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.
With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artefact. 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.
“Let us speak of lies and truths, and of the story hidden between them.“
I was so hyped for this book and was delighted to receive a copy in a giveaway, I knew as soon as it arrived I just had to jump straight in.
The story follows Loulie, a criminal merchant who deals in magical relics, Qadir, her magical jinn bodyguard, Mazen, a cowardly prince, and Aisha, a bad-ass thief with her own agenda.
For me, this is a story about relationships, beautifully woven together on a middle Eastern backdrop through classical tales of jinn, magic, and illusions. My favourite part of this book was the dialogues between the characters. All of the POV’s have inner demons that have been steering their livelihoods but as their adventure unfolds they are forced to face their troubles. As they do this, there is some really touching scenes between the characters and the beautiful prose really elevates the gorgeous messages scattered throughout.
I thoroughly adored the relationship between Loulie and Qadir – Qadir is such a wonderfully complex character but, for all his flaws, he is wholesome and pure and I could honestly read a full book just following those 2.
I also really enjoyed reading from the other 2 perspectives of Aisha and Mazen. All of the characters in this story felt really well crafted and deep, and whilst I can tell there is still a lot more to come from them, I felt like they had an incredibly satisfying arc in this opening of the trilogy.
Abdullah has created a deliciously rich world to explore, and whilst my knowledge of the Middle East is limited, I really felt transported and I can only put that down to her research.
I really enjoyed the spin on the classic tale of 1001 Arabian Nights, and the magic system was refreshing for me to read though I won’t delve further as spoilers!
It is a little bit of a slow burn to begin with, and I did feel like it read more like a YA for the first chunk, but it exploded in the second half and I couldn’t put it down.
Overall a very solid start to a new magical trilogy. I loved the relationships and feel like this will eventually unfold into a found family dynamic over coming books. The message of following your heart and ultimately being yourself came through strongly for me and left me feeling ready to conquer the world which is something I don’t usually get from fantasy and I loved it!
If this is on your tbr then I’d recommend, I had a great time reading it and I’m really looking forward to the next books.