Published: June 2018 - Thomas Nelson
Genres: Young adult / historical fiction / romance
Triggers/Content Advisory: Themes of abuse and violence.
The premise is great and I had high hopes for the book. This review will also contain a lot of quotes from the book, because I think that's the best way to show why I didn't like the story.
The writing is not great. It's amateurish, and littered with cliches; examples include: "Her touch light like a butterfly's wings", "Blood surging through her veins", "His dark eyes captured her", "Aladdin's stomach tied itself into a knot", and "Her soft skin was like silk".
The dialogue is also terrible, and way too on-the-nose. There's no subtext whatsoever, and it's just boring.
The author has white-washed the Aladdin story. In the first chapter we get a glimpse of Aladdin in the Middle East (Iraq I'm guessing? It's never explicit), but then suddenly he's carried off to Germany and the story begins there. I HAVE A HUGE PROBLEM WITH THAT AND WITH WHAT FOLLOWS. The rest of the story takes place in Hagenheim (Germany) and Aladdin's love interest and the heroine of the story is a girl called Kirstyn, who is blue-eyed, Caucasian, and blonde.
Look. Retellings are retellings, and yes authors change stuff. But to take Aladdin to Germany and surround him with white people and have almost every page focus on a blonde white girl? That's not what I wanna read about if I wanna read about Aladdin. The Middle East, Jasmine, and the whole culture there is the essence of Aladdin's story, and I do not wanna read about a white girl in Germany when I should be reading about a brown boy in the Middle East. Moving the brown boy to Germany and filling the pages with his interactions with a blonde Caucasian girl does not remedy that. It's insulting to the original story and characters. It's called white-washing.
The characters are so flat and stereotypical. Kirtsyn is the beautiful, quiet, well-mannered girl who can do no wrong, and Aladdin is the sweet, honourable lad who's loved by everyone (and those who don't love him are obviously the villains). To give you an idea of just how perfect Aladdin is thought to be, here are some passages: '"Aladdin here. He is the wise one. He shall be running my business - and this town! Someday, you watch. Richer than all the swag merchants combined."',
'“Everything you do turns to gold, as if God’s favor follows you wherever you go. You come to Hagenheim as a poor orphan boy from the Holy Land and suddenly you are the talk of everyone at the orphanage. You are the stable master’s favorite, and you even gain the favor of the duke , who puts you to work in the castle as his steward in training. You’re the favorite playmate of the duke’s own daughter, and when you leave to make your fortune, the first man you meet is so impressed with you that he wants to hire you.”' And because Aladdin is a martyr and oh so modest: '“I’m not perfect. But I wish I was.”'
Ugh. It's so annoying.
The romance is awful. It gets worse when the love triangle enters, hence the character of Grethel, and Aladdin's behaviour is appalling as he deals with his feelings for both girls:
'She was pretty, he supposed, but not as beautiful as Kirstyn. Her hair was brown and smooth, her brown eyes and mouth rather small and delicate. He couldn’t help comparing her to Kirstyn’s pale-blonde hair, her full lips, and large blue eyes. Kirstyn was also taller than Grethel.' - 'This was the moment of every day that he should kiss her. After all, they were making plans to be married. But a memory of Kirstyn would always leap into his mind. It was what happened every time he thought about kissing Grethel.' - 'Aladdin had never really loved Grethel. He’d only agreed to marry her because . . . well, he wanted to please his mentor. And it was an attempt to stop his pain over Kirstyn’s death.' - '“Did you promise to marry her?” “Only after I thought you were gone forever."'
Oh how sweet. Not. Can Aladdin jolly well make up his mind and stop treating the girls like dirt? Poor Grethel, I say.
But the worst thing about Aladdin and Kirstyn's relationship is how Kirstyn getting abused by the villain is only used to push her towards Aladdin. The way the abuse is handled is literally the definition of a romanticised plot device. I discussed this topic in yesterday's Romanticised Abuse post, so you can read that in depth HERE. I won't discuss it now.
The Orphan's Wish is very poorly written and the characters are unrealistic and boring. But the worst thing about the story is how problematic its content is.