The Stardust Thief

Chelsea Abdullah. Orbit, $28 (480p) ISBN 978-0-316-36876-6

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)
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