And when such magical words are mixed with pieces of ancient history, like the Tigris River, and Baghdad, they take on an even more fascinating dimension (especially since these are parts of history that are still around, even to this day).
So when a book combines all this magic with real places, like The Fire Wish (by debut author, Amber Lough) it is irresistible to me, especially since all the old favorite things appeared in new and original ways (no Disney genie vibes). The Fire Wish also had a tricksy "switch places" plot (be careful what you wish for!) and the one story trope that I love endlessly and never tire of: forbidden love.
In this story, humans are at war with the Jinn, but then a human girl, Zayele, and a Jinn boy, Atish, fall in love. Yes, it's instalove. Though I acknowledge instalove can rot your mental teeth and skew reality, done well it can still be delicious like forbidden sweets. Hey, I grew up on instaloves like Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet.
The human girl, Zayele, tells her side of the story, but there's also a Jinn girl, Najwa, telling a different side of the story, and there's a best friend, Rahela, who is incredibly brave to help a stranger she'd been taught her whole life was an enemy. And then there are the two worlds....
I wasn't sure which I loved more, the rich details of Baghdad: so well done, descriptions that completely transported me both in place and time. Reflecting pools, palms, details on the gates, ouds and flutes,
peacocks, carpets lush as moss, patterned glass of lanterns, the preciousness of saffron, interesting words like qaa'ed...
Or the entirely fantastic underground world of the Jinn. The Jinn live inside a giant, hollowed out geode full of jewels. Is that not crazy cool or what??? Their homes are stacked on each other, set into the curving inner walls of the geode, and "decorated using liberal doses of wishes." (The cavern is lit by wishes, too, with lantern-lighters on stilts that whisper wishes). There is a lake of fire in the cavern, too, but it's not the scary lava kind, it's more a sort of playful fire.
Humans can demand wishes from Jinnis, and the whole wishing aspect of the story was fascinating. Another thing very well written in this story was how the Jinnis, used to living underground, perceive the human world, and vice versa.
In the distance between the sky and the retreating clouds, a rainbow arched in the air. How could that be? There were no prisms large enough to cause such a thing. Then I realized what it was. It was the world - the wet air and shimmering light - that set the rainbow across the sky. They didn't need crystals here.
But this next quote is my absolute favorite from the story.
The door closed behind me and a puff of air blew my skirt, but I barely noticed. I was in the House of Wisdom, and all I could think about was that no jinni had been there in ages, and female jinni had never been allowed to enter. I was the first.I have more favorite excerpts and other things I loved about the Fire Wish in my Goodreads review. Many thanks to Random House and Net Galley for providing me with an advanced copy to read; I was in no way compensated otherwise for this review, which is my honest (and happy) opinion of this book.
Thousands of books, with spines of red leather or brown linen, sat on shelves two stories high and a hundred feet long. The scents of ink and glue laced the air, and I breathed them in deep. At least thirty men, all in long robes, were in the library. Some sat at low tables, bent over opened volumes. Others stood in a small group, listening to two men discuss something. A few roamed along the walls, pulling books off the shelves and tucking them beneath their arms. The room was heavy with stories, and I ached to read them.
Faisal had once been one of these men, with access to all these books. All these minds. No wonder we built the Lamps - the bridge between the worlds. No wonder we gave the humans cartloads of jewels to set foot in it.