Stunning photo by @betterwithabookinmyhand!
Happy Tuesday and welcome to day 1 of our readalong of The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah. I’m so excited to be reading this one with you, I hope you all love it!
Before we start, how are you all doing? I hope you had a wonderful weekend and got some reading and relaxing done.
Since today is day 1, we’ll be reading from the beginning to the end of Chapter 12. Get comfy and let’s get started!
When you’ve finished today’s section, catch up with me in the comments down below so we can discuss the beginning of the book. Happy reading!
Please be warned, the following section will include spoilers for The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah from the beginning to Chapter 12. Please only read on if you have finished this section!
We’re beginning with a story within a story, The Tale of the Jinn! A story of uncontrolled magic, lost jinn cities and faithful mortal servants.
We join Loulie as she waits to meet a mysterious One-Eyed Merchant. She’s the Midnight Merchant, a magic seller and she intends to sell magic to the One-Eyed Merchant. She’s accompanied by Qadir, a jinn who she calls her bodyguard. Rasul, the One-Eyed Merchant demands to see proof of the magic before handing over the other half of the money owed. Despite making a coin literally disappear (hello, magic!) and showing Rasul the vial of sparkling magic liquid, he’s still not buying it. Loulie assures him that if it’s only water, the guards surrounding the room can easily steal his gold back. Ooooh she’s feisty, I like it!
After payment, she hands him the vial and when taken, it gives him his eye back. Loulie jokes that he might need to change his name now.
Loulie has a flashback to meeting Qadir for the first time. She had just lost her parents and a jinn was dragging her through the desert. The jinn carried her when she would not walk, and showed her tricks to cheer her up. He told her the coin is magic, one side human and the other jinn. It’s a truthteller. He tells her to flip the coin and if it lands on the human the answer is false, if it lands on the jinn it’s a truth. She flips the coin and says her family is dead: truth. She flips the coin and says a jinn saved her life: truth. She flips the coin and says she’s alone, it rolls away and Qadir picks up the coin and placed it in her hand, jinn side up, and tells her she’s not alone anymore… 9 pages in and I’m weeping… this could be a record.
Back in the present, Loulie and Qadir overhear a meeting between Rasul and another about the sultan. The sultan thinks there’s something in Lady Shafia’s stories that could help them claim victory over the jinn. Suddenly the topic has switched and Rasul is talking about the illustrious Midnight Merchant. Not even realising how close she is, in her mundane disguise.
New chapter, new POV! Drop a 🙋 in the comments if you love multiple POV books!
Mazen is the sultan’s son, a prince. Could he know anything about this relic his father is hunting for? Mazen is looking for a storyteller, a specific one. Everything seems pretty relaxed until Mazen overhears an off-duty guard talking about his brother behind his back. If this guard recognises him, this could go very badly! Then Mazen chokes on his coffee and all hopes of not drawing attention to himself promptly disappear. This is my kind of awkward bad luck!
Thankfully, the guard doesn’t recognise him and goes back to discussing how many more jinn there are around lately. We find out a jinn killed his mother, this is why he’s so tightly bound to the palace. Then a woman appears before him and he’s completely… beguiled. Something’s not right and Mazen knows it. He has the urge to follow the woman and make her his own. Is she a jinn?
Back to Loulie, we learn that her birth name is Layla, but she uses that now as an alias for people she doesn’t entirely trust. Only those she trusts call her Loulie. As Loulie and Qadir enjoy the market, they spot the jinn that’s enchanted Mazen, and they follow her, using a compass that her father provided Loulie with back when she was just Layla, before she was the Midnight Merchant. The compass belonged to Qadir and he returned for it, which is when Qadir saved her life. He stayed because the compass told him he must, until it directs him elsewhere.
Back in the present, Loulie decides she’ll either talk to the jinn… or threaten her with a curved dagger. You go girl! She argues with the jinn until smoke begins to coalesce in the air around her, filling her lungs and giving her flashbacks to memories of losing her family. She returns to the moment and the jinn knows she lost someone to the “men in black”
Then out of nowhere sunlight bursts into the room and a man is standing in sunlight – is it Mazen? Loulie collapses.
Mazen exits his state of transfixiation, and Loulie’s there to greet him. Mazen thinks she distracted him enough to be able to fight his way out of the trance – that’s oddly romantic. We learned earlier that Loulie gives her birth name, Layla, to those she doesn’t trust, and she introduced herself to Mazen as Layla. Don’t feel bad though, he’s equally untrusting and he too gives Loulie a fake name, Yousef.
Mazen remembers he was supposed to be locating Old Rhuba for some story-time, and Loulie is happy to escort him there! Loulie lies and tells Mazen she’s a messenger and he lies and tells Loulie he’s a scribe. This lying pair are made for each other I swear!!!
They find Old Rhuba and he begins his story, a story about bone ghouls and their keeper the Queen of Dunes. By the time the story finishes, Mazen realises he has a curfew that’s fast approaching and speeds off, but not before asking if he’ll see Loulie tomorrow at the tavern where Old Rhuba will be telling more stories.
Loulie, in her distrust, follows Yousef, and bumps into his brother, the sultan’s eldest son, but she obviously doesn’t know Mazen and Omar are related. He assumes she’s a beggar – charming – and offers her coin. Take it and buy books Loulie, he doesn’t deserve it.
Loulie and Qadir return to their room at Dahlia’s Tavern, and they rest.
Mazen returns to the palace, entering his Hakim’s room screaming of a jinn in the city… wasn’t he supposed to be keeping it quiet that he escaped the palace? Subtle Mazen.
Hakim doesn’t believe him, merely asking if he’s talking of one of his stories.
When he meets with his father, his father is not alone, accompanied by Rasul – the One Eyed Merchant, although he has two eyes now. Rasul tells the royals of the Midnight Merchant and they’re fascinated. Rightly so, our gal Loulie is pretty cool!
It sounds like the sultan intends to commission Loulie to find this mysterious relic but Mazen doesn’t have high hopes that the Midnight Merchant would return alive.
Mazen goes to hunt down his other brother Omar and when he finds her, he’s joined by Aisha, one of his thieves. She’s not the most welcoming of people… but I like her!
Mazen is annoyed that Omar knew there was a jinn in the city and let him go out despite the danger it posed. Omar doesn’t seem too concerned, he’s more concerned about their father finding out Mazen was out in the city. He warns Mazen that if he finds out, he’ll do to him what he did to Hakim and make him a prisoner in the palace. It’s clear Omar has the upper hand, he knows Mazen was out, he could easily tell their father and then Mazen would be trapped. What a predicament.
Ooooh. Another POV! This time we’re stepping into the mind of Omar’s grumpy thief, Aisha. She’s delivering a message from Omar, apparently the qaid had some concerns and the king dismissed them so Omar is stepping in to send one of Aisha’s comrades to join the qaid’s security. This all seems sketchy?
Omar mysteriously appears alongside Aisha, is there a bit of romance between them? He seems a bit smitten, warning her about the jinn, apologising for his abrupt dismissal earlier and assuring her she won’t be sent to join the security, she’s too good for it.
Loulie sits with Dahlia, the tavernkeeper, who’s very interested to know more about Rasul but Loulie isn’t really interested in the conversation. She’s waiting for Qadir and he’s late. Dahlia thinks she should find a husband or a more timely bodyguard. Ohh maybe I was wrong about a sprinkle of romance blossoming between Loulie and Mazen, she has feelings for a man in Dhyme, Ahmed. Before Loulie can ponder too much, Qadir is back!
Dahlia tries to convince Loulie to stay for Old Rhuba’s stories but Loulie isn’t having it, instead assuring Dahlia there’ll be a man here who’ll appreciate Rhuba’s stories just as much as she.
Qadir and Loulie disappear into the Madinne’s underground tunnels and she asks Qadir for news from the souk. He says it’s largely elaborated stories about the jinn. She sets up her stall as the Midnight Merchant, selling magic and relics.
It turns out, Mazen didn’t manage to escape the palace to go and see Old Rhuba at the tavern, but his brother Omar knows it was his intention. Omar says it’s a good thing he’s not there because their father has news of an underground tunnel at the tavern and intends to find the Midnight Merchant. Uh ohhhh.
I thought that was bad enough… but the jinn is inside Mazen and has been this entire time??? Talk about bad luck. He’s literally taken the deadly jinn home with him. It was hiding in his shadows but Omar somehow knew all along. I did not see that coming.
At the market, things begin to go downhill when someone starts shouting “rat” and they discover the location of the market has been compromised. When the guards come and try to take down a woman all in blue, Loulie makes the connection that they’re likely here for her, they’re looking for the Midnight Merchant.
When she returns to the tavern, the sultan’s guards await her and she very calmly follows them into the souk.
It seems her bag of relics, no matter how illegal, can save the sultan and his sons from the jinn at large. It really feels like no matter how notorious the Midnight Merchant is, they’ve still underestimated her.
Inside the diwan, both Yousef and Layla are essentially uncovered. Loulie knows now that Yousef is in fact, Prince Mazen and at some point Mazen is bound to be introduced to his saviour and discover Layla is actually Loulie who is actually the Midnight Merchant. Confusinggggg. This is why you don’t lie!
I’m genuinely a little scared for Mazen at how flippant the jinn is, and how inconsequential she believes Mazen to be, the jinn controlling his shadow and turning it on himself. The pond of crimson around his fallen body can’t really be a good sign can it. Maybe Loulie won’t save him after all…
Qadir’s knife appears beside her, maybe a moment too late… but we’ll forgive him since it’s pretty much the only hope Loulie has. Suddenly Omar appears to steal the limelight and YES I’m bitter about it. Then somehow he makes the jinn, real? I mean obviously she was real but she was intangible and now she stands as a woman before them and I am equally as confused as Loulie. Once he’s defeated the jinn (show off) he also pulls the Elixir of Revival out and saves his brother. I really thought Loulie was gonna be the star of that show…
Mazen wakes and he has memories of Omar trying to kill him, obviously when the jinn was inhabiting his body, possessing him. But he’s alive and well! Well might be an exaggeration but he’s certainly doing better than he was the LAST time we saw him. Aaaaand now the penny drops. He knows, Layla and Loulie are one and the same. The notorious Midnight Merchant has saved him not once, but twice AND she knows he’s the prince. In his panicked-excited-bit-of-both-not-really-sure state of mind, he gets up out of bed after nearly DYING and demands he’s off to the diwan.
So the sultan tells Loulie of his plan for her, she will go and find this relic he searches for, a lamp which holds a jinn. It originally belonged to the very first sultan and – strap in, fairies – Mazen is about to tell us the story of how it came to be, and how it came to be lost.
I have to say, you’d think The Tale of Amir and the Lamp would be enough to put the sultan off trying to find it? The last thing on my mind after learning of that story is “wow, get me that lamp”, then again, we know the sultan can be a tad… bloodthirsty and apparently murdered his wives so perhaps he doesn’t hold the fears of a normal person?
Alas, fairies, we’ve reached the end of day one! That section was a lot to unpack and I am both nervous and excited to see where we’re going next!
Let me know your thoughts on this section in the comments and I’ll see you tomorrow for day 2!