Published: May 17, 2022
Publisher: Orbit Books
Series: The Sandsea Trilogy #1
Pages: 480 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
Mildly anticipated, highly enjoyed! This wasn’t on my most anticipated list for the year, but it was quietly sitting on my TBR tempting me with promises of jinn magic and One Thousand and One Nights inspired themes. I’m so glad I checked it out because it was amazing!
Loulie al-Nazari, garbed in her midnight blue star speckled garments, sells rare jinn artifacts to wealthy collectors defying the sheiks law. Always by her side is Qadir, her jinn bodyguard. Of course it’s a secret that he’s a jinn because Prince Omar and his Forty Thieves hunt and kill jinn simply for existing. Loulie is forced before the sultan and given a deadly quest to find a magical lamp containing one of the seven jinn kings, who’s magic is powerful enough to grant any request, including killing all the jinn. She and Qadir are accompanied by the younger, kinder Prince Mazen in the guise of his deadly elder brother Omar, and one of Omar’s most trusted thieves, Aisha.
The group of unwilling adventurers trek across the desert toward the Sandsea, home of the hidden jinn city and the magical lamp. Along the way they stumble across numerous dangers both natural and otherwise. Ghouls hunting in the desert, dark undead jinn queens, and murderers dressed all in black threaten the party at every turn. Their imminent peril kept me hooked, particularly when the group gets caught in a sandstorm and ends up in the hidden prison of the Queen of the Sands, a jinn who can infiltrate your mind and control the dead. The action was vivid and the scenery was exquisite and some of the implications were thought provoking. When jinn blood is spilled it causes flourishing growth, so it’s often pointed out that the beautiful palace gardens and one particularly lush city is thanks to the murder of countless jinn.
This was an awesome debut that kept me reading late into the night! If you’re looking to fill the hole in your soul left by the Daevabad trilogy this might help, though there’s little in the way of romance in the first book. It has so many great elements that totally worked for my current reading mood – betrayal, secrets, and magic! Characters with long, dark histories that slowly get revealed as the story goes along! All my favorite things!