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The Stardust Thief

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Neither here nor there, but long ago… Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost Neither here nor there, but long ago… Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn. With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality. Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One Nights, The Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince, and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a legendary, magical lamp.


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Neither here nor there, but long ago… Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost Neither here nor there, but long ago… Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn. With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality. Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One Nights, The Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince, and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a legendary, magical lamp.

30 review for The Stardust Thief

  1. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    this is such a stunning adventure! one that weaves lush mythology and vibrant world-building to create an immerse narrative that you wont want to leave. it does an amazing job of incorporating the tales from ‘a thousand and one nights’ within a fresh and engaging plot. and the characters are such exciting travel companions every step of the way. i have been desperate for something to fill the void that the end of ‘the daevabad trilogy’ created, and this fits perfectly. i cant wait for this se this is such a stunning adventure! one that weaves lush mythology and vibrant world-building to create an immerse narrative that you wont want to leave. it does an amazing job of incorporating the tales from ‘a thousand and one nights’ within a fresh and engaging plot. and the characters are such exciting travel companions every step of the way. i have been desperate for something to fill the void that the end of ‘the daevabad trilogy’ created, and this fits perfectly. i cant wait for this series to continue! such a massive thanks to orbit books for the ARC!! ↠ 5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lady H

    ADULT ARAB FANTASY WRITTEN BY AN ARAB WOMAN!!!!!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah is an epic start to a trilogy inspired by One Thousand and One Nights. Loulie al-Nazari, the Midnight Merchant, began illegally hunting and selling ancient relics after losing her family. With the help of her jinn bodyguard, Qadir, she has built up her reputation on the black market selling these sought-after relics. In the city of Madinne, the sultan has decreed that jinn be hunted and killed for their blood and relics. There is one relic, a legendary magi The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah is an epic start to a trilogy inspired by One Thousand and One Nights. Loulie al-Nazari, the Midnight Merchant, began illegally hunting and selling ancient relics after losing her family. With the help of her jinn bodyguard, Qadir, she has built up her reputation on the black market selling these sought-after relics. In the city of Madinne, the sultan has decreed that jinn be hunted and killed for their blood and relics. There is one relic, a legendary magical lamp, that the king has coveted for some time. Since his Forty Thieves have been unable to locate it, he blackmails Loulie into searching for it with the assistance of one of his sons. Together, a jinn killing member of the Forty Thieves, a prince, a jinn in disguise, and the Midnight Merchant set out to find this powerful lamp. Nothing will come easy for this unlikely group. They’ll face countless obstacles and betrayals long before the end of their journey is in sight. This Arab-inspired fantasy alternates between three perspectives. The writing style is very captivating and held my attention all the way through. The setting and the world-building are so vibrant, and the descriptions of food are so scrumptious. The beginning was a tad slow, but the rest was evenly paced, balanced between quieter and action-packed scenes. All of the characters grew on me, especially Qadir and Aisha. I liked that the characters had to work for everything; they didn’t just instinctively know what to do; they had to fight tooth and nail every step of the way. It kept things realistic (as realistic as a fantasy novel can be). The ending left off on a major cliffhanger. I cannot wait to see how the world expands in the next instalment. 4.5 stars. Thank you to Orbit Books for providing an arc via Netgalley and a physical copy in exchange for an honest review. https://booksandwheels.com

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shelley Parker-Chan

    This gave me life! This is the kind of story you can give yourself over to, knowing that it knows how stories work. “Trust me,” it says, and though you’re in a knot of fear and hope—that secret! that lie; that slow burn!—you do. And it doesn’t let you down. I came to care so much about everybody, especially Qadir (jinn bodyguard and all-around Best Boy). The interstitial stories, magnificently told in the style of 1001 Arabian Nights, were delightful. I read the whole thing in a single evening—t This gave me life! This is the kind of story you can give yourself over to, knowing that it knows how stories work. “Trust me,” it says, and though you’re in a knot of fear and hope—that secret! that lie; that slow burn!—you do. And it doesn’t let you down. I came to care so much about everybody, especially Qadir (jinn bodyguard and all-around Best Boy). The interstitial stories, magnificently told in the style of 1001 Arabian Nights, were delightful. I read the whole thing in a single evening—this is epic fantasy as a page-turningly good time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Holly (Holly Hearts Books)

    Full review to come on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/hollyheartsbooks Full review to come on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/hollyheartsbooks

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nils | nilsreviewsit

    I give this One Thousand and One Stars! 🌟 “Let us speak of lies and truths, and of the story hidden between them.” Neither here nor there, but not so long ago a tale of jinns, magical relics, desert landscapes, ancient ruins and characters on a perilous quest captivated me whole. The Stardust Thief is a spectacular debut novel by Chelsea Abdullah. In a barren land where jinn are hunted for their life giving blood, where their magical relics are made illegal to possess, a merchant of many names rel I give this One Thousand and One Stars! 🌟 “Let us speak of lies and truths, and of the story hidden between them.” Neither here nor there, but not so long ago a tale of jinns, magical relics, desert landscapes, ancient ruins and characters on a perilous quest captivated me whole. The Stardust Thief is a spectacular debut novel by Chelsea Abdullah. In a barren land where jinn are hunted for their life giving blood, where their magical relics are made illegal to possess, a merchant of many names reluctantly embarks on a journey where if she succeeds it will both save and destroy all that she loves. Loulie al-Nazari, the Midnight Merchant, Layla to some, is the infamous seller of rare jinn relics, a criminal by rights, but one who by the help of her jinn bodyguard has managed to elude the attention of the sultan’s soldiers. That is until one day unbeknownst to her, she saves a prince from jinn possession and her location is revealed to the sultan himself. After her capture he offers her a choice, be executed or agree to embark on a quest to find the rarest of relics— a magical lamp with the power to restore nature to their lands by annihilating all jinn. What follows from there is a thrilling journey into the perilous Sandsea desert, where Loulie, Qadir her bodyguard, the sultan’s oldest son and his most trusted warrior-thief Aisha, face attacks by ghouls, a fearsome ancient jinn and The Hunter in Black. Abdullah presents a world where beauty and horror coincide. The jinn were feared and hunted because of their immense power, yet the humans exploited that power at every opportunity. Magical relics were a commodity both bargained and sought after, illegally traded or gifted to the sultan. Jinn were murdered with iron swords for their silver blood which miraculously brought nature to barren lands. A luscious garden filled with scented flowers and waterfalls may have been a sight to marvel over but it would signify the death of a jinn. This prejudice against jinn was fueled as tales of their merciless killing of humans circulated through generations, but what of the humans' cruelty to jinn? What of their suffering? They are after all living legends, do they not too deserve a place in this world? Abdullah poignantly reflects this notion through the rich and layered history of her world, and her characters show that all is not as history tells and there are some who sympathise. Loulie al-Nazari, being one. Her entire tribe murdered, she was left as the sole survivor amidst all the bloodshed. Yet it was a jinn who saved her. Qadir’s destiny leads him to find Loulie, cowering and clutching desperately to her father’s mysterious compass, and from that moment their lives become entwined. Loulie and Qadir’s relationship is beautiful, these are two people who essentially are lost, they run from their past in the hopes of escaping the pain, escaping their memories. Loulie gives Qadir a purpose in life, to protect her and guide her, and in turn Qadir gives her a purpose too, for the compass leads them to jinn relics, which turns our Loulie into The Midnight Merchant. Facing your past takes courage and through the course of the novel Qadir and Loulie both have to take this journey. Abdullah shows us that strength comes in many forms, and sometimes relying on others to help you, being able to show your emotions and finding a purpose in life when you’ve lost all takes a significant amount of courage. Female characters do not always have to have physical strength to be strong, sometimes admitting your vulnerabilities is a strength all on its own and I truly resonated with this. Loulie and Qadir depend upon each other, they have a truly endearing father daughter-esque relationship. "Some things are out of our control. You know that just as well as I. All we can do is make choices based on the cards fate deals us. But so long as fate allows me to stay with you, I will not leave you, Loulie. That is a promise." Having said that, if you’re looking for feisty female warriors, well Abdullah has us covered here too. Aisha bint Louas is one of Prince Omar’s, the sultan’s oldest son, Forty Thieves. Having witnessed her family killed by a jinn, her hatred for them has festered, it has boiled to the point where revenge is all she can see. It is this hatred which drives Aisha to be a fearless jinn hunter, to dive head first into any danger, to let her knives carve through every jinn who dare face her. Pure rage can only get you so far though, and as much as she would rather close herself off from others, to forsake morals, to never trust, she begins to learn not everyone is an enemy to defeat. Sometimes tough choices are to be made in order to survive. Which is essentially what Aisha is, a survivor. The notion of identity is one of the central themes explored throughout The Stardust Thief as the characters all go by various names with differentiating personas. It is perhaps Mazen though who seeks his identity the most as his entire life he has been sheltered, unlike the others. The sultan, his overbearing father, all but keeps Mazen a prisoner within the palace, it may be a luxurious place to be kept in, but as Mazen himself states it is nothing more than a gilded cage. Resorting to sneaking out, Mazen roams the streets of Madinne in search of some freedom and of his beloved storytellers who remind him much of his late mother, Shafia. Though as events escalate for Mazen, he may just regret ever wishing to be free of his confinement. Throughout the novel Mazen is forced to face who he really is—is he gentle bookish Mazen, a coward who runs from danger, who hides in the shadows, or is he someone who faces his fears to save others? Or could he follow his heart and be the storyteller who enchants an audience with his mother’s tales and his own? Whatever Mazen was and whatever doubts he harboured, I felt he proved he was anything but inconsequential. “Adrenaline pushed him forward, through the trees with twisted, sharpened branches and past the skirmishes between the living and the dead. Every fight was a desperate clash; the living fought to stay alive while the dead single-mindedly sought to kill.” Abdullah ultimately celebrates the love of storytelling, particularly the tradition of oral storytelling. Throughout the novel there are interludes where characters will share stories of jinn kings, of legendary figures, and magical relics. She injects a deep-seated layer of history, culture and mythology to her worldbuilding with an enchanting flair. The Stardust Thief is heavily inspired by One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), a collection of folklore from Arab and Middle-Eastern culture. We see parallels between the sultan and his storytelling wife Shafia, and through Omar’s Forty Thieves, and the various mythological beings; however, Abdullah adds her own twist. She illustrates that the art of storytelling has its flaws, as over generations those stories change, they become more exaggerated or altered to incorporate people’s prejudices. To counter this Abdullah offers us visions and memories which collide and seem disjointed at first, but she cleverly builds a tapestry to reveal the truth behind the myth. At its heart The Stardust Thief is a magical tale of unlikely heroes and thrilling quests, of chaos and bloodshed, of love and loss, all told through Abdullah’s dreamy prose. This is a book where everyone has a story to tell but the truth may dispel the very illusion that has been believed for centuries. "Some people hide their scars; I prefer to wear mine like badges. They remind me of everything I survived, and of who it is I must seek revenge against.” ARC provided by Nazia at Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the copy! All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Salma19 (High Lady of the Dawn Court)

    MY DREAM CAME TRUE: OWN VOICES ARAB ADULT FANTASY BY ORBIT and this time, BY AN ARAB WOMAN✨💜🎉 *cries in Arabic*

  8. 5 out of 5

    Natasha Leighton

    4.5 stars The Stardust Thief is a beautifully written and utterly transportive One Thousand and One Nights retelling by Chelsea Abdullah who—in breathing new life into the classic, epic quest fantasy genre, with her endearing characters and gorgeously detailed world building—has reignited my love of all things adventurously quest-like. In a land where Jinn are hunted for the magic in their blood and where their enchanted relics are illegal to possess, Loulie al-Nazari (the infamous Midnight merc 4.5 stars The Stardust Thief is a beautifully written and utterly transportive One Thousand and One Nights retelling by Chelsea Abdullah who—in breathing new life into the classic, epic quest fantasy genre, with her endearing characters and gorgeously detailed world building—has reignited my love of all things adventurously quest-like. In a land where Jinn are hunted for the magic in their blood and where their enchanted relics are illegal to possess, Loulie al-Nazari (the infamous Midnight merchant and seller of rare magical items) and her Jinn bodyguard embark on a quest to find a magic lamp. An item that—if found— could save or destroy everything Loulie loves most. In this world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything-her enemies, her magic, even her own past- is not what it seems, and must decide who she will become to survive in this cutthroat reality. I loved just how easy it was to lose myself in this magical world, the depth and complexity of the characters was amazing and I loved just how intricately their lives become as the story (and the action) progresses— the execution itself was beautifully subtle but exquisite nonetheless! The incorporation of folklore throughout was also really lovely, and though her name isn’t expressly mentioned, I loved how prominent Shahrazad’s story (the storyteller who’s clever stories save her life and win her the heart of a Sultan) was, with her son (and his passion for thre oral storytelling tradition) being one of the main focuses of the plot. The stories are so vividly detailed and truly capture that magical sense of wonder you feel when hearing a really great, immersive tale that you return to again and again. The characters were all super compelling; I loved the Midnight merchant, Loulie she’s smart, witty and incredibly strong, even if she doesn’t see herself that way—she’s a survivor just Aisha and Mazen (to some extents) and I loved just how their shared childhood trauma ultimately bonds them all in a way—bringing them closer to each other. Mazen’s emotionally conflicting arc was superb but it was the Jinn we encounter thst really stole the show for me— the complexities woven into their magic and history was fascinating and I honestly can’t wait to see where this goes in the rest of the series. If you love a plot twist, then you’re gonna be pleased as there’s soo many plot twistingly good, jaw-drop worthy moments that kept me coming back for more. And, like the eponymous Sultan eager for Shahrazad’s tales , I was desperate to find out what would happened next— there were many sleepless nights spent devouring Chelsea Abdullah’s lush, magic infused prose (I honestly never wanted it to end.) Overall, this enchanting epic fantasy is a book you definitely want to get your hands on ASAP, trust me fantasy lovers—you’re going to love it! Also, thanks to Orbit and Netgalley for the e-arc.

  9. 4 out of 5

    gauri

    The Stardust Thief is a fun book, with a great magic system and worldbuilding accompanied with good action. But I'll be honest, I skimmed through it after bearing to attentively read the first few chapters. For a premise that had me excited, the book turned out to be average as a whole. I loved the worldbuilding the most, all the storytelling, jinns and history involved with references to Arabian Nights kept me going through the book. The characters were interesting too, Mazen might be a loser bu The Stardust Thief is a fun book, with a great magic system and worldbuilding accompanied with good action. But I'll be honest, I skimmed through it after bearing to attentively read the first few chapters. For a premise that had me excited, the book turned out to be average as a whole. I loved the worldbuilding the most, all the storytelling, jinns and history involved with references to Arabian Nights kept me going through the book. The characters were interesting too, Mazen might be a loser but he's my loser, Loulie and Qadir's relationship is a favourite aspect in the book and Aisha was simply intriguing. I wish I had more good stuff to say about it but the book quickly lost its grip on me. Mainly because of the length which dampened the excitement of the plot reveals. The Stardust Thief has unnecessary scenes and monologues inserted in places that demotivated me to continue reading. There was something exciting happening at a point and followed by boring pages that threw me off. The average writing didn't help to keep me hooked either (which as other reviewers have said, reads like YA fantasy, certainly not the standard what I expect from an adult fantasy). Not sure if I'm interested enough in the other books of the series but for readers looking for a fantasy by an Arab author with a captivating quest and great setting, I'd recommend this to you. Especially if you're looking for something in between YA and Adult fantasy! thank you Netgalley and Orbit Books for the ARC!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sharvani

    I am in love with this absolutely original tale inspired by the 1001 nights tales we have heard in so many forms. Set in a barren land that needs some (ahem) magical substance to spring to life, in a world where humans are in terror of the jinn and yet hunt them, and where love and terror somehow coexist, Chelsea Abdullah has written a masterful tale of love, determination, betrayal, trust, redemption, identity, survival, and revenge that truly celebrates the tradition of oral story-telling. The s I am in love with this absolutely original tale inspired by the 1001 nights tales we have heard in so many forms. Set in a barren land that needs some (ahem) magical substance to spring to life, in a world where humans are in terror of the jinn and yet hunt them, and where love and terror somehow coexist, Chelsea Abdullah has written a masterful tale of love, determination, betrayal, trust, redemption, identity, survival, and revenge that truly celebrates the tradition of oral story-telling. The story starts when Loulie al-Nazari, an infamous seller of illegal jinn relics, is sought out by the Sultan in Maddine to go on a quest to retrieve a certain magical lamp from the Sandsea after she saves one of his sons, Mazen from possession by a shadow jinn. Accompanied by her "bodyguard" Qadir, Omar - the Sultan's oldest son, Aisha - one of the warrior-thieves trusted by Omar, she sets out on a perlious quest in an unlikely fellowship that is the start of a marvellously woven tale by the author, who ensures that it is as much a journey for the reader, as for the characters. I know what most people would expect here. Some form of the constructs and relationships that were present in the Daevabad Trilogy. So did I. This is not the case. The author repeatedly set up tension in a way that made me think I knew where the story was heading, and then steered the story onto completely original ground. Many elements may be the same, but the execution is such that it marvellously surprised me at multiple places in the story. What about the familiar elements from the 1001 nights? They all exist, but again, not as expected. All of the tales we have heard growing up, like that of Shehezarade storytelling her way into living long enough that her Sultan falls in love with her, of the jinn that was trapped in a magic lamp due to a cunning nomad, the forty thieves all get new life in the author's skillful narration. Yes, this book has stories within the story. Which is these is true, and what forms they take, is something you'll have to read to find out. And as with all stories, we see variations. "I know in your stories she is a malevolent entity, but in ours, the ifrit are morally ambiguous". The ideas of real-life history turning into myths and legends, of magical artifacts being misunderstood for what they contain, are ever-present in the book. The author wonderfully presents the other side of the coin. What about the events we are told are true, those that eventually considered as historical facts? Did they actually happen? The characters in this book were engaging, their relationships and pasts well-fleshed, along with arcs that stayed true to their established personalities. There is also the notion of their identity that is constantly questioned by each of them, one that is central to the telling of this story. Can Loulie be anybody but a seller of magical relics, Qadir be anyone but Loulie's bodyguard, Omar be anyone but the king's oldest brazen son that is the so-called "king of the forty thieves", Aisha be anyone but one of the thieves that kills jinn, and Mazen be no one but an inconsequential prince confined to the palace who likes to listen to stories? The narrative is full of stories they tell others about themselves and their identities, those they tell others to obtain what they want, and also the ones they tell themselves to justify their actions in their quest for revenge. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the work of an impressive new storyteller with a love for stories, as I eagerly wait for book 2. Thank you Orbit Books and NetGalley for an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts. Quotes are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. Instagram | Twitter

  11. 4 out of 5

    Basma

    Actual rating: 4.5 Okay, this book. Prepare to be SICK of me. I'm going to be insufferable now that I've found more Arab rep. I will simply never shut up about it. Let's talk Arab/MENA rep. I can count on one hand the books I feel represented in as an Arab. This book is an EXCELLENT addition to that list. I tabbed every word of Arabic and ended up running out of tabs. There's a thrill in seeing the words you speak on the pages you're reading. It never gets old. This book DELIVERED on Arab represe Actual rating: 4.5 Okay, this book. Prepare to be SICK of me. I'm going to be insufferable now that I've found more Arab rep. I will simply never shut up about it. Let's talk Arab/MENA rep. I can count on one hand the books I feel represented in as an Arab. This book is an EXCELLENT addition to that list. I tabbed every word of Arabic and ended up running out of tabs. There's a thrill in seeing the words you speak on the pages you're reading. It never gets old. This book DELIVERED on Arab representation. Like the names of the characters in this book?? Are the names of my brother, my cousin, my friends. I felt seen and ready to take on the world after reading this. BRB gonna go prep my Loulie cosplay. The book itself is a solid debut. The characters are fantastic (I am officially a Qadir stan) and their dynamic on page was so fun to read. While four POVs might sound like a lot, I truly enjoyed every single one and seeing their perspectives of each other is refreshing. I will say, I am SO here for the dramatic, lowkey himbo, main guy character trend that I've been seeing (first Kamran from This Woven Kingdom, now Mazen). If this is the YA community moving away from the "dark and broody", consider me on board. The strongest aspect of this book is the world and magic system. It was developed so well and the references to old legends (as well as actual stories inserted) made for a magical and rich reading. I understood the magic system really well, and the reveals were done nicely. I did get a little lost with the plot at one point (hence the 4.5 rating) but the twists and turns were fun to read, even when I was ready to throw my book across the room. Highly recommend preordering this one! TW: violence, murder, manipulation, grief, possession, captivity, torture I received an arc of this title from Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    sam

    — 4.5 23/02/2022: I want the sequel. I need the sequel. sequel when hello?? also mazen my cowardly insecure goofy adorable prince ily » thank you to orbit and netgalley for the arc !!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    *clears throat* I guess it is better to jump on the buddy read later than never. #fantasyfrenemies *Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lexi

    The Stardust Thief was my most anticipated release in 2022 and to some extent, it did live up to the hype. Let's break it down. Overview: ♥️ Fairy tale retelling ♥️ No romance ♥️ Jinn/human friendships 👍 Multi POV 👍 Morally good characters with a touch of grey) ♥️ Adventure story Quick recap: The Stardust Thief follows a seller of illegal magic (Loulie) as she is coerced into retrieving a magic item by the Sultan. She travels with the sultan's son in disguise (Mazen), as well as one of the oldest princ The Stardust Thief was my most anticipated release in 2022 and to some extent, it did live up to the hype. Let's break it down. Overview: ♥️ Fairy tale retelling ♥️ No romance ♥️ Jinn/human friendships 👍 Multi POV 👍 Morally good characters with a touch of grey) ♥️ Adventure story Quick recap: The Stardust Thief follows a seller of illegal magic (Loulie) as she is coerced into retrieving a magic item by the Sultan. She travels with the sultan's son in disguise (Mazen), as well as one of the oldest prince's 40 thieves (Aisha) and her Jinn partner. This is first and foremost an adventure book. It's written with the same cadence as recent released like The Jasmine Throne or The Unbroken, but the execution itself is actually a little closer to Shadow of the Gods or a Sanderson book. Don't pick this up expecting massive character studies, flashy politics, or epic romance. If you are looking for a book with sweeping, epic action scenes and incredible magic, you are going to love The Stardust Thief. If you love storytelling within a story, monsters that can be friend or foe, and Arab folklore this is your story. The story follows beats from One Thousand and One Nights and weave these tales in seamlessly. Its so beautiful seeing these fairy tales come together naturally and revealed over the course of the story. Some are told as tall tales by main characters, but many are actually written into the bones of the book, with different characters playing different roles from folklore. This also influences the spirit of the book's storytelling. You have a ton of action scenes and moments where our heroes are stopped in their travels to deal with monsters, evil humans hiding in the shadows, spoiled royals, and more. Again, these moments are perfectly woven into the fabric of the plot. The characters might be my biggest disappointment, but I want to be clear that they are by no means bad. There are 3 POVs, and each character is relatively predictable and played safe. They are all incredibly charming and likable, each with great and distinct voices, but there are not a lot of risks taken with the characters. Aisha, the elder princes thief is probably the most complex character in the bunch, but she can also be a little more tedious to read because her motivations are relatively ignorant and her main focus is revenge. Mazen is a cowardly, kind prince inspired by his mother's storytelling. He will be quite popular with some readers but I was not very interested in him. Loulie is a wonderful baby angel, and her relationship to Qadir is unquestionably the strongest relationship in the book. They have a beautiful bodyguard codependent friendship going on and their moments together are the hi light of the character interactions. None of these characters connect too much and you are mostly watching them deal with their own problems, which can. be disappointing at times. They do become something a little closer to friends later in the book, but the character relationships are not the focus of the story. I say this because going in knowing that can help manage expectations so you can enjoy the other great things The Stardust Thief has to offer. As a side note, there was no romance which I absolutely LOVED, because if romance comes later it will be EARNED. If the book plans on not having any romance at all, that is also awesome. Either way, more books where nobody gets together in the first book!!!! The book is named after Omar, the eldest prince and the villain of the series. Im actually most intrigued to learn more about him..particularly because the book is named after him; but he is also set up as one of the more layered characters. If I had one thing I would say i'd like to see improve in book 2, it would be for Chelsea Abdullah to take a few more risks or develop some of her darker characters. There is so much potential here and despite my criticisms, this was a genuine joy to read cover to cover. Its a very strong debut and i'm fairly confident I will be following this author's career moving forward (including the next installment of The Sandsea Trilogy).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)

    4.0 Stars This was a fantastic epic fantasy series inspired by the author's Middle Eastern heritage.  This novel had all the elements I love in fantasy. An epic story, complex characters, and rich world building. There is some romance in this story, which is not always my favorite thing but I liked it in this case. For a debut, this book was incredibly strong. The prose was strong and the story was well plotted. I am now impatiently waiting for the second book.  I highly recommend this fantasy serie 4.0 Stars This was a fantastic epic fantasy series inspired by the author's Middle Eastern heritage.  This novel had all the elements I love in fantasy. An epic story, complex characters, and rich world building. There is some romance in this story, which is not always my favorite thing but I liked it in this case. For a debut, this book was incredibly strong. The prose was strong and the story was well plotted. I am now impatiently waiting for the second book.  I highly recommend this fantasy series to a wide range of readers. This is one of the best 2022 fantasy releases I have read so far. Disclaimer I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

  16. 5 out of 5

    hiba

    2.5/5 this was such an underwhelming read, i barely have anything to say about it. everything about the stardust thief was simply serviceable. there was a plot, there were characters, there was a magical world - it was certainly a book! if an incredibly mediocre one. it lacked the complexity i've come to expect from adult fantasy - characters, plot, worldbuilding were all okay, nothing wrong with them exactly, but they were just too simplistic, predictable and surface-level for my taste. the chara 2.5/5 this was such an underwhelming read, i barely have anything to say about it. everything about the stardust thief was simply serviceable. there was a plot, there were characters, there was a magical world - it was certainly a book! if an incredibly mediocre one. it lacked the complexity i've come to expect from adult fantasy - characters, plot, worldbuilding were all okay, nothing wrong with them exactly, but they were just too simplistic, predictable and surface-level for my taste. the characters felt so one-note and passive, like the plot was only happening to them instead of them doing anything significant to drive the action forward. the writing felt more geared towards a younger audience - again, very simple and bland. the relationships were all pretty superficial and boring except for loulie and her jinn bodyguard qadir - their adopted child/parent bond was so genuine and sweet, it kept me from completely giving up on this book. i wish so badly i could've loved the stardust thief as much as i loved its premise but it turned out to be too uninspired and forgettable for me, and i doubt i'll read the sequels. however, if you're a newbie fantasy reader looking for a light beginner adult fantasy, i'd recommend this! it's also heartening to see an arab adult fantasy by an arab author and i can only hope this is the gateway to better ownvoices arab fantasy books being published in the future. thank you to netgalley for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christina Pilkington

    If you like The Daevabad Trilogy, I think you will adore The Stardust Thief! Both series have the same gorgeous desert settings, magical djinn, and characters you will come to love…or hate. In The Stardust Thief, we follow three POVs. My favorite POV was Loulie al-Nazari, the Midnight Merchant, who hunts down and sells illegal magic. Her jinn bodyguard, Qadir, is so loyal and sweet he’s easily one of my favorite characters! But he also has a lot of hidden secrets, making him intriguing and myste If you like The Daevabad Trilogy, I think you will adore The Stardust Thief! Both series have the same gorgeous desert settings, magical djinn, and characters you will come to love…or hate. In The Stardust Thief, we follow three POVs. My favorite POV was Loulie al-Nazari, the Midnight Merchant, who hunts down and sells illegal magic. Her jinn bodyguard, Qadir, is so loyal and sweet he’s easily one of my favorite characters! But he also has a lot of hidden secrets, making him intriguing and mysterious. When Loulie helps save one of the sultan’s sons from a powerful jinn, the sultan blackmails her into traveling with his oldest son to find a powerful lamp that will revive the barren lands but will also destroy the lives of jinn. I also loved Mazen’s POV. Mazen, the youngest son of the sultan, longs to escape the confines of the palace and go on adventures. He’s obsessed with listening to stories and is a talented storyteller himself. He grows so much within this first book. I am excited to see where he will be at the end of the trilogy. The last POV belongs to Aisha, one of the eldest prince’s Forty Thieves. While not my favorite character, she is complex and dynamic, and she’s plays a big part in the plot of the story, especially toward the end. I have a feeling she might even replace Loulie as my favorite character before the story ends. The novel is structured where there are separate short stories nestled between the main chapters. I loved this part of the book so much! They bring so much texture and life to the main plot. Part of the plot is also heavily inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, and it’s retold in a way that I’ve never seen done before. I found the book perfectly paced with just the right amount of action, character development and world-building moments. I adored learning about the djinn magic and mythology and political structure. I’m most excited to explore more parts of this world and learn more about certain character’s backstories and powers. I’d highly recommend this book if you enjoy desert setting fantasies, characters that learn and grown throughout a series, and a perfect blend between character growth and plot development. *Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit Books for the digital advanced reader copy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    Our Fantasy Frenemies pick for May!! Cause the only thing we love more than a fantasy trilogy is a DEBUT ✨adult✨ fantasy trilogy inspired by Arab mythology

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Waworga

    “We all starts as cowards. The only difference between a hero and a coward is that one forgets their fear and fights, while the other succumbs to it and flees” Enchanting, adventurous, magical, absolutely a fun tale and to think about this is A DEBUT?? WHAT??? are you kidding me Chelsea Abdullah??? 😱😱🤯🤯 Inspired by Arabian culture and of course the famous 1001 nights story… this book took me to a grand adventure about Jinn, magical yet terrifying relics that have their own story and power, ki “We all starts as cowards. The only difference between a hero and a coward is that one forgets their fear and fights, while the other succumbs to it and flees” Enchanting, adventurous, magical, absolutely a fun tale and to think about this is A DEBUT?? WHAT??? are you kidding me Chelsea Abdullah??? 😱😱🤯🤯 Inspired by Arabian culture and of course the famous 1001 nights story… this book took me to a grand adventure about Jinn, magical yet terrifying relics that have their own story and power, kingdoms, dune and SO MUCH sand, loveable strong characters, found family and of course A LOT OF MAGIC! i devoured this book in 2 days which is pretty rare for me since the book is 460ish pages long ( i ussually can only read 50-100 pages a day) which is always a good sign cause it means the book hooked me 🪝 There are 3 POVs here: - Loulie al-Nazari, a merchant with a Jinn bodyguard name Qadir - Mazen bin Malik, a prince who don’t know how to fight but has the love and talent for storytale - Aisha bint Louas, a cold but strong fighter, thief and Jinn killer Despite all their flaws i love them three and i love how very different their voices are! not like *cough* some books that have multiple POVs but own the same voice and personality, i also really love how Abdullah created her own tale and mixing it with 1001 nights story-tale SO EFFORTLESSLY and match perfectly with the plot, i think it’s absolutely brilliant! The friendship story between Loulie and Qadir is so sweet and i really enjoyed their banters, the PLOT is really fast pace like gaaah it’s really unputdownable mostly because the writing style is also very engaging (like wth again how is this a debut book?), i ussually not enjoy travelling story but i love it here, so yaaay for that!!! I honestly can gush about this book forever but i will stop now 🫠 for i need to suffer to wait the second book NOOOOO, the ending is pretty cliffhangery and i’m dying to know what will happen next 😭 highly recommend this book if you’re looking for Arabian / dessert inspired story 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

  20. 5 out of 5

    fatma

    DNF at 35% Didn't think that I'd DNF one of my most anticipated releases of the year, but here we are. There is nothing egregiously wrong with The Stardust Thief, but that's exactly it: it felt so very average. It falls short of the mark for me in terms of both plot and character, but not so much that it's completely unreadable or actively bad. Everything is just competent enough that I could've pushed through it if I had had the patience, but I simply didn't. I can tell this wouldn't have gotten DNF at 35% Didn't think that I'd DNF one of my most anticipated releases of the year, but here we are. There is nothing egregiously wrong with The Stardust Thief, but that's exactly it: it felt so very average. It falls short of the mark for me in terms of both plot and character, but not so much that it's completely unreadable or actively bad. Everything is just competent enough that I could've pushed through it if I had had the patience, but I simply didn't. I can tell this wouldn't have gotten more than a 3 stars from me, maybe even less than that. As I've seen some readers point out, this feels very YA--which is not an issue in and of itself if you tend to read and/or enjoy YA, but I generally don't, so there's that. More than a matter of genre or audience, though, I just felt like The Stardust Thief was simplistic in its execution. The characters are drawn in very broad strokes, and the plot only serves to push them along the narrative without really leaving enough space for them to breathe. I wanted more from this narrative: more complexity, more development, more layers. And The Stardust Thief maybe has the beginnings of all of that, but as it stands, it didn't deliver any of those things for me. I really wanted to like it, and I really did give it a chance, but reading it felt like such an uphill battle; at a certain point I realized that I was actively forcing myself to keep reading it, and then I knew that it just wasn't going to be the book for me. Plenty of people have loved this, though, so it's really going to depend on what you look for and tend to enjoy in your fantasy. Thanks so much to Orbit for sending me an ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mariam ☀️

    4.25/5 stars. If I had to grow up with 1001 Nights retellings being my only representation (and badly done ones at that) I at least wish they had been done with as much love and authenticity as The Stardust Thief. This story truly transports the reader to the lands of a fictionalized Southwest Asia and weaves the culture, language, and legends in beautifully. From the atmosphere, to the characters, to the EXCELLENT writing, I enjoyed every second of this story. The pacing was great in my opinion 4.25/5 stars. If I had to grow up with 1001 Nights retellings being my only representation (and badly done ones at that) I at least wish they had been done with as much love and authenticity as The Stardust Thief. This story truly transports the reader to the lands of a fictionalized Southwest Asia and weaves the culture, language, and legends in beautifully. From the atmosphere, to the characters, to the EXCELLENT writing, I enjoyed every second of this story. The pacing was great in my opinion, and I found the switch between POV’s to be smooth and expertly done. For representation alone, this book gets a 5 stars easily. Seeing Arabic on the page, unitalicized and casually used is something I feel I will never get over, and the experience was indescribable. The same goes for the addition of Arab food, dances and music. For the rest of the story, though supremely enjoyable in every aspect, it definitely feels like a first book in a series. There was a little left to be desired in terms of character development for me, but I will absolutely be tuning in to the sequels because I am undoubtedly attached to them. All in all, I absolutely loved this book and how it made me laugh, gasp, tear up, and made my heart so warm it nearly turned to flame. Thank you to Orbit for sending me an early copy!

  22. 4 out of 5

    ash

    mazen my pathetic loser my cowardly prince my incompetent fool.. this specific kind of Pathetic Man™ is exactly my type. i love him a lot

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    Loulie al-Nazari, infamous jinn relic seller is recruited by the Sultan to retrieve a magical lamp from the Sandsea after she saves one of his sons from being posessed by a shadow jinn. Her jinn bodyguard Qadir accompanies her alongside Mazen and Aisha. Mazen is blackmailed into pretending to be his brother Omar on the journey and unlike his brother, he's not equipped for it. Aisha is one the forty thieves trusted by the real Omar and a jinn hunter. The Stardust Thief was an interesting read for Loulie al-Nazari, infamous jinn relic seller is recruited by the Sultan to retrieve a magical lamp from the Sandsea after she saves one of his sons from being posessed by a shadow jinn. Her jinn bodyguard Qadir accompanies her alongside Mazen and Aisha. Mazen is blackmailed into pretending to be his brother Omar on the journey and unlike his brother, he's not equipped for it. Aisha is one the forty thieves trusted by the real Omar and a jinn hunter. The Stardust Thief was an interesting read for me because there were sections where I couldn't put it down but there were also sections that I felt coasted along. The beginning took some time for me to get into but I was really vibing with this world. Someone told me this was dark fantasy but while there is some violence I didn't find the tone to be dark. It's a sweeping action and adventure fantasy with the characters journeying through the desert. At first I was wondering why Aisha even had a pov when we went 8 chapters without her having one only to then wait another 8 chapters to get her pov again. But she actually ended up being the most interesting character in the story for me. I found myself really enjoying her chapters. For Loulie and Mazen to get so many chapters I wanted a little more character development for them. While identity was a big theme in the book Mazen's journey was my least favorite. He's very gentle and at times overly idealistic which results in him getting a rough wakeup call. I enjoyed Loulie's relationship with Quadir and it was nice when they were in scenes together and she had someone who made her address her emotional turmoil. Even though the three are traveling together because they're all dealing with their own internal conflicts at times they felt a little disconnected. But I really feel that problem was solved towards the end. This book was inspired by One Thousand and One Nights and I do like how the original source material was woven in. There were even little short stories which had their own sections as opposed to exposition dumps and I found that so unique. The world was also vibrant and I had a clear picture of it. I also like how the magic was explained with the jinn relics and the backstories of certain characters without being overly confusing. I'm interesting in seeing were this trilogy goes in book 2. Also for the people who read fantasy looking for a big sweeping romance, there isn't one here. Though there were hints and I'm glad the author didn't force it. I think people who struggle with larger fantasies like I do sometimes will also appreciate how this story reads. Originally posted https://womenofcolorreadtoo.blogspot....

  24. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    Perfection. I loved it. It was a delightful mix of fun and light combined with adventure story and some incredibly TENSE moments where I worried all the way through. AND THAT ENDING OMG. I am not the same. Full RTC. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Erickson

    Stardust Thief is the first of a new trilogy by debut author Chelsea Abdullah that is out on the 17th! This book is inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, which was great because it's a source that I have little familiarity with. The book follows three POVs: Loulie al-Nazari is a notorious merchant who sells illegal artifacts with the help of her Jinn bodyguard. Mazen is the second son of the Sultan and the son of a famous storyteller, and Aisha, a member of the Forty Thieves that serve Mazen' Stardust Thief is the first of a new trilogy by debut author Chelsea Abdullah that is out on the 17th! This book is inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, which was great because it's a source that I have little familiarity with. The book follows three POVs: Loulie al-Nazari is a notorious merchant who sells illegal artifacts with the help of her Jinn bodyguard. Mazen is the second son of the Sultan and the son of a famous storyteller, and Aisha, a member of the Forty Thieves that serve Mazen's older brother. When Loulie is captured by the Sultan and forced to find a powerful, ancient Jinn artifact, these characters have to band together to survive. I really liked this book! I enjoyed all three characters, but especially Loulie and her bodyguard Qadir. I listened to the audiobook and each POV had a different narrator and it was fantastic. I felt each character was distinct and I really liked their growth and their interactions throughout the book. I wish Aisha had gotten more of a story, though. I also really enjoyed the setting. Abdullah did a fantastic job with making this world feel very distinct and cinematic; I always felt like I could picture whatever scene was happening without being bogged down by descriptions. In this world, Jinn are hunted and killed because their blood makes the desert grow and so areas that are more lush have had more Jinn killed there. So Qadir has to remain a secret and I think all of the magic, reveals, and worldbuilding done by Mazen's POV was well done. The negative I'd have for this book would be inconsistent pacing. I felt the beginning was absolutely gripping and the last third was fantastic (I especially loved the ending), the middle was a bunch of overcoming random obstacles and then going somewhere else with more obstacles. It's admittedly part of the trope, but could have been cleaner. The plot was a bit too straightforward for all the meandering in the middle. But this is still a great debut and I will absolutely be continuing this trilogy. Check it out!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    When I first started reading this I was kinda afraid it was going to be some gender-bent Alladin, which I would not have minded at all, but what it ended up being was so much better than that! This was a magical story about stories and the kernels of truth found in them; full of action and adventure I love every last word! Mazen is a prince, although he feels more like a prisoner. After the death of his mother at the hands of a jinn, his father has forbidden him from traveling anywhere without an When I first started reading this I was kinda afraid it was going to be some gender-bent Alladin, which I would not have minded at all, but what it ended up being was so much better than that! This was a magical story about stories and the kernels of truth found in them; full of action and adventure I love every last word! Mazen is a prince, although he feels more like a prisoner. After the death of his mother at the hands of a jinn, his father has forbidden him from traveling anywhere without an escort. This means he has to get a little creative, sneaking out of his gilded cage and donning the disguise of Yousef, just a humble lover of stories. Loulie is a merchant, The Midnight Merchant to be exact, a merchant who seems to be able to get her hands on all sorts of relics filled with illegal Jinn Magic. No one knows how she does it but she is famous, even infamous throughout the land. When Loulie saves Mazen's life from a Jinn one afternoon she couldn't possibly have foreseen the consequences of her action; now she is charged with bringing his father, the Sultan back a rare Jinn Relic. A lamp containing a Jinn that is bound to Mazen's family through blood and magic. As Mazen and Loulie set out to recover the relic neither of them could have prepared themselves for the secrets they will discover about the Jinn and the length's some people are willing to go to keep them from being revealed. Since Mazen is a lover of stories the lore of the world Abdullah created is related to the telling of stories and I really loved that. It was such a unique way to build up the world and I found myself looking forward to the next time a story would be told. In my eArc, the stories within the story were denoted by a dark gray background, and every time I "turned" a page I found myself super excited when it had that background! Every character in this was amazing as well. Pretty much everyone in this story has a secret and how the characters dealt with it when each of those secrets was revealed was understandable. I didn't find myself questioning their reactions as being unrealistic, especially given the circumstances the four main characters find themselves. I honestly don't believe I have a favorite though, I loved all of them, even the bad guy as he was such a fantastically written bad guy. And I did not figure out his whole plot until it was too late and my mouth was hanging open and I was just like WHAT!? The balance between action and story was perfect as well, just enough action to keep you on the edge of your seat but not so much that you're skipping ahead to see when the five-page battle ends. And omg did this keep me on the seat. I think I lost count of how many times I said, "Wait, What!? NO!" And I'm hoping given how this ends that there is a book two forthcoming because the ending was absolutely perfect! Overall, highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good fantasy adventure book! And thanks so much to Netgalley and Orbit Books for my free eArc!

  27. 5 out of 5

    sol

    ADULTTTTTTT ARABBBBBB FANTASYYYYYYY WRITTEN BY AN ARABBBBB WOMANNNNNNN YES YES YES YES YES EDIT: I GOT APPROVED FOR AN ARC AAAAAAAAHHHH after reading: i have really complicated feelings about this one ⚜️review to come ⚜️

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    4,5 stars This is a debut adult fantasy inspired by 1001 Nights stories that I enjoyed a lot. It's an engaging adventure story, fast paced, entertaining, full of magic - jinns and ifrits and magical relics The world building is outstanding, it transports right into the desert in a very real and very magical way. The desert with all its secrets and magic was like a living character in the story. The magic system is not overly complicated, it made sense to make and was easy to follow which is not al 4,5 stars This is a debut adult fantasy inspired by 1001 Nights stories that I enjoyed a lot. It's an engaging adventure story, fast paced, entertaining, full of magic - jinns and ifrits and magical relics The world building is outstanding, it transports right into the desert in a very real and very magical way. The desert with all its secrets and magic was like a living character in the story. The magic system is not overly complicated, it made sense to make and was easy to follow which is not always the case in high fantasy. We have a group of different, even opposite characters brought together by the circumstances together on a quest through the desert. Aisha stood out to me with her loyalty and revenge that fueled her action in the story. She starts a a jinn hunter with a single focus on her mission only to learn things are not always what they seem to be, there is more than loyalty and revenge. There is friendship and trust and tentative even if elusive happiness. Mazen is a gentle, bookish second son of the sultan, carrying his mother's love of love of stories, dreaming of adventure but being completely ill-suited for it - he is shy, pampered and protected. He doesn't become a fearless warrior but he learns how to go for things he wants, he learns to act instead of always hiding. He suffers betrayal and loss but gains friends (sort of) that he wants to keep safe and protect. Loulie - is everything - a force of nature unstoppable, independent but also vulnerable, we see her completely defeated and in despair only to find her strength again, not without the help of Qadir. Her resilience is formidable but it's her vulnerability that broke me. Her grief, her sense of loss, of her own self included, was heart-breaking. Qadir is a very interesting character in this story - Loulie's sullen bodyguard for those who don't know them but in truth he is her most trusted friend, her guardian. Yet, he remains mysterious, secretive almost till the end. Theirs was really the most interesting relationship for me. They are very close, they are each other's destiny (not in a romantic sense). He needs her as much as she needs him. The story plays a lot with lies and deception, the different personas the characters assume and I loved seeing that the world is not just black and white, it's all about nuance. People have many sides, they are always changing and growing. Another central element in the story was the storytelling itself, the power of words to shape our world. I have always loved 1001 Nights for the magic of the stories Scheherazade tells, they create worlds and save lives. Mazen is Scheherazade's son and he carries her heritage as a storyteller. There is no cliffhanger but the ending made me excited for the sequel. The desert has so many more stories to tell. Mazen and Loulie's adventure is far from over. CW: parental death, patricide, violence, torture

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sahitya

    As soon as I saw this book being talked about on Twitter, I was intrigued. And I fell in love with that gorgeous cover on first sight. So it was never in doubt that would read this one and I was so happy when I got the arc. And since it’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy novel, I decided to go with this one and then couldn’t even sleep without finishing it. Indian mythological stories like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana may have had the most influence on me, but the stories from A Thousa As soon as I saw this book being talked about on Twitter, I was intrigued. And I fell in love with that gorgeous cover on first sight. So it was never in doubt that would read this one and I was so happy when I got the arc. And since it’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy novel, I decided to go with this one and then couldn’t even sleep without finishing it. Indian mythological stories like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana may have had the most influence on me, but the stories from A Thousand and One Nights were also a part of my childhood in one form or the other and I was delighted that we were gonna get a fantasy novel inspired by these lovely stories. And wow the author delivers. The world she creates is vibrant and alive and so beautifully described, that I was left in awe. As the characters marveled at the new landscapes they encountered on their journey, I could feel their wonder, their perilous journey through the desert almost felt palpable because I could feel the heat and sand, and I could also cherish along with them when they found a small oasis in between. I think it’s also been a while since I read a fantasy which was mostly a journey and I was excited to be on this ride, though the author immerses the characters and us in numerous horrors and life threatening situations. The pacing is perfect, with the conflicts interspersed with small moments of joy or contemplation, but there’s also a thread of grief throughout because everyone has lost someone. It really kept me hooked from the first page and I didn’t wanna stop. And themes the author weaves through the story are very subtle but can’t be missed. Through the centuries old conflict between humans and the jinn, the author weaves a narrative of power struggles, oppression, prejudice and mass murders. As oral storytelling is an important component of A Thousand and One Nights, the author uses that framework to give us small stories as interludes where we get to know tales of human heroes and dangerous jinns and the legendary wars between them. But then when we are confronted with fragments of actual memories from the jinn, the characters along with us are left to question who is in the right and who is in the wrong - is everything that we’ve been told as history true or is it just the narrative that is needed for those in power to grow more powerful. We get to experience how beautiful the oral storytelling tradition can be and how it connects people across divides and provides them respite from their daily struggles, but we also see how these same stories can be changed and exaggerated over the years to keep up a false narrative and encourage more oppression. It was very interesting to see the author navigate the issue from both sides and letting us decide for ourselves who the true culprits are. As wonderful as the world building and story is, the characters equally complement them. Loulie or the Midnight Merchant or Layla is a mysterious figure in the Night Market who is famous for trading forbidden jinn relics. She is someone who has been shaped through the terrors she encountered in her childhood and now wants to be able to live her life on her own terms. She shows a very tough and fierce exterior but she is also a young woman who just doesn’t want to show vulnerability and thinks she has to stand alone if she wants to survive. Hers was an interesting character progression, where she goes from an independent person to someone who is forced to take up a quest along with reluctant partners and she learns many truths and lies along the way that cut deep into her heart, but she also learns that sometimes it’s ok to ask for help. She is ably supported in all her adventures by her jinn bodyguard plus father figure Qadir. Theirs is a relationship built on adversity and grief and both of them are reluctant to bare their souls to each other, but there’s also a deep trust between them. While Loulie gives him a purpose in life when he is running away from his past, Qadir also gives her a life that serves as an escape from her grief and protects her in any way he can. Their relationship is tested throughout the book with secrets and reveals and it might feel like on the brink of shattering, but it’s really too strong and wonderfully written. Mazen on the other hand is a prince, probably even a favorite of the sultan, but he is struggling to live in the confines of the gilded cage created by his father. He strives to be free and has a wanderlust to travel around the world, and is also a gifted storyteller who would love to carry forward his mother’s tradition. But he is also someone who is scared of confrontation, unwilling to question things even when he knows they are wrong, and is most comfortable when is not being himself - but we see him gradually learn to be brave in his own ways, realize more truths about the world he inhabits and decide whose side he ultimately wants to be on. Aisha took me a while to connect with. She is also someone who suffered a major loss but that has made her into a singularly determined killer and thief. She trusts her leader and is unabashed about hating the jinns but as she is forced to go on the journey with the rest of the characters, she gets confronted with a lot of information that makes her question everything she knows, and she is forced to decide what all will she do to survive and where does her true loyalty lie. We also have multiple interesting side characters who don’t have too much page time but nevertheless leave impressions. Omar is very easy to loathe right from his first appearance and my hatred for him only increased as the story went, but the author even managed to make his arc more than just a one dimensional villain. We also meet a few of his side kicks who are equally cruel and horrible. And then there are the bookish and sweet Hakim, and the suave and charming Ahmed who were there for just a few pages but are unforgettable. Huh !!! I’ve written too much, haven’t I?? But what to do, I loved this debut and I couldn’t shut up. It has everything I could ask for in an epic fantasy - inspired by some of my favorite childhood stories, gorgeous world building that feels so alive, an engaging plot full of quests and dangers, characters who you love immediately, and the power of storytelling as an art and as a tool woven through the whole narrative in an intricate manner. Definitely a contender for being my top favorite of the year and I can only hope the wait for the sequel isn’t too long and excruciating.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    I was incredibly eager to pick up this novel, and I’m happy to report it didn’t disappoint! I was drawn into this tale right from the start, and the lore and plot are very compelling. If the pacing had been more consistent and if I’d formed an even stronger personal connection to our characters, I’d probably have been able to rate this higher. As it is, I still very much enjoyed the book and look forward to the next one!

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