Abdullah’s ambitious debut, the first in the Sandsea Trilogy, weaves an intricate tale that draws from the legends of One Thousand and One Nights to create something entirely new. In the sultanate ruled from the great city of Madinne, where magical jinn are persecuted on sight but still prized for their miraculous blood, Loulie al-Nazari, the mysterious Midnight Merchant, makes a living scouring the desert for jinn-enchanted relics to sell to the highest bidder. After inadvertently drawing the sultan’s attention, Loulie is blackmailed by the crown to retrieve a priceless artifact from the legendary lost jinn city of Dhahab, deep within the deadly Sandsea. Accompanying her are her bodyguard Qadir, who’s secretly a jinn himself; thief and jinn hunter Aisha bint Louas; and Prince Mazen bin Malik, who’s been coerced into magically swapping forms with his ruthless older brother, Omar, as part of a political scheme. As their expedition grows ever more dangerous, with the group facing hazards both supernatural and mundane, their carefully guarded secrets are revealed, threatening to change the balance of power in the sultanate forever. Lush descriptions bring the setting to life, while the focus on myth and storytelling contrasted against the characters’ harsh reality adds to the sense of mystery and enchantment. This powerful, intriguing adventure will leave readers eager for more. Agent: Jennifer Azantian, Azantian Literary. (May)
"The Stardust Thief is a dream written upon a page–absorbing, lingering, and poignantly told. Abdullah weaves a sweeping adventure of tales within tales, while laying bare the ways those we love can both uplift us and break our hearts." – Andrea Stewart, author of The Bone Shard Daughter—Andrea Stewart, author of The Bone Shard Daughter
"A thrilling adventure about found families, ancient magic, and stories that linger...I thoroughly enjoyed it." – S. A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass—S. A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass
"You'll be charmed immediately by the characters and pulled in by this exploration of how the stories we hear and the stories we tell ourselves--beautiful and heartbreaking alike –shape us. Perfect for fans of S.A. Chakraborty's City of Brass." – C. L. Clark, author of The Unbroken—C. L. Clark, author of The Unbroken
"Reading The Stardust Thief feels like being told a story on a long, moonlit night: intimate and wondrous. Filled with folkloric dangers and a lovable cast of characters, Abdullah’s debut is by turns whimsical and thrilling. I was held under its powerful enchantment from the first page to the very last." – Allison Saft, author of Down Comes the Night—Allison Saft, author of Down Comes the Night
"Shimmering with magic, The Stardust Thief is a gripping adventure set against an immersive world. Abdullah masterfully crafts a tale, with equally chaotic and lovable characters, that reads like it is meant to be told around the fire beneath a starlit sky." -- Aamna Qureshi, author of The Lady or the Lion—Aamna Qureshi, author of The Lady or the Lion
"Abdullah has created a sumptuous feast of richly layered classic tales, and characters who will have you hungering to unravel their mysteries. The Stardust Thief will transport you, enchant you, and revive your belief in the magic of storytelling.”--Shelley Parker-Chan, author of She Who Became the Sun—Shelley Parker-Chan, author of She Who Became the Sun
“Sizzling with action and secrets, THE STARDUST THIEF is a grand adventure with unforgettable characters, enchanting magic, and plenty of heart!”—Melissa Caruso, author of The Tethered Mage
"[The Stardust Thief] nods to such classic tales from One Thousand and One Nights as “Aladdin,” “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and the framing tale of Scheherazade, but then charts its own thrilling territory.... A marvelous plunge into a beautifully crafted adventure." —Kirkus
"Abdullah’s ambitious debut, the first in the Sandsea Trilogy, weaves an intricate tale that draws from the legends of One Thousand and One Nights to create something entirely new.... Lush descriptions bring the setting to life, while the focus on myth and storytelling contrasted against the characters’ harsh reality adds to the sense of mystery and enchantment. This powerful, intriguing adventure will leave readers eager for more."—Publishers Weekly
"Abdullah’s Sandsea Trilogy kicks off with a beautifully crafted novel heavily influenced by the art of storytelling and personal narrative, especially that of the classic Arabian tale One Thousand and One Nights.... Abdullah is a gifted storyteller, weaving together three disparate points of view in order to bring to life a rich world, rife with magic, where anything that can be dreamed up can happen."—Booklist
"Abdullah writes stories like a sparkling, burning thing painted against the pitch-black night, ever out of our reach. Gently touched with lyrical writing, Abdullah’s talent is making you feel like magic exists."—Buzzfeed
"An impressive first in an expected trilogy, one that hits high notes of several popular themes and trends (found families, classics retold), but offers fresh perspectives as well. It will delight readers who appreciate highly atmospheric books. Share widely, not just with fantasy readers."—Library Journal
DEBUT American Kuwaiti Abdullah unfolds a tale built from the threads of One Thousand and One Nights, an adventure quest, focused on four travelers. The Midnight Merchant, with the aid of her jinn bodyguard, sells relics filled with magic. Prince Mazen bin Malik is trapped in a life he does not want. Aisha bint Louas is one of the fabled Forty Thieves. They seek the jinn in the lamp. To find them, they must step into the endless, ever-shifting sands of the desert, a shimming substance that hides wonder and terror—ghouls and bandits, gardens born of silver blood, and deadly traps made by man and jinn alike. Abdullah transports readers into this rich world and literary heritage by crafting characters with deep backstories; maintaining an engrossing pace; and, most impressively, layering details into the story so deftly that the veil between magic and reality slips and bends delightfully. VERDICT An impressive first in an expected trilogy, one that hits high notes of several popular themes and trends (found families, classics retold), but offers fresh perspectives as well. It will delight readers who appreciate highly atmospheric books. Share widely, not just with fantasy readers.—Neal Wyatt
This debut quest fantasy is the first of a trilogy concerning the revival of an ancient struggle between humans and jinn.
Years ago, assassins in black murdered all of Loulie al-Nazari’s tribe; unaccountably, a wandering jinn named Qadir took her under his protection, posing as her human bodyguard. Today, Loulie hides behind the identity of the Midnight Merchant, locating and selling illegal magical relics. But now the sultan of Madinne has found her out and is forcing her to go on a dangerous desert quest to find the most ancient relic of them all—a lamp imprisoning an enslaved but incredibly powerful jinn—which he intends to use to commit jinn genocide. Along with Qadir, her designated companions are the sultan’s cruel older son, Prince Omar, who rules the deadly band of jinn hunters known as the Forty Thieves, and Omar’s most trusted thief, Aisha. Except that the prince on this journey is actually Omar’s younger brother Prince Mazen, a softhearted and sheltered storyteller whom Omar has blackmailed into taking his place with a magical disguise. Aisha also has her own mission from Omar, which she cannot share. Burdened with secrets, this unlikely quartet encounter many perils while learning new and deadly things about the nature of jinn and of themselves. Several recent Middle Eastern fantasies have explored the complex and bloody relationship between human and jinn (with obvious relevance to contemporary sociopolitics), each in a gloriously unique way. This one offers brief but clever nods to such classic tales from One Thousand and One Nights as “Aladdin,” “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and the framing tale of Scheherazade, but then charts its own thrilling territory. Not only is the story exciting (although at least some of Omar’s plot will be obvious from early on), but the characterization and growth of the three human questers—and to a certain extent, the jinn Qadir—are extremely strong; all are driven to question everything they thought they knew and to consider whether that new knowledge will change their course of action.
A marvelous plunge into a beautifully crafted adventure.