Review: The Jinni Key

I dove right into The Jinni Key after I completed The Stolen Kingdom by Bethany Atazadeh. This book is an adaptation of "The Little Mermaid," but it doesn't work as a standalone story as well as other series adaptations do. Instead of switching perspectives between the two new love interests, the book continues the story from Arie and Kadin's points of view from The Stolen Kingdom along with introducing us to Rena. As much as I liked this book, I would have loved to see some Gideon or Bosh chapters to offer more clarity and perspective on Rena's story. It also felt like Arie's story was dragged out into this book when it could have concluded in The Stolen Kingdom, but that's a minor gripe. I enjoyed The Jinni Key even more than The Stolen Kingdom overall since I'm a bigger fan of "The Little Mermaid" than "Aladdin."

The Jinni Key picks up right where The Stolen Kingdom left off except that now we see the point of view of the "Meremaid" Rena and the circumstances that turned her human. Like I was expecting, Rena comes off as less silly and vapid when the story is told from her perspective. Many characters in the book dislike her, and I can even see why some readers might get frustrated by her pragmatic goal-oriented personality, but I didn't mind it at all. She is a woman who knows what she wants. Ironically, the biggest obstacle to Rena's happiness is that she possesses an item that can grant anyone's deepest desire. She can easily use the Jinni Key to unlock a projection of people's wishes, but the act of granting them takes a huge toll on her body. There are many Jinn and Mere alike who wish to take the key from her, but it can only be passed on if she gives it away willingly. That is why she agrees to a bargain with her sister, Yuliya to allow her to use one of her magic shells to give Rena legs in exchange for the the opportunity to prove Gideon's love for her. Losing the bargain would mean giving up the key to Yuliya and staying underwater forever with Mere whose only interest in Rena is superficial.

The biggest strength of this book is how it illustrates the pitfalls of falling in love too quickly, a common theme in modern fairy tales. This is particularly relevant for a story about a woman who sacrifices everything to be with someone she met one time who was unconscious for most of it. A Princess of Wind and Wave by Melanie Cellier touches a little on the mermaid's idealized image of her prince, but everything still works out in the end. In The Jinni Key, Rena spends half her time on land just trying to find Gideon after several missed opportunities. Her agreement prevents her from talking about the curse, so she can't tell anyone why she needs to find him. It doesn't prevent her from talking at all, which gives other characters an opportunity to get to know her, which opens up more options for her to find love. Even though Rena comes off as a little naive and lovesick, the way Gideon treats her when they finally find each other is infuriating, but that's necessarily not a bad thing. Few adaptations acknowledge that the prince in "The Little Mermaid" treats the mermaid as a pet, calls her his "dumb foundling" and forces her to stand by him at his wedding to someone else. The Jinni Key does a different take on this concept by introducing a world in which the Jinn are prejudice against the Mere. As a Jinni, Gideon has an instant dislike for Rena not because of who she is, but because of what she is.

At first, I didn't like how much The Jinni Key focused on Arie and Kadin from the book's prequel, but I understood why it was necessary in order to to teach Rena about selflessness at the end. Still, I would have appreciated more interactions between Arie and Rena to show how little Rena knew about friendship as well as love. She seemed to have no friends in the ocean, so this book was a missed opportunity to build upon the power of strong female relationships. Arie and Rena usually felt like two separate entities unless it was convenient to the plot for them to help each other. Even though Arie considers Rena a friend, she doesn't have much reason to aside from the fact that Rena keeps following her around. The few times they do interact with each other, it is always about their love interests instead of sharing interests or learning more about each other. Rena proves that her naivete about love is not entirely a bad thing when she helps Arie mend her relationship with Kadin. By the end of the book, Rena has a much better understanding of what it really means to love someone.

The Jinni Key is a fresh and charming take on "The Little Mermaid" and a welcome extension to the story that began in The Stolen Kingdom. I enjoyed seeing Rena grow as a person throughout the course of the book and learn some difficult life lessons that everyone must eventually discover. The Jinni Key also does a great job of expanding upon the lore behind Bethany Atazadeh's series by giving the Mere magical shells that could perform various tasks and showing that prejudice still exists in fantasy worlds. Arie's story from The Stolen Kingdom finally received fulfilling resolution in this book. I wouldn't recommend reading The Jinni Key before The Stolen Kingdom, but it is an essential sequel once you have completed the first book. The third book in the series, The Cursed Hunter, a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," is set for release on June 30th.


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