender bent Vlad the Impaler as one of the main characters. It’s set in the 1400s in both Wallachia, which is modern day Romania, and the Ottoman Empire, which is mostly modern day Turkey.

I personally thought White did her research very well for this story!

You can read my full review of “And I Darken” here.


3.) The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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This is a 1,001 Nights (a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories) retelling set in the Middle East and it also has some fantasy elements but they’re clearly inspired by Middle Eastern culture as well.

You can read my mini review of “The Wrath & The Dawn” here.


2.) The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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This is a YA fantasy story but it’s also a retelling of “Aladdin and His Wondrous Lamp” which is a story from 1,001 Nights (which as stated above is a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories). The story and it’s setting are inspired by the Middle East.

You can read my full review of “The Forbidden Wish” here.


1.) Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

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This is a fantasy and steampunk story that was inspired by Japan or the Eastern World if you will. I, personally, really enjoyed this book but I have heard people mention that it was not researched very well and the Japanese vocabulary wasn’t used correctly. That’s why I’m saying the book is “inspired by” versus saying “based on” and I acknowledge other people’s claims that this wasn’t necessarily the best book as far as the cultural representation goes.

However, it’s still inspired by the Eastern World so I decided it applies here and as I said I did still enjoy the story. It’s nice to see steampunk elements in a book that isn’t set in Western Europe!

You can read my full review of “Stormdancer” here.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

What are some books you’ve read or have on your TBR that aren’t set in the Western World?

Do you have any recommendations?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

Book Review: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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description

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.

review

At first I had my doubts about this book, I’m usually not a fan of YA romances, but with all of the glowing reviews it was receiving I had to check it out. Plus look at that gorgeous cover! I’m so glad I took a chance on “The Forbidden Wish” because everything about it was utter perfection I don’t have a single complaint about this book. It’s not your typical YA romance or retelling, it really breaks the mold and it’s quite simply…magical.

PLOT

The story this book tells is wonderful it’s filled with magic, jinn, and one heck of a romance. The romance is pretty heavy in this book but it isn’t the sole focus, there’s actually a plot outside of the romance which is why I ended up liking the romance in the end. Because it wasn’t the only thing going on in the book. So while this book is very much a romance, for you un-romantics (like me) please don’t let that deter you because this book has so much more to offer!

There’s a solid amount of world-building and mythology, we get information on the different types of jinn as well as their home world and why humans don’t get along well with them. I really appreciated the attention to such details because Khoury could have just thrown a jinni into the book and not have any sort of back story or mythology to go along with it. While “The Forbidden Wish” is very much a romance I really liked that it maintained YA fantasy elements as well,  I’m a stickler for world building in fantasy settings and this one didn’t disappoint.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the way Zahra narrates the story, she addresses “Habiba” throughout the tale and slowly reveals who she was and what she meant to Zahra as the plot unfolds. Of course as we learn about “Habiba” we also learn about Zahra’s past as well, this added so much more to the plot and I loved how it blended the past and present together and it really made for a more interesting reading experience.

The writing in “The Forbidden Wish” is really one of the most stunning things about it. I know I talk a lot about pretty writing but Khoury’s is exceptional! There’s so much detail in her descriptions that you could picture everything vividly and you could practically feel the magic in her words. I could honestly reread this book over and over again just for the writing.

characters

I’ve got two words to describe the characters in “The Forbidden Wish”: Girl Power. Sure there’s Aladdin and few other male characters but they really pale in comparison to the women in this book.

Zahra is an all-powerful, badass, feisty, and clever jinni. However, at the same time she’s imperfect and lonely and all she wants is to be free to do as she pleases with her life. Romance isn’t the first and foremost thought in her head, she desires freedom. I actually really liked how selfish Zahra was because as I said she was an imperfect character, Zahra wants her freedom no matter the cost and she loves the people she cares about fiercely no matter the cost. I loved the depth to her character, Zahra is a fantastic heroine.

Then we have Princess Caspida and her Watchmaidens, remember how I said Zahra was badass? Well these girls are even more badass. Honestly I wish the book would have spent some more time on these ladies because they were a little more interesting than Zahra and Aladdin. Caspida wants what is best for her people and actually does something about it, she fights and does everything in her power to undermine her uncle’s (he’s our Jafar) hold on the city. They’re the embodiment of Girl Power, seriously.

I’m a little undecided about my feelings on Aladdin, I think I like Disney Aladdin a little more but he’s not a terrible character. He just didn’t feel as developed as the women, or maybe in all of the kickass, awesome light of Zahra, Caspida, and the Watchmaidens he just couldn’t compete. Honestly, he’s more of a secondary character because the women in “The Forbidden Wish” take more of the central role. Although I will say he was reckless in the adorable way that Disney Aladdin was.

There are also some secondary characters that have a sliver of development but are mostly devices used to set certain plot points into motion. We have Caspida’s father, the Sultan, as well as her uncle, the vizier, (our Jafar, if you will) and his son who is betrothed to Caspida (our Iago). I think you’ll have more fun making comparisons between these characters and the Disney ones than you will reading about them, however they are important to the story. We also have some jinni that make a few appearances such as Nardukha, King of the Jinn, and his son, the prince. All make quite formidable villains as well, even if they aren’t quite as developed as our main characters.

romance

This book is all about that romance and I was won over by it and trust me when I tell you that’s no easy feat. It takes quite a lot impress me with a YA romance since they’re usually so riddled with tropes such as insta-love and love triangles. Neither of these are present in this book and it’s such a breath of fresh air. No insta-love.

Aladdin and Zahra’s romance is “forbidden” because he is human and she is jinn, which results in a very slow burn romance because Zahra knows she can’t be with him or they’ll both end up paying the price. She tries to keep her distance in order to spare Aladdin but she slowly falls for him and honestly I shipped them so much by the end of the book. I really enjoyed their romance.

Although at a point during the story Aladdin tries to win over Caspida to further his own agenda and I kind of would have liked to see a romance between these two. She is after all our badass “Princess Jasmine”, I don’t know it’s just something I personally would have liked to happen. Don’t get me wrong I loved Aladdin with Zahra but it would have been interesting to have it play out the other way as well.

in conclusion

Overall I LOVED this book and honestly found nothing wrong with it at all. It has excellent world-building, characters, and even I was won over by the romance. My only problem with it is that it’s a stand alone! I would love to read more of Zahra and Aladdin’s adventures! “The Forbidden Wish” is definitely one of my new favorites.

RECOMMEND

I highly recommend reading this book especially if you love retellings and even if you don’t like books heavy on the romance I think you should give it a try anyways, I mean after all I loved it and I am not a romance reader.

Honestly I just recommend this for everyone, if I could buy you all copies so you’d read it I would!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon

The Sassy