THE STARDUST THIEF by Chelsea Abdullah.
Orbit Books. h/b. £14.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Long ago, the jinn stopped obeying the gods. The world was nearly destroyed, and the jinn and their kings fled below the sands leaving humans to dwell above. But not all the jinn remained in that kingdom below the Sandsea, and not all jinn magic was contained there either. They say jinn are threatening the city, and Prince Omar and his forty thieves hunt them, keeping the people of Madinne safe.
Loulie al-Nazari, or the Midnight Merchant as she is more commonly known, is a seller of magical items. She has a knack for finding relics of the jinn and, alongside her friend and bodyguard Qadir, sells them to rich buyers who do not fear the jinn’s magics. This time she is selling the prized Elixir of Revival, but her client is late, and so is the hour.
Mazen bin Malik, the third son of the Sultan, wanders the city in search of the great storyteller, Rhuba, who is said to be arriving that day. It is certainly not the first time Mazen has snuck out of the palace disguised as a commoner, but it is the first time he has been caught in the act of leaving and by his older brother, no less. Yet Mazen is determined nothing will keep him from hearing Rhuba’s tales today… that is until a beautiful woman crosses his path, and now all his thoughts are of her as he finds himself following in her footsteps.
The Stardust Thief is the first book in The Sandsea Trilogy and is a spell-binding opening to what looks set to be an exciting trilogy. Loulie has the perfect blend of courage, determination and internal strife. She has a burning wish to be independent, and her vulnerabilities are handled delicately, making her very believable on the page. Her companion Qadir provides wit, and Prince Mazen is also very readable and endearing.
Mazen and Rhuba’s stories provide delightful interludes in this book and are unique touches, giving depth to the worldbuilding, which is very much inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, and ensuring the reader remains wrapped in this world of jinn and magic and ancient legends. Abdullah gives us a wonderful mixture of the familiar and the new and promises much more to look forward to in the next instalment.