Hi everyone! I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve sat down to write a book review. This time I’m reviewing The Stardust Thief, which is an adult fantasy retelling of One Thousand and One Nights. I personally don’t have much experience with the source material other than other retellings that use pieces of that story, but this story just makes me more intrigued to finally read it! The Stardust Thief is out today, so make sure you go pick up a copy and give it a read!
The Stardust Thief
by Chelsea Abdullah
Series: The Sandsea Trilogy #1
Release date: May 17th 2021
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
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.
I struggled through the middle of this book, but overall I really enjoyed it and I’m definitely interested in continuing the series! We follow three different POVs: Loulie, who sells jinn relics as her alias the Midnight Merchant with her jinn bodyguard, Mazen, the son of the sultan and a storyteller, and Aisha, who is a member of the Forty Thieves who serves Mazen’s older brother Omar. Out of all these characters, I think I enjoyed Loulie’s perspective the most, but I also very much enjoyed Mazen’s POV as well. I found myself wishing for more background in Qadir, Loulie’s bodyguard at the beginning, but we slowly learn more about him and his relationship with Loulie as the story goes on, and he’s now one of my favorite characters! I’m also very curious if there is going to be any romance in the second book, because I can easily see two potential love interests for Loulie, but after what happened with Ahmed who knows if she’ll want to put herself in that position.
I loved the desert setting, although since I was reading an ARC copy without a map, at times I was confused as to where the group was located as they were travelling to the Sandsea, since at one point it sounded like they were in the middle of the Sandsea and then suddenly outside it.
That was one of my biggest issues with this book. I would be reading and then it would suddenly switch to a vision, or the characters would seem to suddenly be somewhere else without much indication as to what was happening or where it came from. I don’t know if this is due to reading an ARC copy, and maybe it was a formatting issue, or maybe it was just me not fully understanding what was going on in the moment.
The pacing was also a bit inconsistent. I started this book back in April, and it took me almost a full month to finally finish it. The first part was really quick and kept me engaged, but once they started travelling it felt like the pacing slowed down and kind of meandered a bit and didn’t really keep me engaged, so it was a struggle whenever I tried to pick this book up. The final third was amazing, lots of action and reveals and the ending makes me want the second book ASAP! Overall pacing is definitely on the slower side, so if you’re the kind of reader who likes slow paced books I think this would be a great one to try.
There are so many twists and turns, especially in the last half of the book and that’s really what made this a 4 star for me by the end. I wasn’t really feeling so connected to the characters because of how slow I found the middle section, but once things started picking up and we got more information on the characters, I found that I couldn’t put this book down!
Overall, this is a solid debut fantasy and a great start to what I’m sure will be a series of epic proportions. I can’t wait to see what trouble Loulie, Mazen, Qadir and Aisha get into in the next book, because things seem like they’re really going to get moving now!