Book Review: The Stardust Thief

As I spend a lot of my time reading as well as writing, I’ve decided to combine the two and start writing my own book reviews. (It also gives me a great excuse to keep buying books and adding to my mountainous TBR pile.)
The first book I will be reviewing is ‘The Stardust Thief’ by Chelsea Abdullah. This a debut fantasy fiction novel, that was released May this year. I had pre-ordered this book after discovering Chelsea Abdullah through the wonders of Twitter and have been looking forward to it’s release. I pre-ordered the hardback from Amazon for £11.43; I do in hindsight wish I’d got my hands on a special edition instead (and that probably gives you a hint to how much I liked the book).

Review: ‘The Stardust Thief’ by Chelsea Abdullah

Released (UK): 19th May 2022
Rating: 4.5/5

Loulie al-Nazari, the Midnight Merchant, is renown for hunting down relics, magical items created by jinn, with the help of her jinn bodyguard Qadir, which she then sells illegally at the Night Market.
Caught for her crimes, Loulie is forced to work for the Sultan and made to track down a relic, a lamp containing a powerful jinn, thought lost in the Sandsea, an abyss of swirling sand where the kingdom of the jinn was sunk a long time ago.
Accompanying her on her dangerous journey is her constant companion, Qadir, the disguised Prince Mazen and Aisha, one of Prince Omar’s ‘Forty Thieves’ (hunters of jinn). On their quest they face multiple perils, during which answers to the past are gradually uncovered.

The Stardust Thief is paced well with both action and time for reflection. Each dangerous encounter is meaningful in that it reveals aspects of the characters’ natures and their stories. The storyline is as much about the past as it about their current quest to find the lamp and we gradually build a fuller picture of it as the plot progresses.

The story is told by three different points of view, Loulie, Mazen and Aisha and this works well as each character has their own individual stance when it comes to the quest and loyalties. I felt engaged with each character and the switches in points of view were easily marked by separate chapters and they flowed well from one perspective to another. Overall, the characters felt well-rounded for the most part, each having flaws and their own backstory to explain their behaviour and attitudes.
My only comment on characters would be that it might have been nice to have Qadir’s point of view included as well. As the only non-human in the group, he could have given some insight into the jinn but perhaps this was omitted to build the mystique around that particular character.

A nice addition to the book, were the inclusion of folklore tales which were tied to different points of the story. Much of the mythology appears to be inspired by stories from Arabian Nights, or at least this is where I recognised it from. Despite these aspects being familiar, they felt fresh and novel in their retelling.

I only have two criticisms when it comes to the novel. Firstly, though the quest was for the lamp, we don’t get to the point of reaching the lamp until quite far on in the book. At one point, I realised I had only a few chapters left and yet we still hadn’t come across it. Compared to the richness of the other adventures in the book, the discovery of the lamp felt slightly lacking and rushed.
My second criticism, to me feels like bit of a plot-hole. The protagonist and her companions take several arduous days to reach the Sandsea, which included two rest stops for recuperation and to restock provisions. However, somehow the antagonist and their followers manage the same journey, in at most, a couple of days. Whilst I could wave my hands over this section and say ‘Magic!’, I feel like the reader deserves a proper explanation for the sudden translocation of not just couple but a multitude of people. I really hope this is something that is addressed in the sequel rather than just left open to the reader’s own conjecture (which to me would feel a tiny bit lazy).

The Ending:
Whilst the ending did leave on somewhat of a cliff-hanger, I didn’t feel in anyway disappointed that the story was not completely wrapped up in a fancy magical bow. Not all questions were answered but I felt enough was revealed to satisfy the reader. It is very much left open for a sequel and the fate of some of the characters will not be known until the next book.

In conclusion:
Overall, I found ‘The Stardust Thief’ an incredibly enjoyable read and was gripped by it from start to finish. In fact, I was so engrossed I finished the book in three days, which for me is pretty fast and I have to admit I was rather sad when I ran out of pages. The previous criticisms, though bugged me slightly, were not detrimental in any way to overall enjoyment of the book and I sincerely hope Chelsea Abdullah keeps writing and brings us more.

Sum-Up in 3:
1. Was I glad I pre-ordered this book?  Yes, it lived up to expectations and it’s one of my favourite books so far this year.
2. Would I recommend this book?  Yes, I would to other fans of fantasy.
3. Am I going to pre-order the sequel?  Yes and I really hope I don’t have to wait too long.
Bonus question:
Will I be keeping the book for my collection? Yes, I love the front cover and I hope to collect the series (how ever many books that is). However, I do wish I’d got a special edition with sprayed edges so it looked even better.

Published by kaelawalker

30-something aspiring writer on the West Coast of Scotland. Inspired by nature, beautiful Scotland and my journey coping with physical and mental illness.

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