Book Review: The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) by Evelyn Skye

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Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

review

This book was one of my most anticipated releases of 2016 and I was very, very excited to read it but then the negative reviews started trickling out among the positive ones and I began to question whether I should read “The Crown’s Game” or not. I definitely should not have wasted  my time. This has got to be one of the most disappointing books this year because of how high my expectations were and how badly this book failed.

PLOT

Let me start out by saying this book wasn’t completely awful hence the two star rating instead of one star but it is incredibly unoriginal. If you’ve ever read even one YA fantasy book then don’t even bother with this because it’s nothing new.

I would say the biggest let down of this entire book was the fact that this is supposed to be a magical battle to the DEATH and all we got were parlor tricks that were so unbelievably underwhelming. You’re supposed to be trying to kill each other not painting buildings with your magic for crying out loud! So freaking boring! The magic might as well not have even been included because it was essentially pointless. These two enchanters are supposed to be the most powerful people in Russia and they can’t even summon something spectacular to kill their opponent? What wasted potential.

There was no world-building, no mythology for this version of Fantasy Russia, and no explanations for ANYTHING. We basically are just set adrift in this world and are supposed to be content with no background and no fantasy elements in a FANTASY BOOK! You want to know what supposedly made this book fantasy? The magic. That’s it and even that was disappointing.

There’s next to no action at all and what action there was were the displays of magical “power” which as I’ve said were incredibly dull. The entirety of this plot is romance, which I’ll get to in a bit and so there’s hardly any story to speak of. The pacing was slow and I was generally uninterested throughout my entire reading and it’s really a miracle I didn’t DNF this book.

What I did like was the setting, even though I would have liked a lot more depth to it, I did like this Fantasy version of Russia. I also liked a few (very few) points in the story that I found to be interesting such as a couple of the twists even if they were pretty predictable. I didn’t think the story was completely awful since I did manage to finish this book but it was not what I was lead to believe it was about.

Then there’s the ending…..which I found to be anti-climatic and left me completely disinterested in reading the sequel. I already know where the next book is headed and honestly there’s no point in torturing myself with this series anymore.

characters

Flat, uninteresting, and absolutely no depth to these characters. I could have cared less about any of them which is pretty bad considering I’m supposed to fear for their lives since they have to try and kill each other off. We didn’t really get any insight into Vika or Nikolai and they didn’t have any flaws, they were essentially perfect little special snowflakes. Which in my opinion made them very boring and unrelatable because let’s face it we all know perfect people don’t exist and I don’t want characters to be THAT unrealistic.

That’s really all the words I’ll waste on the characters.

romance

Where do I even start with this? First of all the romance is the sole focus of the story, it definitely takes center stage over the “magical death battle”.  Which annoys the living crap out of me when I was promised said magical death battle and all I got was a book littered with your typical YA romance tropes.

First of all we have gag-inducing insta-love and eye-roll worthy love triangles. Both of which are represented in the usual, annoying, run of the mill ways. Nothing original or unique about the romance at all! Overall I felt like it was way too over the top and used to provide more drama and suspense to the plot and it just did not work at all.

in conclusion

“The Crown’s Game” is one huge disappointment to me and while it had a few minor things to save it from a one star rating I still think it was a waste of my reading time.

What I Liked:

  • The Fantasy Russian setting
  • A few plot points that maintained my interest

What I Disliked:

  • Slow pacing
  • No action
  • Misleading premise
  • No world building
  • Flat, boring characters
  • An extremely trope-riddled romance

RECOMMEND

No I can’t say I would recommend this book to anyone and even if you’re a fan of YA fantasy (which I am as well) I would skip this one because it’s nothing new. For you YA romance fans I can’t honestly say for sure (I am not a romance fan) but I think this romance was far too dramatic and unoriginal.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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ARC Review: This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

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No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.

Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the District Attorney’s Office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.

Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As she and Stone investigate—the ageing prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot—she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own.

review

**** Big thank you to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review****

I could tell this was going to be a YA mystery/thriller that I would love and I definitely was not wrong! From the first page I was hooked and every time I had to set this down I could not wait to pick it back up again because I needed answers! “This Is Our Story” is a fantastic, compelling book but I did have some minor issues with it which is why it didn’t receive a 5 star rating.

PLOT

I won’t talk about the details of the plot too much because I definitely do not want to spoil anything for you all since there are more than a few twists you won’t see coming!

My attention was immediately grabbed right at the beginning of the story I was instantly drawn into the mystery of what happened to Grant (the boy that was shot) and who did it. This story is extremely fast-paced and trust me when I say you’ll be turning pages until you reach the conclusion!

I also loved that I didn’t figure out who did it until it was revealed at the end because the plot gives you just enough information without actually giving anything away. The story is told from two perspectives one from Kate who works as an intern in the DA’s office and the other from the shooter but we also get perspective through the use of interrogation videos and old text messages. All of these things added so much atmosphere and suspense to the book.

One of my gripes about the plot were that I thought SOME parts were a little predictable and that’s just a personal opinion, it’s frustrating for me to guess something and have it take the main character forever to come to the same conclusion. However, these were just some minor things and not any of the major plot twists I definitely didn’t see the big ones coming.

The other problem I had was the ending was that, while it was satisfying and made sense and the shooter’s identity was a still a surprise, was that I thought it was just sort of anti-climatic. There wasn’t some completely crazy, mind-blowing ending to the story like I kind of thought there would be. Like I said though that’s just my opinion and it could be completely different for you if you read it!

characters

The characters were very well done and I liked them and hated them by which I mean the good kind of hate of course. I also thought they were very well developed, complex, and realistic.

I really liked Kate I thought she was a very smart and determined heroine and I thought her narrative was very fun to read through.

The friendship between Kate and her best friend Reagan was very well portrayed as well and even though it wasn’t a big focus in the story I appreciated seeing a strong, loyal girl friendship.

The River Point boys were also very well depicted and I liked how flawed they were all shown as being. I won’t elaborate too much on them since that’s part of the joy of reading this book!

romance

Meh, the romance was okay and I liked that it wasn’t too big of a factor in the story too.

One thing that actually bothered me a lot about these two (I won’t say who the other is because spoilers) was that I felt at times Kate put her romantic feelings over doing what was right for the case she was helping on. That irritated the living hell out of me! Like hellooooooo I think the confidential information for the case your working on is a little more important than your crush!

This was another reason I didn’t give a full 5 star rating, stupid decisions, while I respect that our heroine is flawed I thought the complete lack of common sense at times was a little too idiotic.

in conclusion

I enjoyed “This Is Our Story” very, very much despite having just a few minor issues with it. I thought it was a great fast-paced, suspenseful, and thrilling book!

What I Liked:

  • Great plot twists
  • Unpredictable ending
  • Interesting narrative style
  • Fast pacing
  • Complex characters

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Some predictable minor twists
  • The ending was kind of anti-climatic
  • Romance had some irritating points

RECOMMEND

Absolutely! I think this book would actually be enjoyable for pretty much anyone who likes YA there’s nothing about it that I think wouldn’t appeal to everyone. I would say if you like very original, fast paced YA mystery/thrillers then you’ll definitely love “This Is Our Story”.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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description

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

review

This book pretty much met every expectation I had for it:

  • A brutal, fierce, warrior heroine
  • A complex, thrilling plot
  • Tons of detail and overall development
  • Action, betrayal, and revenge galore!

So I guess you could say I was definitely not disappointed and very much impressed with this book and I cannot wait for the sequel!

PLOT

“And I Darken” basically has everything I love in a fantasy book but this is actually historical fiction which may surprise some people, it’s a “retelling” of history in which Lada (the main character) is Vlad the Impaler. It was very, very interesting to read this book and then look up the corresponding history and make comparisons between the two this also may just be me since I’m a big history geek. Just a fun little tidbit there….

This book covers quite a large time span as we witness Lada and Radu’s birth, childhood, and growth into young adults. That being said I thought the pacing was pretty spot on, it wasn’t necessarily very fast paced the entire time and I never found myself truly bored while reading although I will say it lost a bit of steam in the middle.

As I said above this story has so much detail and complexity it’s practically mind blowing, there’s so many things going on and yet it wasn’t confusing to follow at all. A lot of the story revolves around war and politics…but mostly politics and I loved it. The best way for me to describe the plot is to compare it to a spider’s web, there are so many different threads going different ways and interconnecting everything. There are so many twists and turns and you just don’t know what will happen next a lot of it is completely unpredictable.

The setting was also very interesting we almost never see any YA Fiction books set in Eastern Europe especially as far back as the 1400’s. I don’t claim to be an expert on 1400’s Eastern European history but I thought Kiersten White did an excellent job making the setting feel as authentic as possible. Another thing that really adds to this is the addition of the religions, albeit subtle,  of Christianity and Islam and how the characters felt about each. And none of the historical or religious facts every felt preachy or like we were being info-dumped on.

characters

The characters in “And I Darken” are probably the best part of the entire book. They are brutal, complex, morally ambiguous, and despicable…… I adored them all. I was 100% invested in Lada and Radu’s characters I cared so deeply about both of them and a lot of what kept me reading was wanting to know what would happen to them.

Lada is one of my all time favorite characters now she is mentioned in the description of the book as brutal and brutal she most definitely is as well as fierce and just an all around badass. She is the total opposite of your typical YA heroine, she is no special snowflake that’s for sure. Lada is resilient and relentless in her desires she will not stop fighting until she has what she wants.

Radu, Lada’s younger brother, is the polar opposite of his sister. Where she is brutal, physically strong, and violent he is vulnerable, book-smart, and kind. I think I enjoyed seeing Radu come out of his shell the most, he’s quiet and pays attention to details others would overlook and is very key in some of the politics of the book because of the secrets and information he learns.

Big plus with this book? One of the strongest sibling relationships I’ve had the pleasure of reading about. I loved Lada and Radu because they got stuck in the same siutaion together and trust only one another, the bond is so strong between these too. They do some messed up stuff in order to protect each other at any cost.

Of course then we have one other very important chief character (although he does not narrate) and a slew of very complex and interesting secondary characters. I’ve said this many times before but I’ll say it again: if you want to impress me with your book you better have some well developed secondary characters. “And I Darken” certainly delivered on this front too.

romance

This was an aspect of the book where I’m unsure what to really say about it because it was about as complex as everything else! There is a bit of a love triangle although it definitely is NOT your typical love triangle there are a lot of different factors that get mixed in with it so it definitely is not the kind we all dislike so strongly in our YA books. I would explain more but I don’t want to spoil the surprise!!!!

Just know that while I shipped the romance(s) so hard, they were also very frustrating to read about! I mean this in the best possible way because I sat the entire time like this:

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Basically I approve of the romance in this book and that almost never happens.

in conclusion

I absolutely loved this book and the only reason I docked 0.5 stars is because I felt it didn’t quite live up to the other books I did give 5 stars to.

What I Liked:

  • The setting (as I said it’s a rare one)
  • Genderswapped Vlad the Impaler
  • The complexity of the plot
  • Well developed characters
  • Interesting (ship-worthy) romances

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The pacing slowed the tiniest bit in the middle

RECOMMEND

I highly, highly recommend taking a look at this book! If you love fantasy I think you’ll really enjoy “And I Darken” because while it isn’t fantasy itself it has all of the war and politics games you find and enjoy in fantasy books.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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ARC Review: Glitter by Aprilynne Pike

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description

Outside the palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century—with the added bonus of technology to make court life lavish, privileged, and frivolous. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison.
When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play . . . blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates.
Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed.
But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take.

review

**** Big thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review****

I was actually quite pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book but I just couldn’t bring myself to give it a full 4 star review. However, don’t let the 3.5 stars fool you! This is not only a very good book but also one that is extremely unique.

Also I’d like to just take a moment to appreciate how gorgeous that cover is, am I right?

PLOT

I don’t even know where to start with this story, it is so unique and wonderfully strange that it was almost a bit confusing at times because of its strangeness. There were a lot of different things going on all at once and it was also pretty fast-paced so there was rarely a boring moment with all of the betrayals, secrets, and blackmail. I have to say I am a sucker for these kinds of stories where there’s a lot of lies and manipulation.

Dani is essentially living a nightmare when the story starts out she is living in a court she cares nothing for, with a conniving mother, and engaged to a sadistic king. So one can only imagine how desperately she wants to get away and escape, unfortunately, she doesn’t have the money or resources to. This results ultimately in Dani selling the drug Glitter in order to raise the money she needs to escape. You can also imagine all the things that can go wrong with this as well, right? That sets the stage for a very dramatic plot and that’s exactly what we get.

I also loved the clash of genres we have here it was like a mix of historical fiction, dystopia, and fantasy. Everyone in the palace acts and dresses as if they actually do live in 18th century France but in reality they live in the not so distant future with many different technologies. Basically it had a bit of everything and it worked, the setting was just so interesting and unique. There was also no info-dumping I really liked how Aprilynne Pike gave information about the world at just the right pace to keep me satisfied without feeling overwhelmed.

The the writing was very simple and easy to follow but also highly addictive, once I got into the story it was hard to put down. I thought it used just the right amount of description throughout the story and really let you get a feel for the atmosphere Pyke created.

However, the ending is quite the cliffhanger which I don’t really mind so much because it made me want more and had me yelling: “WHAT?! THAT’S IT?!”. Fortunately there is going to be a sequel to help put my questioning mind at ease.

characters

The characters were probably the most disappointing part for me with the exception of Danica, the main character. I wish they all would have been a little more fleshed out and developed because it would have made more of the betrayals and lies a bit more interesting if we knew the characters a bit better and fully understood their motives.

However, I thought Dani was a bit of a grey character because she knows what she’s doing is wrong but does it anyways for her own benefit in other words she’s very selfish and that shows a lot throughout the book. While selfish characters can get annoying I thought Dani had good reasons to act and think the way she does and I thought she made a very good flawed heroine.

romance

As usual I wasn’t too impressed with this romance, however, it was far from cringe-worthy it was just….okay. There was an instant attraction but no insta-love (Thank God!) and I liked that the romance was a bit of a slow burn. I just didn’t really like the two of them together all that much and the chemistry just wasn’t really there. I think we could have gone without the romance in this story at all though.

in conclusion

Overall I did really like this book but it wasn’t something I felt deserved a 4-5 star rating from me.

What I Liked:

  • The unique premise and world-building
  • The setting
  • Danica, the main character
  • Fast pacing
  • Rarely a dull moment

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Lack of other character development
  • Non-exciting romance

RECOMMEND

Yes, I do recommend giving “Glitter” a try especially if you like books that are fast-paced and maybe a little on the ridiculous side! It’s definitely a very unique, fun book.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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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

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