I was hardcore smitten with this book when I first laid eyes on it on Goodreads. The cover is absolutely stunning (even more so in person), the title is mysterious, and the summary proved to be the icing on top: magic, murder, and evil forces? Sign me up, always!
Set 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.
Nocturna is a beautiful book, there’s really no other way to describe it. It was descriptive, the characters had so much pain and feeling, and the world was so dreary yet stunning.
The book starts off with a good amount of action and we’re immediately introduced to the magic system. You should all know by this point that I LOVE books about magic. There’s nothing I hate more than a book that promises magic and then doesn’t fully deliver, either by not describing it enough or letting it fall on the backburner. This is so not the case with Nocturna. Magic was integral to the world, the characters, and the plot. The author created a beautiful magic system with a tragic backstory and a brilliant reclaiming of what magic means to her characters.
Finn can change what her’s and others’ faces look like, which turns out to be a great asset as a thief. This is a very conflict-driven story, and Finn has so many conflicts. She struggles with her past- emotionally and physically, she is half-responsible for saving the world from unspeakable evil, and she’s struggling just to survive. I really liked Finn. I think a lot of people tend to write characters like hers off as bitches but honestly, wouldn’t you be a bit cold and standoffish if you had been physically and emotionally abused for years as a child, had to steal to survive, had a mob boss after you, and then, on top of all that, had to deal with fixing a pretentious prince’s mistakes? I can only assume that I would be.
Alfie obviously cares about his family and kingdom, though that tends to get him into trouble more than out of trouble. He immediately accepted responsibility for dabbling in forbidden magic and did what was necessary to step up and fix his mistakes. His brother’s disappearance/death took its toll on him and I absolutely loved watching him grow and cope with this event as the book progressed.
Honestly, this book spoke a lot about grief and trauma in a way that wasn’t overbearing or really all that obvious. It spoke beautifully about accepting your emotions, allowing yourself to feel how you feel without shame, and how to use your pain for something that matters. One of my favorite quotes:
“Who you are when you’re angry is still you. It doesn’t have to be all of you, but it’s a piece of you all the same. If you deny that, you might as well deny your whole maldito self and be done with it.”
Finn and Alfie helped each other heal and grow, and I loved it. I also loved that *spoiler alert* they didn’t end up happily ever after together! They didn’t somehow fall in love after knowing each other for two seconds! Okay, maybe a bit longer than that, but you get the idea. They have a strong bond and that’s beautiful and enough all in itself.
The writing vaguely reminded me of Laini Taylor in that it was beautiful, metaphorical, and packed a mean punch with every line.
“People like me, we’re ants, and rulers are just a big foot looming over us ready to squish us into the dirt. Doesn’t matter whose body the foot is attached to, the purpose is still the same.”
This isn’t the most metaphorical example, but don’t these two sentences tell you so much about Finn, the speaker, her situation, the situation of others like her, how she feels toward Alife, etc? That’s impressive writing! It isn’t overly flowy nor does it take a whole paragraph to straight up tell you what you should feel (bo-ring!).
So, we have great character arcs, great writing, and a great plot. Unspeakable evil? Dark gods? Mobsters? Murder and treasonous plots? Yep, that’s all covered, no worries.
If I haven’t made it obvious by now, I would seriously recommend reading this book! I will admit that some parts grabbed my attention less than others, but I overall loved the book and cannot wait for the author’s next.