Mid-Year Freak Out Tag

I’ve seen this tag floating around a ton on book Twitter and other bloggers’ sites, so I thought I’d join in the fun! The original tag was created by ReadLikeWildfire and Earl Grey Books.

By the end of June I’d read 34 books. I set my goal for 52 this year, so it looks like I’m ahead of my pace of one book per week. I’ll take it since you never know what might randomly pop up in life. Without a doubt most of the books I’ve read so far fall within the fantasy genre. I haven’t read much nonfiction this year, but I have a few in my queue at the moment that I really want to read.

Anyway, let’s get on with the questions!

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Book Review: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

Author: Chelsea Abdullah
Series: The Sandsea Trilogy, #1
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Orbit
Publish Date: May 17, 2022
Print Length: 432

Want to support local bookstores? Buy a copy of The Stardust Thief on Bookshop.org!*

*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

Official Synopsis

Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One Nights, this book weaves together the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince, and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a legendary, magical lamp.

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.

My Review

I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

THE STARDUST THIEF, the first book in a planned trilogy, spins a spellbinding tale of the power of stories. Loulie al-Nazari, the famous Midnight Merchant, locates and sells jinn relics with the help of her jinn bodygarud, Qadir. She prides herself on staying out of political schemes, but unexpectedly becomes an unwilling pawn in the sultan’s ultimate quest to rid the world of all jinn. They, along with a prince and one of the forty thieves, Aisha, begrudgingly begin their search for a magical lamp in the Sandsea.

I thought the characterization was quite well done in this book. It alternates between the three points of view of the main characters: Loulie, the prince, and Aisha. Both Loulie and Aisha witnessed horrible events young in life and survived. Through their chapters we see how these events formed their personalities. Loulie avoids long term commitment, only trusting Qadir, who rescued her when her entire tribe was murdered. Though she’d never reveal it, she’s a sensitive person and holds those she trusts to their word. Aisha, who encountered violence at the hand of the jinn, turned to a life of vengeance. As one of the famed forty thieves, she seeks out and kills any jinn she encounters. The prince, who has a penchant for storytelling, is sheltered and cowardly, but not remiss of morals and loyalty. As he experiences the world beyond the palace walls for the first time, he becomes more self aware of his perceived shortcomings and grapples with those insecurities.

As someone who knows nothing about jinn, I thought the magic system was easy to understand. That is, the jinn are the magic system. What was less clear to me was the flashbacks of jinn history that the main characters experience on their quest. These flashbacks serve a purpose. But I found it a bit confusing to keep track of the history experienced by the jinn and how that motivates them in the present. I think this is mostly my own personal issue; but I do think some of this is because things will hopefully become more clear in the next books.

However, on the whole I enjoyed learning about the jinn and their history as told from their perspective and from human folklore. One of the overarching themes of THE STARDUST THIEF is that stories offer immortality and grains of truth. But because the survivors pass on the stories, those truths become muddled or sensationalized by the winners. In this case, the winners are the humans. Their fear and greed of the jinn and their magic lead to, frankly, an ongoing genocide of the jinn. As the main characters learn more about the jinn, they inevitably learn about history from a different perspective. This ties in with another theme related to storytelling: stories have power. Just think about how pundits spin facts into half truths to suit their beliefs and move the public based on emotion; or how others may use storytelling to teach a lesson.

Another theme of this book is facing one’s fears. This includes those that are internal and unseen by others, or those of a more physical nature. As I mentioned earlier, Loulie is afraid to get close to anyone after losing her whole family and tribe as a youth. The sheltered prince is a pacifist, afraid of death and of finding himself in a situation where he’s forced to kill or be killed. Even Qadir has secrets of his own that he’s afraid to share with Loulie out of fear she’ll despise him. This ultimately leads to lessons in trusting others and in understanding that it’s ok to ask for help to push through one’s fears.

Finally, for lack of a better word, destiny plays a significant hand in the plot. Or, rather, events that transpire are born from the results of past events. “What if” scenarios become abundant as the characters learn more about each other, their families, and the past.

Overall, I really don’t have any critiques. THE STARDUST THIEF was a refreshing change of pace for me with respect to the fantasy genre. There were some delightful plot twists, a couple of which I had my suspicions about, and a couple of which surprised me. The pacing moved along at a decent clip, though I found the second half more engaging. The writing style is easy to comprehend, the characters are multi-faceted, and the world is rich in folklore and forbidden magic. It’s a very solid four stars in my mind. The only reason I chose not to rate it higher was because of my personal reading experience. I didn’t find myself so sucked in that I wanted to binge read it like I’ve felt with other books. However, I absolutely plan to continue with the trilogy, especially after that ending!

Rating: 4.25/5
Content warnings: death, blood
Reading format: Kindle e-book

For additional thoughts about THE STARDUST THIEF, check out reviews by Realms of my Mind, My World of Books, KBbookreviews, and Novel Notions.

Wyrd and Wonder 2022 Introduction

About Wyrd and Wonder

Though not defined as a readathon, I decided to keep rolling with team-based reading and join Wyrd and Wonder for the month of May. Wyrd and Wonder, now in its fifth year, is essentially a month-long celebration of all things fantasy. The form of the fantasy content doesn’t matter; it can be in various forms including books, movies, art, games, etc. It’s hosted by Imyril at There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa at Dear Geek Place, Jorie at Jorie Loves a Story, Annemieke at A Dance With Books, and Ariana Jane at The Book Nook.

To learn more about Wyrd and Wonder and how to sign up, visit Ariana Jane’s announcement post; she also has an update with a bingo board and read along information. It’s also important to highlight that if you sign up and post about Wyrd and Wonder between May 1-7, you’ll also be entered into a giveaway! To follow along on social media, you can find this event on Twitter @ wyrdandwonder and on Instagram @ wyrdandwonder. There is also a main schedule for Wyrd and Wonder that contains daily prompts and space to link to your intro/wrap-up and review posts during the event.

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WWW Wednesday: April 27, 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme revived and hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The idea is to answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses.

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What are you going to read next?

Currently Reading: I’m currently reading TELL ME AN ENDING by Jo Harkin. It’s about a dystopian world where one can choose to have select memories erased and decide whether to remember you had the memory removal done or not. Only then people start having “traces” of memories that were supposed to be gone. This is another read for Mythothon. Hopefully I can finish it by the end of the month!

Recently Finished: The last book I finished was KAIKEYI by debut author Vaishnavi Patel. You can find my review for it here. It’s a retelling of the maligned character Kaikeyi from the Indian epic the Ramayana. I really enjoyed the themes of feminism, familial love, fate, and faith in this reimagining.

Reading Next: Next I’m going to read THE STARDUST THIEF by Chelsea Abdullah. I’ve already seen lots of reactions floating around on book Twitter. I’d like to avoid any spoilers and also finish reading and publish my review before it hits shelves on May 17 in the U.S. Publication dates for other ARCs sitting on my NetGalley shelf have long since passed. But this is one of a select few that I have a chance to read before publication day.