2019 releases · fantasy · YA

Promising, But Ultimately Too Generic: Nocturna by Maya Motayne

Nocturna by Maya MotayneThe magic poured life into the images, showing his people swathed in bright colors, prospering and using magic freely.” 

When I first saw this book on Edelweiss, I immediately knew I needed to read it. I mean, this is a Latinx inspired Fantasy (yay!) with a prince and a faceless thief (Arya Stark vibes???), which basically ticks all my boxes. And this hadn’t still received a lot of buzz, so I was going in blindly. But I love Fantasy and I am always in search of good YA Fantasy, because for me it always ends up being meh (with a few glorious exceptions). Sadly, this was not an exception and I am honestly so sad about it.

Nocturna is set in a country called Castallan that is inspired by Dominican history and we follow two characters with really different backgrounds. Prince Alfie has just come back home, and is still dealing with his brother’s death and the fact that he is now to take the throne. On the other hand, we also follow Finn, who is a thief that can change her face at will. Their paths cross when they have to save the kingdom from a terrible darkness.


First of all, I am so happy that this book exists: it’s wonderful that we get to have these diverse Fantasy worlds in YA today. On top of that, I really enjoyed the characters in this novel. They weren’t my favorite characters ever, and they were sort of tropey, but I don’t mind that. Alfie was the sort of precious cinnamon roll character that is burdened by the responsibilities he has ahead of him and I think that was portrayed well. And Finn is this thief that has had to learn how to survive. She went through a lot of emotional and physical abuse with a parental figure, and I did enjoy the arc and journey she went through in coming to terms with that and her unlearning a lot of self-hate she harbors.
I also feel like Alfie and Finn’s dynamic was well done, and it developed nicely, although again, it just wasn’t something that completely blew me away.

There’s also a wonderful side character named Luka, who was my absolute fave and I’d read a whole book about him right now.

I also enjoyed the writing style of this novel. I think it was really accessible and easy to read and quick engaging, especially in the beginning.


My main issue with this book is that it’s really generic. I find it hard to even review it, because it was a really meh read for me. For a number of reasons.

First of all, I read a lot of Fantasy, and I am sad to say that this book did not have anything unique, no element that felt completely its own and distinctive, something for me to latch onto and say that is entirely its own. Which means that there wasn’t anything to make me fall in love with it.

I felt like the magic system wasn’t really well thought-out. It’s the kind of magic I hate in books – it’s a deus ex machina magic, that has no rules and no limitations, and is used whenever a plot hole needs fixing. On top of that, I just felt like it made very little sense and even the things that were layed out weren’t described in enough detail.

Same goes for the world building. I loved the little bits of it we got, but there wasn’t nearly enough in here to make the world stand out. I feel like in the end, it ended up being very generic, which is sad, since I did enjoy the bits we got. But I just felt like this ended up feeling like most European-esque Fantasy settings.

I also felt like this had a lot of unnecessary exposition and that it was really poorly paced. Not a lot happens in this book, but it is fairly long. And those pages aren’t really used to build the world or the characters or their dynamic – there’s just a lot of info dumping that doesn’t even bring a lot of info. So I felt kind of bored for most of this, which was a real shame.

I have also seen a lot of reviews comparing this to A Darker Shade of Magic (saying the book is basically the same). I cannot testify to that because I haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic, but I think it deserved mentioning. I’d also like to include an own-voices review HERE, since I think those are important.


Honestly, this was a really generic and meh read for me. I think if you’re someone who doesn’t read Fantasy and wants something to ease them into the genre – this is a diverse book that could be a good book to do that. However, I am not that reader, which is why this just wasn’t for me. I also felt like it didn’t do much in terms of world building and magic, and I think those are important aspects of Fantasy.



I’d love to hear from you! Have you read this novel? Is it on your TBR? What were your thoughts if you did read it? Let me know!


*I was provided with an eARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions stated are my own.*


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5 thoughts on “Promising, But Ultimately Too Generic: Nocturna by Maya Motayne

  1. Awe … I’m sorry to see that you didn’t enjoy it! I haven’t picked this one up yet but after reading your world building explanation and the lack of originality with the magic system, I’ll probably wait until it’s available at the library. I’m not a fan of “all purposeful magic systems”. I like detail and reasons why you can’t just do magic of any kind whenever you want. It makes it more fun.

    Great review, love!

    Liked by 1 person

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