A Middle East–inspired fantasy version of “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp.”
Jinni Zahra, long imprisoned in her lamp, has languished for hundreds of years in a dead city as punishment for a mysterious transgression against her kind, one that also resulted in the betrayal of the warrior queen who last held the lamp, whom Zahra still mourns with the term of endearment “Habiba.” A young thief guided by a magic ring finds the city and lamp, freeing her. Other jinn quickly offer her a bargain from their ruler: he will free her from the lamp if she rescues his son, imprisoned in Aladdin’s home city—a deal with a strict time limit. Zahra uses Aladdin’s desire for vengeance against the drug-addled king’s brother—the sadistic power behind the throne—for his revolutionary parents’ deaths and the ill treatment of the peasantry. Aladdin’s audacious and bold but unable to kill, so Zahra offers an alternative revenge: he will seduce and marry the crown princess, become king, and expel his enemies—bringing them to the palace and supporting her mission. But iron-willed Caspida is no typical princess, and Zahra’s feelings for Aladdin steadily grow—despite the taboo against jinni-human love that destroyed her Habiba. Khoury allows Zahra to narrate in the first person, placing her in a distinct fantasy world that draws on Middle Eastern tropes but is no cognate of real-world geography. Though the dynamic ending fully concludes their story, readers will likely long for more stories—say, 1,000 of them.
Dripping in magic, strong women, and forbidden love. (Fantasy. 12 & up)