Adult Books, Diverse Books

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah – ARC Review

Thank you to Orbit Books and Netgalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

This book has already become one of my favourite reads this year. I loved the story and the characters so much. 1001 Arabian Nights are some of my favourite stories and I loved how Chelsea wove those stories with her own twist into the main arc of the story. We see the story of Scheherazade and the Sultan, the 40 thieves and more and it just made me so nostalgic as I remembered reading them when I was younger and especially being told these stories in urdu by my grandparents.

The storytelling had me completely hooked and sucked into the story and I could truly imagine the story in my head as I read. The writing is beautiful and has such a great flow that you just want to continue reading even as your eyes are literally closing. (Yes this did happen to me several times as I read.)

These characters have my whole heart, Loulie and Mazen were such wonerful characters. So different from each other but they had such great chemistry together. Qadir fast became a favourite, he gave me tired dad chasing after his hyper daughter vibes with Loulie and I am here for it. I really loved seeing their relationship develop thoughout the story. Aisha was a surprise and even though I was wary about her, she still won me over. All four of them had some great banter and I especially loved when they were sassy and sarcastic with each other.

However my favourite thing was that Mazen was the single sunshine amongst this group of grumpy travellers. All he wants is to see the world and hear all the stories and somehow he gets dragged into this quest with Loulie and is completely out of his depth in every way but still perseveres. His older brother Omar is the leader of the 40 thieves and yet Mazen can barely swing a sword. It was an interesting contrast to see that between the brothers. When we first meet Mazen he is escaping the palace in search of a storyteller that has come to the city and that causes a domino effect where he ends up fighting ghouls in the desert with Loulie and the others. I loved his character development throughout the story and how we see him change and become braver, though I do think he is brave in a different way, and always the optimist that also showed the others that they were more than the labels given to them.

Loulie is a thief and con artist and very good at her job, so much so that she has created a persona for herself which quickly becomes famous and results in the sultan sending her on the quest. Her story arc was so heartbreaking to read and you can see why she does not trust people and only relies on herself but I loved seeing her slowly learn to trust the others as the story progresses.

Throughout the story through the events and the wonderful short stories within the story we learn of the history of the world and how and why the jinns are hunted and killed, this is lead by Omar  and his thieves. It was such an interesting backstory and honestly I could read a whole book about the jinns before they were almost exterminated by humans.

This book is fast paced and action packed we are thrown right into the story from the very beginning and we slowly learn more as the characters learn more. Once I got about halfway I could barely breathe because the revelations and the plot twists left me screaming! I was stressed and absolutely terrified for these characters, the neat death experiences one after the other and it did not stop until the very end. I absolutely need the next book immediately after that ending and I don’t know how I will wait a whole year for that sequel.

Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books

Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby

I really loved this story and the wonderful characters.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Sahar Peninsula lies just beyond the horizon, but it isn’t the easiest place to get to. No maps will take you there, nor can it be charted by gazing up at the stars, or down at a compass…

Twelve year old Amira has only ever known a life at sea with her sea-witch mothers. So when their ship is wrecked in a great storm, Amira is delighted to have an opportunity to explore land – accompanied by her best friend Namur – a jinn in cat form. Amira soon finds a boy who has a jinn like her, and learns that their spirit companions are connected to the mysterious storm that gets stronger each day.

When Namur goes missing Amira discovers she has to visit a magical place; a place where lost things can be found. But will Amira also discover her own destiny, and find out what it truly means to be a Moonchild?

I was told this was a middle grade story inspired by Arabian Nights and a sea adventure and I was sold! This book did not disappoint! This is such a wonderful story of friendship and learning to express yourself and so much more. The world is so wonderfully written and I could really imagine all the places Amira travelled to and lived. The storytelling is so great, I was completely hooked from the beginning and just could not put it down.

I loved Amira and her sense of adventure and especially her relationship with her jinni, Namur, who takes the form of a cat. I have a cat that I love to pieces and their relationship was so special to me, I felt Amira’s fear of losing him especially in that first scene on their boat. Amira’s determination to find Namur when he goes missing was so heart warming and truly showed the love between them.

I also loved how Amira made friends even though she isn’t always the best at talking to others. Their bond and the way they supported and helped each other, they each had their own strengths and weaknesses and they worked well together. I loved how Aisha showed that children are different and that no one type of person is better than the other and everyone is valuable and able to make a difference. It was also great to see actual loving parents in the book and also see different types of parents and that every family is different.

I loved the magic and the mythical creatures we see in the book and how we get interludes with their own story but it also adds to the main story. I really loved it and didn’t feel it distracted from the main story.

But the thing I loved most was how Aisha shows through the characters how to manage your emotions. It was just such a wonderful thing to see in the book and written so beautifully that it wasn’t preachy but woven seamlessly into the story.

Truly this book is one that all kids should read. I am really looking forward to reading the next book especially after that ending!