Author: Maya Motayne
Published by: Balzer +Bray
Publishing date: May 7th 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy
To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks. As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.
After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.
But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.
Nocturna is an entertaining book that, while not having the most original plot and characters, feels unique in some ways thanks to the incorporation of Latinx culture and Spanish language in its world and magic system.
The main characters of Nocturna, Alfie and Finn, are both interesting in their own ways and that’s due to how they are impacted by their pasts in different but very powerful ways and how that affects the plot of the story. Alfie is a cinamon roll type of character that, at the same time, it’s a mess and makes a lot of mistakes, and throught his character, Montayne explores the ways in which grief can cause a person to be a mess, make the wrong choices and screw everything up.
On the other hand, Finn’s character is compelling because she uses a facade of being tough and heartless as a way to hold on to some control after having experienced a situation in which she was manipulated and controlled by someone else. Her development, her vulnerability and her contradictions throughout the book are not only escencial to the plot, they also give an emotional backbone to the story.
The dymanic between these characters is really entertaining and the snarky comments and the banter are fun to read, but there are also these tentative moments when they are vulnerable and honest with each other and they are so tender and beautiful. At the end, the development of their relationship is captivating and touching.
In terms of the villain, it’s interesting that this book has two villains in one and seeing the struggle for power and for control within the villain is interesting because the struggles between these two villain are not caused by one trying to stop the other from doing evil things, it’s about setting priorities for what evil things to do first and that adds a compelling element to the story.
The most magical thing about this book is the way it embraces Latinx culture and the way it uses Spanish as the language of magic in this world. Maybe it’s because there’s not that many YA fantasy books that do this, but the fact that those things are incorporated it felt special and meaningful. Another aspect of the book that it’s interesting is the way it addresses colonialism and slavery through the history of its world, and how it’s done in a very organically and subtle way.
Lastly, the main issue of this book is the pacing because it’s really uneven, so there are long bits in the book where characters are talking or thinking or planning and then some action would take place but inmediately after there would be another long strech where not a lot would happen. That constant start and stop of the action didn’t allow the book to flow as well as it could have.
Overall, while not being extremely original and having some issues with pacing, Nocturna does a great job of seamlessly incorporating Latinx culture and spanish to the story in a beautiful and meaningful way, and it does a good job too of including discussions about colonialims and slavery in a interesting, toughtful and organic way.