Finding out that my book was colored after one of the character’s magic colors had me in anticipation. When I found out who it was, I squealed. I really love my blue edition. If you don’t know what I mean, check out my fairy loot box for April.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Nocturna by Maya Motayne
Synopsis From The Book
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.
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Got this baby back in the beginning of the month (or rather end of April) from my Fairy Loot box. Then I waited for my friend to get her copy too. Finally, it is the end of the month and I am beginning my read through. Spanish magic, here I come!
I was not as “hype” for this book as I was for Children of Blood and Bone. Not that it particularly matters, but I suppose that means that this book can let me down less than if I was super hype for it.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
It was an overall fun novel. I really love the magic system of this book. Also, for a person who can not speak Spanish the interwoven Spanish in this book was not distracting. I had fun. It seems to read as a standalone for the end, which is nice, even though it is known to have the chance of having a sequel. How the book series will go from here, I am not sure.
Alfie returns home after being away for three months following the death (i.e. disappearance) of his brother in a failed coup d’etat. He is now the crown prince and this does not sit well for him. He has spent his few months searching for a way to bring back his brother from the void to which he was sent. This has included him looking into some very dangerous and illegal magic. All have resulted in dead ends.
Upon returning home, his parents tell him that he must get ready to take responsibility. After his brothers “death,” his people can not look weak to the rest of the world. (His country was once ruled by another people, and they fought for their independence relatively recently.) That night he goes to an event called a “game” where he hopes to find more illegal magic books to continue his studies.
Finn, is a thief. She was an orphan later raised by a man so controlling that she thought it better to try to kill him than to stay near him. He controlled her with his magic to the point that the sight of him alone causes her to go into a panic. Otherwise she is skilled with magic that allows her to change her own appearance and the appearance of others. She goes to the game to try to steal the books.
She ends up stealing them. Alfie, with his magic, chases her and then bests her in another game, taking the books for himself. Finn wakes up the next day captured by a mob boss demanding that Finn pay up for what was stollen. Finn negotiates stealing the vanishing cloak of the royal family.
Finn sneaks into the palace, sees some odd things and successfully finds the cloak all before bumping into Alfie who was coming back from a party in the palace. That day he had the books he stole confiscated from him before he could read them for more clues. The two are speaking when Luka, Alfie’s cousin finds them and begins to die. Luka had drunk Alfie’s sleeping tonic, something that Finn had seen a woman mess with earlier. Calling upon the magic in the world, Alfie heals Luka at the expense of releasing a very dangerous black magic.
Alfie and Finn chase after it, after making a deal, only to come across the fact that the magic is killing every body it tries to inhabit, and has taken root in Finn’s foster father. The two narrowly escape and return to the castle. There they find Luka and the three determine that the best way to seal the black magic is to use the same magic that sent Alfie’s brother to “death” (the void magic). So they have to break the user out of the prison.
Finn’s foster father arrives, they have to fight out of the prison and flee to the palace. They make it to the palace just in time for the grand final battle. There is fighting. Finn has to kill her father. They seal the magic away, as well as the girl with the powers sealing away herself. And the book ends.
What I Liked:
Magic system; To begin with, each country has its one type of magic or way they research it — something that would make sense for magic would probably be like languages, with each country having something of their own. Then we get types of magic: spoken word, specialty/gifts, and element control. All are born with control over an element – fire, water, earth, air – but those who learn to use this element tend to be the lower class. The upper class use spoke word spells. Having a class divide already makes this system more complex. For the spoken word is a different sort of magic than the element control, in its function, use, and practicality. Then there are specialties/gifts that awaken in childhood. (Finn with changing her appearance and the appearance of others. Alfie with being about to change his magic to mimic another’s.) These specialities are also instinctual and are considered rare and the most important. No two people have the same one. Add in the fact that the systems have levels of mastery, loads of study, texts upon texts of research, forbidden and accepted techniques, gods and a relationship to them, and complexity to the language used for them… this is perhaps one of the most complex and beautiful magic systems that I have read in a very long time. This magic system alone, is what has me in anticipation for the next books. (The characters are great, but I want to see how this develops further). I know that the system may be a bit too complex for some who may read this, but I like how standardized and complex it is. It opens up a lot of room for growth, and development, so long as the already established rules are not broken.
Writing Style for imagery; I have not been more enthralled with the way something and somewhere is described. Specifically with how magic is described in Alfie’s perspective parts. It is so fluid and beautiful. I was thoroughly engrossed in reading the descriptions for all the vividness in this world. I may also just really love the magic in this book, and so that could be making my blind in love.
World building and Culture; I really loved the world for what its worth. There are many kingdoms, on the outside, and a whole history that is ever present. I think what specifically gets me, is the culture that is present in the design of the world. Bright colored buildings, and Alfie’s massive library. You can learn a lot about a people from how they design their spaces, that this book lays that out well.
Finn; I liked her. She had a fascinating and terrifying relationship with her stepfather. (He killed people for her, and made her kill people. It’s horrifying). I am interested to see where this series takes her as a character. Her magic is interesting, and she is tragic. I would love to see her use her thievery skills more.
Prince Alfehr/Alfie; He, I liked from his first chapter. His magic is fascinating to me. His relationship with his family, is complex. I want to see him dive deeper into magic, and the world of magic, where the rest of the world seems to tell him not to. I feel as if he could be a very powerful magic user.
Luka; I liked him for what he was worth both as the broody side kick, and the comic relief character.
Secondary Characters; I liked the development of the villain/stepfather, parents, and Alfie’s teacher.
Spanish in the novel; I know that this may deter people from reading the novel and I’m not going to lie there is a lot. It did not stand out to me, because it felt as if speaking to bilingual people. Instead of reading the word and trying to understand the word itself, if you listen to the sentence you understand the meaning even if you don’t know the word. The sentence gives context clues. Actively listening to the character’s voices while reading it, lets you know when words you don’t know are positive or negative. And by the end of this novel, I forgot that some of the words that they said were Spanish. The meaning is still there, and I don’t know if truly there was a lot used. I liked the use of the language, because it gives flavor and richness to the depth of the country. I appreciated it’s use within the novel.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
I get why Alfie didn’t tell any of the older people that he had released an ancient evil god, however that feels like you tell people. If you were almost killed, that feels like something you say to your parents to protect them. I know there is the idea of him not wanting them to get involved, for for them trying to hinder him, however I would have liked if he at least told his teacher. I also understand that it all moved too fast with the general part of the plot taking place over three days in total.
Plot progression; It was a bit fast for me, but at the same time felt slow? I liked how it moved, and how much we learned in a short time. However, this book takes place over the course of a few days, and that alone shocks me.
Time Taken To Read
1hr 57min (Which is far shorter than I expected, this being a new type of story, and with a lot of Spanish in it)
“A prince always comes home.” – First line of the book.
“A fox does not wait for an invitation, he waits for an opening.” – Alfie, pg 29.
“A dragon knows nothing of invitations. She roosts where she pleases.” – Finn, pg 35
“In books you always have to have a sword fight in a big, dramatic place. And when you shout the whole room echoes… You always need a good echo.” – Dez, Alfie’s brother, in memory pages 9 and 405