Zayale is a 15-year-old princess who has just left home forever to marry a prince she’s never met, doesn’t particularly want to meet, and certainly doesn’t want to marry. Najwa is a 15-year-old jinni who has almost completed her training to serve as a spy in the long-running human/jinn war.
On her way to Baghdad, Zayale captures Najwa and forces her to grant her a wish: I wish for you to take my place and send me home. Which is what happens…except that Zayele ends up in Najwa’s home, in the cavern of the jinns.
Basically, Amber Lough’s The Fire Wish is The Parent Trap, except that it’s set in old-timey Iraq and the girls are orphans. Other than the setting, there’s not a whole lot that stands out here, and the strengths and weaknesses all balance each other out: The worldbuilding is slight and the narrators’ voices are extremely similar (minus), but the pacing keeps the pages turning and while it’s the first in a new series, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger (plus). The girls have a tendency to get saved by their respective beaux (minus), but the differences in their personalities and interests are nicely showcased by the body swap (plus). Rather than coming up with contrived reasons for the protagonists to avoid asking trusted adults for help, Lough allows her characters to at least TRY to go the reasonable, logical route (plus), but beyond that, the plotting is predictable and rote (minus). It’ll be an inoffensive pick for readers who enjoy easy-going romantic fantasies, and while “inoffensive” might sound like I’m damning it with faint praise, I’m really not: Better to be decent-if-unmemorable than brain-searingly-bad, no?
So! While The Fire Wish didn’t make me flail with joy OR develop indigestion, it DID make me think of a few other titles that I’d like to either revisit or read for the first time:
First off, Castle in the Air, the sequel to Diana Wynne Jones’ classic Howl’s Moving Castle. As it stars an entirely different cast of characters (an evil djinn, a crabby genie, a flying carpet that responds to flattery) and is set in a totally different place, first-time readers will be hard-pressed to figure out why, exactly, it’s a sequel…but never fear, all is eventually revealed! Like pretty much everything else DWJ ever wrote, it’s so fabulous in every way that it’s almost more of a joy the second time through.
Secondly, I never finished Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Quartet, and suddenly, I not just want, but NEED to, because the bland narration in The Fire Wish made me long for Bartimaeus the djinni, who has a wonderfully hilarious, original voice.
And third, I’m going to finally pick one up at the library that I’ve been eyeing for weeks: Michael O. Tunnell’s Wishing Moon. It’s a sequel to Aladdin in which the genie’s lamp ends up in the hands of a 14-year-old street kid, and Kirkus starred it, which is something that always makes me want to take a closer look. (Bonus! Reading it will count towards my library’s Summer Reading Space Merit Badge! Woo!)
So, what about you? Any favorite reads on the genie/djinn/jinn front?
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.