published: 19th May 2022
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.
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.
Galley provided by publisher
CWs: torture, gore, blood
The Stardust Thief is a decent book. It’s pretty enjoyable, definitely readable, with enough action to see you through. However. I never felt it was much more than that.
This isn’t to say I didn’t have fun reading this one. Because I did. There’ve been books where I’ve spent the whole thing just. Wishing I wasn’t reading it, or skimming it (yes, I’m aware there’s a simple fix to these problems). This was not that. I enjoyed it. But I don’t think I could say I enjoyed it enough to want to continue reading the series.
None of this was really to do with the writing or the characters or the plot. All of these were good: the writing was easy to read and moved the story along at a rapid enough pace that I was never bored by it. The characters, too, were ones you could easily like and sympathise with and, if I were ever to decide I wanted to continue the series, it would be because of them. And the plot itself was, alright, a little predictable but not in a way I minded. It was a book to set up what’s coming next, so that’s understandable.
The issue that led me to give it 3 stars, though? That would be the depth.
I don’t mean this in a rude way, but this is an adult fantasy that read like YA. Namely, in the depth of worldbuilding and, to a lesser extent, in the characters. I wouldn’t say it was shallow, so much as underdeveloped. I think it’s a hard balance to strike though, not taking depth to mean infodumps, so I’m inclined to prefer books that lack those infodumps and a little depth to those that substitute depth for infodumps. So, in that sense, this book was alright.
But if I were to read the next books, that’s more what I’d want from them. And, when I say this read like YA, I mean because, typically, this is a kind of style that is more prevalent in YA books. If I’m reading an adult fantasy, this is not what I expect.
However, to counter that, I would say that the bones of it were there with this book. Like, if it had a little more time spent on developing and describing the world, then I could see it becoming stronger. Chelsea Abdullah has all the right skills, it’s just a matter of developing them, which I can see will come as she writes more books.
So, while I may not be so eager to finish this series, Abdullah is definitely an author I’ll be keeping an eye on in the future.