2019 · Review

Review – Nocturna by Maya Motayne

This book made it’s way onto my most anticipated underhyped releases of 2019. I love #OwnVoices fantasy especially with an cultural element. I was very exited when I saw this on NetGalley and requested it straight away!

This ARC was provided to me by NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton in return for an honest review. Thank you!


by Maya Motayne

Synopsis by NetGalley / GoodReads

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. 

My Opinion


  • the magic
  • the characters


I liked the story, but there were continuity issues in the text which annoyed me greatly. Yes, I’m reading an ARC and this might have changed in the published copy but I struggled to read it smoothly with these issues. Also, the characters hardly eat! It a random thing I know, but people got to eat!

Having said that, I really liked the characters and the magic in this world. I loved the propio magic with shadows. Such a cool element!

The Story

The story takes places in a country who rescued itself from slavery, a monarchy which has suffered a recent trauma from the death of their crown prince. The younger brother struggles to cope with the idea that he is the next king. Adjacent to that story is Finn’s story of thieving and struggling to get enough money for food. Due to sightly convenient circumstances, they join forces to defeat a dark magical force roaming the city.

World Building

The world is small in this book. It felt as if this country only had one town and for the outside world there were only two countries. Even the country names felt easy: Englass and Uppskala. To me, that’s England and Sweden (Uppsala is a town to the south-east). Nothing wrong with either, but I just feel like a more original name would make it better and feel more creative.

The world building itself was not too steep nor difficult to follow. It was made clear from the get-go that this was set in a Spanish-ish speaking fictional world which added depth to the story and the world.

I did love those elements which made you realise this was in a fantasy version of Latin America or similar (I think it’s Mexico), like the tequila and the sangria and how common and available the drinks were throughout the story.

One thing that annoyed me, which I have never really been annoyed about before and surprised me, was how little they ate… random annoyance… but the characters were complaining about being hungry and then nothing happened. Did they eat? Are they still hungry? Or are they now a ghost, death by hunger? I’m not sure, and I’m worried they don’t get to eat. Also, food it a great way of creating a richer culture in a fantasy story, it literally adds flavour.

Magic System

There are two types of magic in this world: desk magic and personal magic. Desk magic is the study of the magical language and spells and that type of work. While your personal magic (propio) is attached to you like a shadow, literally. The personalised magic is very limited to one thing but very specific to you and enhances your connection to the magic around the world. I loved the personal magic the most. It felt completely original (but what is original these days?) and creative. The personal magic can only do one thing e.g. change your appearance, create voids, see magic, compulsion, etc. But you have the freedom to use that magic freely, so if you can change your own appearance it’s likely that you can change someone else’s appearance too, but you can’t change objects. If you can see the magic it’s likely you can adapt your magic to fit theirs, but you can’t use their magic. It’s quite cool.

I really liked how different they were, and how independently they worked, but at the same time, there could have been more intertwined and make the relationship more complex.

In the end, I really like this magic system and I’m curious about where it will continue in the next book. I hope there is more too this 😊


There are two main characters and narrators; Finn and Alfie.

Finn is the thief and the face changer. I really like her in her own narrative but I felt she felt a bit flat in the prince’s narrative. Finn struggles with her past and is constantly on the run. I could feel her need to run come out of the page which was amazing.

Alfie is the prince and next king. Alfie is struggling with the loss of his older brother and therefore making him next in line for King. He’s a bit of a softie. Nothing wrong with that. Though he’s got anger management issues too. LOL The clash of personality traits – love it!

Luka is Alfie’s cousin, but are more like a bother. He was one of my favourite characters and I wished he was more present throughout the book. Maybe in the next book?


One side character is gay/bi but that’s it.


This is a debut novel, and I can tell. Writing is hard, I know. There is always something that could be better or something you noticed too late, etc. I struggle to write the way I like to read and I cant imagine how people do it! I’m jealous of those people who can! Having said that, I have issues with this text. I had an ARC and these issues might have changed but I thought I would mention them anyway.

I felt some things happened either to easily and conveniently, or to sudden and random. There were also holes in the text and inconsistency in the smaller continuity stuff. For instance, there was a moment when the character couldn’t see someone’s face because it was hidden, then, next paragraph, referred to that “black-eyed person”. How did they know that? Their face was hidden!

Plot-wise, it was a complex and intricate plot, but some of the plot felt convenient and too easy. For example, you need to find the villain after getting something? Oh, wait, he wants something which can only be found in the same location you are heading. How convenient… I know it’s YA novel, but come on! Make them struggle a bit! 😂

Apart from these minor issues, the story was well written and flowed easily through the book. There were no spelling mistakes throughout the book which was nice 😊


I enjoyed this read but the inconsistency of the writing annoyed me too much.

Also, I have learnt that I like to have food in my stories, and if the character is hungry there has to be an event to which that is fulfilled otherwise I’m not happy, apparently 😂 Also, I prefer it the characters struggle 🤷‍♀️

I’m interested in picking up book 2 when it comes out.

Have you read this? What did you think?

4 thoughts on “Review – Nocturna by Maya Motayne

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