CW’s: Violence, Emotional Abuse, Death/Grief
Representation 🌷 Latinx inspired Fantasy (by the author’s Dominican heritage)
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.
Thank you to Balzer + Bray and Netgalley for providing me with a digital Arc in exchange for an honest Review! All quotes featured are from the Arc and therefore subject to changes.
Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars
Nocturna had its strong points, but sadly turned out to be disappointing when it came to the plotline. It especially suffered in the last half of the book and began to feel repetitive and mediocre. So, while I liked the interesting worldbuilding and the strong, lovable main characters Alfie and Finn, I wasn’t fully convinced in the end. The first part was a definite 4 stars, but towards the end my rating dropped to 3 stars. I don’t think that I will be reading the sequel as I’m not invested enough to pick it up.
L I K E S
✅ We have a soft Prince called Alfie. He’s more of your bookish prince and not much experience with fighting unlike Finn, something that makes them such a good duo. Instead Alfie is more of the soft, loyal sort and radiates a lot of positive energy. When he makes a huge mistake, he is doing everything to fix it and must confront the guilt that he harbors, even though what he did was out of love. His huge heart is what sometimes stands in his way, as our Prince deeply cares for his family and even his country, but can go to extreme lengths for them, that might not always be good. I did like that we got to see a darker side of him, because Alfie also has some edges – not many, but they are there. One of them is how obsessed he becomes with finding his brother Dez, who is believed to be dead by everyone else, but he can’t quite let it go. He’s the new crown prince now but the grief is weighing him down and Alfie cannot face having to be the new king instead of his brother. That’s why he tries to bring him back: he needs Dez and struggles so much with moving on. That really touched me, because you could see how desperate he was to return everything back to ‘normal’.
✅ We have a face-changing thief called Finn. It took me a while to warm up to her, but when we got to know more of her background, I really began to like Finn. I feared that her character would just be the ‘strong kickass girl’ and not develop past that, but gladly she had a lot of depth. We get a lot of discussions about good/evil and all the grey areas in Finn’s perspective because she had a tough life and was forced to do bad things to survive. Her parents were killed early, and she spent YEARS trapped under the thump of an abusive, horrible ‘father’ that lured her in on the streets. You see the scars that his emotional abuse and constant gaslighting has left on her. Finn is convinced that she’s bad person because he forced her to kill and never allowed her to have anyone but himself in her life. This all explains why she had to be so tough and always show a strong facade. It made me understand her a lot better and I truly felt for Finn, because you see the fear in her and when her abuser returns, she struggles with his influence and the deep need to get away. In the end Finn is helping to stop the darkness while also confronting what dark places might hide inside her, as she pushed a lot of her bad memories deep down.
✅ The slow burn romance between Finn and Alfie. I liked their relationship a lot because it was very subtle and anything romantic was very, very hidden, making this a very slow developing romance. That was very fitting for both and I thought that the slow buildup and growth of their relationship and their trust in each other was well done and realistic. In general, I liked their dynamic as it’s pretty much sharp Slytherin girl and soft Hufflepuff boy, a duo that I have come to really love nowadays! I want more books like this one that have more ‘quiet’ romances that develop over time, especially if the characters are so different from each other.
✅ The worldbuilding was interesting. I really liked that the book explored Castallan history, especially the dark times during being enslaved and how that is still affecting their magic (which was nearly destroyed) and the entire country. I thought that the history was very well set up and felt realistic to me, like it could have happened. Other than that, I lived the magic system, especially as there are several types of magic. There is inborn magic like elemental magic and very rarely a personal power, called proprio (you can have both if you’re lucky). But you can also learn what is called ‘desk magic’ aka spells that pretty much anyone can use. I liked that Prince Alfie has such a unique power (traveling through the currents of magic and being able to match other’s magic) and that there are different colors to everyone’s magic. I also liked that the book discussed the limits on people’s personal powers, I always appreciate magic systems that have drawbacks and limit power. In general, I liked that with the darkness unleashed we discuss a lot about human nature and what constitutes good or evil.
D I S L I K E S
⛔ The plotline began to go downhill in the second half. The first half was okay when it came to the plot: I was engaged and ready to go on a journey with these characters. However, after a while the plot began to feel repetitive to me and dragged a bit, as this book is on the longer side. It took me a while to figure out, but in the end, I think that my enjoyment was hindered by the fact that the plotline didn’t feel that original to me and rather like I had read it before. I understand that there’s no way to completely reinvent plotlines, but I wished for a twist on the events, as they began to feel mediocre and not exciting anymore, especially towards the end.
⛔ The secondary characters were flat. I did like Paloma, so she’s exempt from this statement, but sadly both Luka and Alfie’s parents were not the most complex characters. I never warmed up to Luka, he felt like an entitled character who’s trying to be funny and carefree, but actually comes across rude and annoying. There is no other way to say it: his jokester personality wasn’t endearing at all. It was also very clear that he was supposed to be the best friend and sidekick, but his character never evolved past that and therefore felt hollow. Alfie’s parents didn’t have any defining characteristics, they were just there because the story demanded it, something that was a lot of wasted potential, as I liked seeing living parents for once!
⛔ The ending didn’t work for me at all. I was very confused, because I knew that this would be a trilogy, but the ending is more fitting for a standalone. I don’t know why there is even a need for a sequel as nearly everything (but one thing) is neatly tied up, creating the feeling that this is the definite end. I don’t think having the ending be this closed was a good idea because it’ll likely feel unnatural to suddenly open everything up again for the sequel. More under the spoiler Tag, because this is hard to describe without getting into the details.
I don’t understand why the darkness has been defeated … I thought this was the point of the entire SERIES as Sombra is set up to be the big Bad … only that he isn’t awakened and any means to do so is completely gone. The story makes it clear that the darkness cannot come back, so the main villain is literally no longer here, and I wonder what we’ll do the next 2 books. There is still the death of Alfie’s brother Dez and how the gang lady had this tattoo that is connected, but that’s literally it. I just think that closing the darkness in so finally was a mistake, because it was literally the antagonist with the highest stake. Everything else is bound to be disappointing. If there is another way to wake Sombra I’ll be mad too, because you cannot define how it’s done and then just reverse that. Either way the ending is messy, and I think the sequel could have some issues especially if reader expectation is played with.
“We all carry good and bad within us, light and dark. That is what makes us human. And remember, no matter how far into the darkness we may fall, it is never too late to seek the light.”
Are you going to read Nocturna? What is your favorite book with supernatural powers?