The Fire Wish, by Amber Lough

My hopes were high when I picked up Amber Lough's debut novel The Fire Wish. I'm officially over books about mermaids, witches, and/or dystopian contests, and it seemed to me that a YA take on the material covered in Arabian Nights might be just the ticket to get me excited about the huge pile of teen books looming on my to-be-read shelf again. Things didn't work out quite like I'd hoped, but sincere props to Ms. Lough for originality.

The Fire Wish is a historical fantasy set in ancient Baghdad, where humans and jinn have been locked in an ongoing and seemingly hopeless conflict. When Zayele, a 16-year-old human girl, is sent off to be married to the son of the caliph, she is terrified to think of what her departure will mean for her blind little brother. She makes a wish that forces Najwa, an inexplicably similar-looking jinn spy-in-training, to take her place. Both girls are thrown into danger as a result of Zayele's impulsive decision, but undoing her wish will lead them to discover a series of secrets at the heart of the jinn/human war.

The biggest problem I had with this story was its central plot development: if Zayele feels so incredibly guilty and worried about her little brother, why not just wish for his eyes to be fixed? Why the unnecessarily complicated plan about returning to her homeland to rescue him? Also, it was tough to get invested in a romance where the heroine is likely to be one of her love interest's many wives and concubines, but younger readers might be able to gloss over that issue. I constantly found myself wishing that Lough had either gotten some editing help earlier in the storytelling process (to smooth over the glitches in her plot), or gone for an even more fantastical setting (making the real-world issues mentioned above irrelevant). Admittedly, I still found The Fire Wish mildly enjoyable, but it fell well short of the Arabian Nights reworking of my dreams.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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