The Fire Wish
A jinni. A princess. And the wish that changes everything. . . .
Najwa is a jinni, training to be a spy in the war against the humans. Zayele is a human on her way to marry a prince of Baghdad—which she’ll do anything to avoid. So she captures Najwa and makes a wish. With a rush of smoke and fire, they fall apart and re-form—as each other. A jinni and a human, trading lives. Both girls must play their parts among enemies who would kill them if the deception were ever discovered—enemies including the young men Najwa and Zayele are just discovering they might love.
In THE FIRE WISH, Amber Lough takes her readers to a magical Baghdad where humans and jinn are at war. Two girls from opposite sides of the conflict find themselves caught in the middle when the human Zayele forces a wish from Najwa the jinni in order to escape an arranged marriage. The novel starts out of the gate strong with wonderful detail and engaging characters in a non-Western setting, but about three-quarters of the way through, the pace shifts as though in a hurry to reach the ending, a haste which is especially odd when the book then comes to an abrupt stop.
THE FIRE WISH could be labeled historical fantasy, though I'm not sure what era to put it in. Some aspects make the world feel ancient, while others make it a little more modern. Certainly one of the most captivating aspects of this book is the way Lough paints the settings, from the jeweled cavern of the Jinni to the Caliph's palace in Baghdad. The characters are well-drawn, too, primarily in the contrast between the impulsive Zayele - who has tunnel-vision when it comes to her blind brother - and the thoughtful Najwa - who loves the human world more than she should. My favorite character may just be Rahela, the older cousin of Zayele, who finds herself abandoned on the way to the palace with a jinni girl she has to claim as family, so the (naturally evil) vizir doesn't take the deception out on her tribe. Rahela is practical, but formidable. She's content to be Zayele's companion in this strange new world far from home, and looks forward to "blending in" in the harem, but when Zayele bugs out and leaves poor Najwa in her place, Rahela doesn't panic. She takes charge and leads Najwa through the minefield to come, despite her fears of jinni.
I was so enjoying this book that the sudden race to the finish took me by surprise. The love stories in this book are hasty, but no more so than any fairy tale. What threw me, though, was the way secrets and flashbacks dropped in the last few chapters, like the author had a page limit and realized she was reaching it too quickly. If she was so concerned about length, there were probably some earlier scenes she could have cut, or moved some of the big reveals to earlier in the novel. The breakneck pace of the last section, where everything seems to happen at once and one character learns a new skill absurdly fast, just makes the crash landing that much more sudden. The last chapter ends on a wish, clearly setting up for a sequel - but with that in mind, did so much need to be revealed in this book?
Ultimately I think THE FIRE WISH will fit in nicely as a part of a larger whole - on its own, it's a bit wobbly, but still highly enjoyable.
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