Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little
So it seems I’ve been on a bit of a Middle/Near Eastern kick lately, this time delving into the scorching world of an ancient Mesopotamian desert! Forbidden is at its core a love story about sixteen year old Jayden who despite her betrothal to her tribe’s sadistic and violent prince of sorts, falls in love with exotic stranger Kadesh. Her mom is gone, her sister is too preoccupied with the sex cult of a new goddess to be of much. assistance, her betrothed is cruel, and her love is forbidden so basically everything she know is falling apart.
This book was good; not great but not bad either, just good. For one, it’s essentially the same story I’ve read a thousand times (albeit with a new setting and original twist which is why I picked it up in the first place) I found that for majority of the novel it felt little else was going on with Jayden than her already-established issues regarding her upcoming nuptials to Herob and mixed feelings about Kadesh. Her sister, Leila’s fascination with the goddess Ashtoreth is probably one of the most fascinating elements (despite the unnecessary sort of slut-shaming–I’ll come back to that later–but I guess I get it in the context so I digress) but it’s not something Jayden herself really gets involved in. As a result, the focus really is on Jayden’s feelings about everything and then everyone else telling her she has more reason to be happy about Herob than lamenting her life.
Herob as a villain is well done. He’s not altogether complex but he’s realistic. A power-hungry aspiring leader willing to do anything, anything to assume his father’s position, so used to getting what he wants he’ll go through whatever means necessary to ensure he gets exactly that, whether it’s winning a fight or winning power or winning Jayden. Herob is beyond easy to hate–it only took me like ten pages to want to decapitate him.
Jayden has a tendency to become frustrating but she’s also brave and determined which when she finally bucks up and decides to do something about her miserable situation is a serious asset. She grows on you as the story goes and while there was quite a bit that irked me or I disagreed with, in the whole I liked her. Kadesh is sweet and kind of romantic but he’s also a fighter and he’s strong and capable and a force in his own right. He and Jayden together are a perfect match, their love endearing.
The best part of Forbidden though I’d have to say is the setting. The entire novel is set in the barren Mesopotamian desert (around present day Iran) but Little somehow manages to write it in a way that despite this it is all rich and vivid. The time period is also well and thoroughly conveyed and incorporates many elements of Mesopotamian culture, worship, and history such as the significance of women’s jewelry, the conquests of Babylon’s King Hammurabi, and the religious and tribal importance of belly dancing. Plus it’s Mesopotamia–simply the fact that the book is set here, where precious few books actually take place, adds an extra level of intrigue. I will admit though, sometimes it was a bit of overkill–you don’t need to mention the same thing seven dozen times for us to realize its an important cultural fact especially when the characters already know this. We get it. We’re smart people. Show, don’t tell.
I’ll also say that the dancing, the dancing outfits, and the goddess cult were highly sexualized. I don’t know enough about Mesopotamian culture to say whether or not this is an accurate representation and if it is (which wouldn’t surprise me, given what little I do know about the ancient people) but it sometimes comes across as a peculiar brand of slut-shaming. Again, if culturally correct then it’s all good. If not, it’s too much.
All in all, I did enjoy Forbidden. Despite its cliches and some frustrations, there is enough originality in this novel to keep it interesting and warrant a read 🙂
Click here for the book synopsis on goodreads!