ARC Review: NOCTURNA by Maya Motayne

I received a free eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not impacted my review.


Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Series: Yes - first book in trilogy


nocturnaSet in a Latinx-inspired world, a face-changing thief and a risk-taking prince must team up to defeat a powerful evil they accidentally unleashed.

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This book simply felt like the A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC series smushed together, lacking the charisma of V. E. Schwab’s books.

The villain is a dark magic/god-thing that wants to infect people so it can grow and take over the world. Anyone incompatible to its magic is turned to ash. There’s a bad-magic-tried-to-infect-people-at-a-ball scene too.

Finn felt like a discount Lila – a thief with no family. She didn’t quite have the sharp-talking, impulsive and general devil-may-care attitude of Lila. Alfie is like Kell, an unwilling prince and a powerful magic (which has a lot of underutilised potential and very little explanation). There’s also a paper-thin Rhy-ish character in Luka. He has some nice bromance-line, but no charm and no Alucard to share sizzling chemistry with (yes, I know Alucard comes in book two).

The relationships are very lackluster. There’s no chemistry at all, and the cousin bone between Luka and Alfie is told rather than shown. This means that it’s confusing when Alfie risks everything for Luka (yup, that happens too) because they’ve no special connection.

We even get one character whose magic can assume the shape of others (I think – I don’t know. None of the magic is explained at all. It’s elemental and yet Alfie seems to be able to do everything). He also yells command words for his magic.

The magic and action scenes were confusing. I couldn’t tell you what was happening. They were there fighting, and then they weren’t? The market fight scene was the worst. This was because our villain possessing the body of Finn’s adoptive manipulative father-figure Ignacio hadn’t had his magic explained yet.

Ignacio is… weird, in a creepy, confusing way. He’s motivation is to get back his adoptive/captive daughter because he can control people. This means people do what he wants them to and thus no one loves him because it’s forced? So he manipulated a girl into being dependant on him and calling it love. She escaped and now he wants her back. Yeah, I’m not sure.

It takes 30% to hit the start of the synopsis, and then everything happens all at once. I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next. Not because there were any twists, but because nothing felt set up. The characters just took new directions like they were flipping coins. They did one thing. It failed, so they try another, plucking the idea out of nowhere.

I should preface this next comment with the fact that I’m not Latinx. However, the book didn’t feel like it was in a setting any different to the common-place western fantasies. I assume what the Kell-like character was yelling to shape his magic was Spanish (I was terrible at school). There was a little bit of set dressing with the food and names, but the world building generally was thin on the ground. I couldn’t imagine the settings or feel like the world was a real thing.

So why the 2.5 stars if I thought it was a A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC rip off? Well, it was a light, fun read that I sped. It was a nice enough experience, if disappointing. Also, the card game Cambio is such a fun idea – I would have loved to see it woven into the plot more.

One thought on “ARC Review: NOCTURNA by Maya Motayne

  1. Wow, I’m sorry to hear that you were disappointed by this. I went in with low expectations, but really loved it. Although I am a sucker for thieves/criminals in fantasy books. I haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic, so I can’t see the comparison. I just thought that propio’s were really cool and really well done and I really loved Finn. I do think they over-marketed just how Latinx this book was though. Maybe I enjoyed it more because I went in with such low expectations.

    Liked by 1 person

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