Welcome to my second appreciative post about the fictional women I adore. This idea was brought to me by Bookish girl and I’m loving talking about my favorite women in fiction, so again, thank you! You can find more details about my reasons to start this meme on this post.
Anyway, my goal is to bring women – including trans women, of course – to the lights every week. But without waiting more, here’s my choice for this week!
Zahra is a jinni, and the heroine of The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khouri, a retelling of Aladdin with a wonderful twist : the jinni is a woman, and the princess a badass fighter who couldn’t care less about our beloved thief. As a retelling of Aladdin’s story, we find layers of the original but that does not mean that Jessica Khoury didn’t add her stamp, because she most definitely did. While original events are seen in a complete different way, the twists make the story even more engaging and captivating (and women friendly). I mean?? Can I have a fuck yeah??
Why… WHY? Oh, right. Let’s meet Zahra, shall we?
“You’re a- you’re a-
Say it, boy. Demon of fire. Monster of smoke. Devil of sand and ash. Servant of Nardukha, Daughter of Ambadya, the Nameless, the Faceless, the Limitless. Slave of the Lamp. Jinni.
“… a girl!” he finishes.
For a second, I can only blink at him, but I recover quickly.
Ha, Zahra. I loved her so, so much. Witty and self-sufficient, she never comes across as pretentious and yet, she knows her worth – She’s a jinni, thank you very much, and she actually sounds like one, which is so rare! Brought to life by Aladdin after a looooong traversée du désert (pun intended), she’s ready to grant his wishes but doesn’t forget her own agenda (her freedom, no less!).
However, despite her hidden goal, Zahra has been eaten by guilt for so long that she has doubts, and who wouldn’t? Trust me, this is NOT a case of “his abs convinced me to die for him, because YUM, can I lick them?”. Nope. Her struggles and hesitations are well-founded, and not driven by Aladdin alone. See, I realize more and more that strong heroines, if they never fail, never doubt, never waver, annoy me as much as their manly counterparts. I want strong heroines in my books, but I want them complex and realistic. What’s strength, really? Is it never ever hesitating? I don’t think so, and honestly, I sure hope not. I could relate to Zahra, and she never annoyed me – she’s not a heartless cyborg, and I liked her all the more for it.
“What did Caspida want?”
“To talk about elephants and dead queens.”
“Oh, stop frowning. She asked about you too – what you’re like, what kind of person you are. Don’t worry.” I pat his hand conspiratorially and smile. “I lied.”
My girl is hilarious, isn’t she?? Moreover, along the years I’ve come to realize that I can’t really connect with a heroine if she hates all other women (which is, to this day, still way too common and I want to cry). But not Zahra, no. Never Zahra. Not only she never shows any hateful spite against other women, but they play important roles in the story (and roles that aren’t defined by their relationships with men) (I’m a bit in love with them as well, to be honest).
Honestly? Zahra alone is enough of a reason to read The Forbidden Wish if you haven’t yet, and icing on the cake, you’ll get an adorable hero, a compelling story and a wonderful romance. Do it.
That’s it for today! Feel free to link your posts about your favorite women leads in the comments, I’ll gladly add them here!