In book review

REVIEW: Nocturna


Title: Nocturna
Author: Maya Motayne
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Fantasy
Release: April 2019
Rating: ✭✭✭✭,5/5

"Magic could not speak, yet interacting with it felt like a conversation, 
a dance, a story shared with a friend with the ending left up to interpretation."

2019 is just full of beautifully diverse fantasy releases, and Nocturna had been on my TBR since the beginning of the year. Imagine my delight when I received this book in one of my April subscription boxes (and this gorgeous special edition no less!) Of course I had to immediately dive into this book!

What is Nocturna about?
Set in a Latinx-inspired world, Nocturna centers around professional thief, Finn Voy, who uses magic to take on many faces but her own. But, when she is caught by a mobster, and the only way out is a heist of something valuable in the Castellan palace, she is faced with the danger of losing her magic forever. Finn teams up with prince Alfie, who is grieving the loss of his brother, and is desperately trying to find a way to get him back. However, the two of them accidentally unleash a horrific power, and, in order to contain it, Finn and Alfie are forced to work together. Will this unlikely alliance work?

“She'd always imagined the weight of someone's hand in her own to feel like an anchor, tugging her into a forced stasis when she only wanted to run, to be free. 
Yet now, she wanted nothing more than to stay. 
She felt more freedom in this moment than all her years combined. 
Freedom, she was coming to understand, could be found in a person instead of a place.”

What did I think of Nocturna?
Reading Nocturna was such a pleasant experience: I found that the writing and characters immediately pulled me in. The world-building was rich and the Latinx-inspired universe was very refreshing within the YA genre. I enjoyed the little Spanish phrases plastered about in the text, seamlessly switching between languages, as well as the non-white cast. That is right, all of the characters are latinx! 

The premise for both main characters is what initially drew me in. The concept of a face-stealing thief is very original. Her past abuse and trauma has resulted in her never wanting to look like herself again, which adds such a great layer to the character of Finn. I also like how versatile and dynamic she's portrayed. The way in which her confusion between the affection she seems to feel for Alfie and her usual apathetic side seems to conflict, and how she switches between 'Prince' and Alfie's name supplies yet another interesting tier. In addition, I also really liked Alfie as a character, which for me, isn't very surprising considering we know I have a thing for princes. Alfie's grief for his brother, and the issues he has with magic really made the character feel alive.

The witty dynamic between the two is reminiscent of Kell and Lila from A Darker Shade of Magic, but not overly so. (Also, I've seen a lot of ADSOM comparisons in previous reviews, but I feel that comparing books often sells them short, in the sense that essentially they are all their own universes and characters!). Additionally, it was refreshing to see the relationship between the two develop not too quickly. I've read a lot of fantasy debuts this year that featured a rapidly growing relationship (sometime too quickly). And, while that's not so much of a turn-off for me when it comes to books, I prefer the slowburn Motayne has going on between her characters! In the end, the characters and their interactions ended up being what made the book so enjoyable for me. 

Another interesting dynamic was the one between Finn and Ignacio, her previous father-figure/abuser who uses his magic to manipulate her into staying with him and acting like his 'daughter'. The fact the villain seems to have a close personal connection to the protagonist added that extra bit of dramatics, and made the villain a lot more interesting to read about. I find myself often bored when YA fantasy includes a very black-and-white two-dimensional villain, and while Ignacio seems to still be portrayed as pure evil, the fact that Finn has a connection to him made the stakes higher for readers of the story.

The plot in itself was interesting and I see where the writer wants to go. However, it sets up for a climax that unfortunately doesn't succeed when it comes to the height of its impact in this first book. The climactic events are resolved rather quickly, which was kind of a shame because, as a reader, you're anticipating more than you're essentially getting. Although, aside from this fact, the pacing of the book didn't feel either too rushed or too slow, and overall provided a very enjoyable reading experience. 

Motayne, then, has definitely captured my attention with these characters when it comes to future books in the series. The characters, setting and universe all promise great things for the sequel that is inevitably coming soon! 

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