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.
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.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
If you know me, then you know there is nothing I love more than a good fantasy book that delves into mythology and folklore, something that The Stardust Thief does and then some. I felt completely transported when reading this book and am desperate to get my hands on the next book in the series.
Loulie al-Nazari is better known as the Midnight Merchant, someone who is able to find enchanted objects and sell them to the highest bidder. So when the Sultan hears of a powerful object tied to a Jinn King of old, Loulie becomes unwillingly embroiled in his plan to find it. Along side a Prince she can’t stand, one of the infamous forty thieves and her sullen Jinn bodyguard, they set off on a journey filled with danger and discoveries, Loulie will need to rely on those she doesn’t trust if she is to make it out alive.
In case you didn’t get it from the above, I loved this book and one of the main reasons for that was the characters. Told from three POV’s, Loulie, the Midnight Merchant and the only one with the way to find the enchanted relic. She has no love for the Sultan or the royal family in general and isn’t too impressed when she is forced on this journey. She is witty and incredibly strong, even if she doesn’t realise it herself and she goes through a huge amount of character growth throughout the story. Prince Mazen is the youngest son of the Sultan. Obsessed with stories, he likes to escape the Palace walls to feel normal, something his oldest brother, an infamous Jinn killer and leader of the forty thieves, would never understand. He is sweet and extremely sheltered, but is more than willing to stand up for what’s right when needed. Finally, Aisha, one of the infamous 40 thieves, and a notorious Jinn killer. She has been sent as a spy and almost bodyguard on the journey, loyal to the Crown as long as they let her seek revenge on the Jinn that murdered her family.
Though we only get the above three POV’s, there are four character who go on the journey to find the relic, the fourth being Qadir who, apart from Loulie, was one of my favourite characters. He was sarcastic and I just loved how everyone assumed he was Loulie’s brooding body guard. Their relationship is one I thoroughly enjoyed following. It wasn’t remotely romantic, more familial with Qadir being with Loulie since she was a child. We also get introduced to multiple other players throughout the story from the Sultan, Prince Omar, his eldest son and the leader of the 40 thieves, as well as other members of the thieves and allies of Loulie that pop up throughout their journey.
I Initially picked this up when I realised it was going to be based on tales from 1001 nights and it was easy to see where our story overlaps with the original tales. Abdullah uses the tales, not only to give us insight into the world and it’s history, but also as plot points, and some that make for the most impressive of plot twists. I thoroughly enjoyed the deep dive into Arab mythology, and the multiple ways in which the author weaves them into her own unique story. Abdullah’s flowing writing style makes it easy to fall into the story and I found myself reading huge chunks at a time, never quite able to put it down. Though it’s a bit of a chunk, it’s an epic chunk with lots of adventure, magic and some pretty epic action scenes, so it’s easy to speed through the story and incredibly hard to stop.
If I had one little nit picky thing that I just didn’t love, it would be the romance arc that’s weaved through the story. Though it only plays a small part in the overall plot, I really didn’t think it added anything, one of the characters never really gets enough page time for us to get invested in the relationship, and I do feel like it could have been removed and wouldn’t have impacted on the story at all. The relationship I loved reading about was Loulie and Qadir, we learn early on how they came to be linked, but through the story we learn more about their relationship, and though them more about the history of the world and the magical beings that live in it. I also enjoyed the conversations and interactions between Loulie, Mazen and Aisha, they all have their own reasons for going on the journey, and because they don’t necessary get along we get some humorous and entertaining scenes.
As a whole I adored this book, and it ended on one hell of a cliff-hanger that had me swearing, wanting to find out what happens next. If you like your fantasy filled with mythology, misfit characters who are on a journey, plot twists galore and stories about stories, then make sure you pick this one up!