Published by Orbit on May 17th 2022
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.
Thank you to the publisher Orbit, Nazia Khatun, and Netgalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
The blurb of The Stardust Thief caught my eye immediately. I was looking for more adventurous fantasy, preferably in a desert setting and promptly Orbit dropped the announcement for this one in my inbox. I waited for the arcs to become available and signed up as soon I saw they were.
It’s an Arab story written by an Arab woman, inspired by tales like One Thousand and One Nights, Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves, and Aladdin. These and other stories are a large part of the overall story but not the centre. The author has neatly woven the stories, the ideas, the vibes of these older stories into her own world. A world filled with danger and wonder. There’s a veil of mystery hanging over the whole story and sometimes you glimpse of what’s behind it but it never reveals everything. Not even until the last sentence do you know all.
Our main characters, Loulie, Qadir, Aisha, and Mazen, are an interesting cast thrown together. All have their secrets and uncovering the truth proves lethal. And those aren’t the only secrets. Throughout their journey, they meet others with precious secrets. It’s a world where stories seem more truthful than the things someone says. Who can you trust? The dynamics between these characters change a lot over the course of the book which I really enjoyed. Nothing is static, everything moves, like sand dunes.
I give The Stardust Thief five stars. It’s a wonderous epic fantasy adventure across the deserts. I loved the touches of the stories woven that I remember reading when I was a kid. It definitely added another layer to the whole book. I highly recommend it to any adventure fantasy fan.