Beautifully written, Jessica Khoury gives you a master-piece as far as retellings go!
The Jinni narrates her story while addressing her Habiba, her dear friend, Queen Roshana, who died five hundred years ago.
“I could stretch for hours, relishing the space around me. But because time is short, I shrink and harden, assembling my wayward tendrils. For the first time in five hundred years, I assume the form I love most.
The form of you, Roshana, my Habiba. Sister of my heart. You of the pure heart and the merry laugh, who taught me joy and called me friend. A princess among men, and a queen among her people.”
And Aladdin (who I think is the most lovable thief of all time), is led to the Jinni’s lamp by the whispers of an ancient ring.
“He twists a ring on his finger, his eyes widening as they settle on the lamp.
It sits on a throne-like chair wrought from iron and rubies, the metal twisted to resemble rose vines. Once, the queen of this city would sit here for hours, reading and meditating, but that was a very long time ago. Now there is only the lamp, gleaming in the diamond light.”
This is where everything begins and a wonderful story of love, loss, friendship and suffering pours forth.
The characters are given such depth and personalities which coupled with their history makes them ideal entities to carry out the role assigned to them perfectly. In short, the characters Khoury wrote fit perfectly in the situation assigned to them.
Caspida was the steel princess who bids her time, while pushed to the side-lines and thinks how to make the best of her situation together with helping her people.
The Watchmaidens are loyal to the core, each displaying her strength in a formidable way.
The villains are nefarious, twisted and dark. Different species they maybe (the Vizier and the Shaitan) but the evil lurking inside them was the same – greed.
And, of course, then we have our protagonists.
Our Jinni had such…an excruciating yet a wonderful past. Her story is going to tear you into pieces. Her meeting with Aladdin is THE moment she’s waiting for five thousand years, though she may not know it at the time. For her it was a five hundred years wait but, in reality, it was a wait of millennia.
"I'm a very good jinni and that is a very bad thing"
Aladdin was the good natured, flirty thief who liked to twist buttons for the fun of it. However, he has a painful past too which is the drive behind his will to steal the ring and what will shape the plot further.
Khoury awakens emotions so raw, they will leave you breathless. She transcends you into another world, another history and another gut-wrenching story.
She wrote with such marvellous, vivid imagery that you’ll be in awe throughout your journey in the book. I couldn't help myself at times and read her descriptions again and again, instead of reading ahead.
“He carries a small torch, which he holds up as he stares into the great cavern, truly no cave at all but a vast, echoing hall, once part of a great palace lost long ago to war and time. Now it lies deep, deep in the desert, one ruin among many, buried beneath layers of sand and memories.”
“Carvings wind up the pillars: gaping lions, winged horses, dragons spitting fire. Jewels embedded in their eyes glow softly, as if watching the boy with silent malice, just as they once watched the bright and colorful people who lived here centuries ago, before their city sank into the sand. This place is haunted by ghosts, and I am one of them.”
“When the dust clears, there is nothing but a glinting blue stretch of sand, pure and virgin, coursed with wind ripples. The only evidence that there ever was a garden of wonders, the only testimony to the great city lost beneath the sand, is a single pale coin that lies on the surface, winking at the moon.”
Such engaging illustrations, no?
It’s a definite re-read and the only price I'll have to pay is sleeplessness!!! :D