Book Review: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

It’s one of the best experiences in the world to get the opportunity to read one of your most anticipated books. The Stardust Thief is the debut novel by Chelsea Abdullah that comes out this May. It’s a One Thousand and One Nights retelling by a Kuwaiti author, and it’s one that sounded like so much fun. I was right to assume that.

I was so lucky to have been an early copy of this book from Nazia at Orbit. I can’t wait for my signed edition from Waterstones to arrive, but at least for now, I have this edition to read and hug.

Loulie al-Nazari is known as the Midnight Merchant. With her djinn partner and artefacts, the pair are known for tracking down magical objects and selling them on. After she saves the coward younger prince, the Sultan sends her on a mission with the older prince to find a particular magical lamp. Loulie doesn’t want to work with djinn killers, but she has no choice otherwise, and soon she finds out that she’s been dragged into something even more dangerous than she’d realised.

I loved this book so much. I’ve not been in much of a fantasy mood recently, but I was still easily able to get through this book. This is a story that pulls you into the world and convinces you that you want to stay forever. I certainly want to.

There are quite a few books set in the Middle East these days, especially A Thousand and One Nights retellings, but few have been written by Middle-Eastern authors. It was nice to see a book focused on Djinn written by a Middle-Eastern woman. It really added something to the worldbuilding, and these deserts and cities just felt right.

Unsurprisingly, the use of lore and legend in this story was one of my favourite things about this book. We know the story of One Thousand and One Nights. We know that Shahrazad is a young woman who, to stay alive, tells the Sultan a new story every night for one thousand and one nights. By the time she has finished, he is in love with her, and she survives where his other wives didn’t. There are some magnificent retellings of these stories and their references far and wide in pop culture. The Stardust Thief doesn’t use the names we know, but we have a new storyteller in the son of Shahrazad and the Sultan. With that backstory, it’s no surprise that stories play a major role in this book. There are several sections where the pages change, and you’re reading text on an illustration of old paper. You get to read tales following different djinn, as well as a retelling of the classic. You can see where Abdullah got her inspiration from, and I loved it so much. This book breathed fresh air into an area of fantasy that, as much as I enjoy, was starting to feel a little stale. The storytelling and the djinn tales themselves in this book were perfect. You get to see the wily humans and feel for the djinn whilst it still feels like you’re reading something so classic.

When it comes to characters, my favourite was probably the coward prince himself. Mazen himself wasn’t a coward, not really. He might consider himself one as he’d rather hide than fight battles he can’t win. But he also wasn’t trained to be a fighter. All the other characters know how to handle themselves. Mazen has to learn what he can do throughout the book. He was a good man with a good heart, and I’m a little in love with him. I think I can see a romance brewing between him and Loulie in future books, and I hope it does, as it could be cute. Another character I found fascinating was the Queen of the Dunes. She is a powerful djinn, who they have to face in this book, yet comes to aid them later on. We get to read her story, and it made me curious to learn more about the other djinn. There was one who appeared at the end of the book that I’m very excited to learn more about.

If you love found family then this book also features that trope. The friendships in this book are very emotional and I loved them all so much. I can’t wait to see how they’re going to transform throughout the series.

The writing in this book was great. The chapters are short, which means it’s easy to tell yourself, “just one more chapter. Then you wind up reading four or five more, as you just can’t put the book down. I’ve seen some people describe this as a YA crossover book with the writing, and I’m not sure I see that. The protagonists are nineteen at the youngest and possibly in their early twenties. They are adults, and the tone gets very dark, but their behaviour and the way they think can feel a little bit younger. Realistically, that’s what we’re all like at that age, yet we don’t really consider ourselves teenagers any longer. Maybe this is a book that could do with a New Adult category, but it’s not YA for sure. I’ll be considering it adult, which is how it’s being published.

I’ve found a new favourite book in The Stardust Thief, and you will all most certainly want to get your hands on this book. This is going to be our latest book obsession.

5/5 Stars

Title: The Stardust Thief

Author: Chelsea Abdullah

Genre: Fantasy

Age Range:  Adult

Publisher: Orbit

Release Date: 19/5/22


Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones (Signed) | Waterstones (Standard) | Bookshop Org

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