Series: A Forgery of Magic #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on May 2, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Own Voices, Fantasy
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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The first in a sweeping and epic own voices debut fantasy trilogy—set in a stunning Latinx-inspired world—about a face-changing thief and a risk-taking prince who must team up to defeat a powerful evil they accidentally unleashed. Perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi, Leigh Bardugo, and V. E. Schwab.
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.
As someone who loves fantasy and diverse reads, the premise of Nocturna really interested me: a Latinx inspired world, a faceless thief and a prince with dark magic. I was definitely intrigued and really keen to pick this up for The Name of the Book club.
The beginning of the book starts with a bang, as we first meet Finn, the faceless thief who can mould her face into anyone else’s and whose goal is to break into the palace to steal an invisible cloak. She’s wiley, snarky and street smart and definitely someone we could root for. There’s also the crown Prince Alfehr (aka. Alfie), who is grieving the recent loss of his brother. With a dragon talisman on his body and magic that he’s only coming to terms with, I was definitely curious about his story.
Friendship and banter
When the two meet, we get a lot of bickering and banter as the two learn about each other. I liked how Finn opens up about her buried trauma about losing her parents when she was young. She’s now on the run from her adoptive father, Ignatio as he wields dark magic that threatens the Castellan throne. Alfie also learns to cope with his grief the more he talks to Finn. Although he’s surrounded by his cousin, Luka, and his caretaker, Paloma, there’s definitely a loneliness inside him as he after losing his brother. While I wasn’t sure why they agreed to accompany one another to begin with, the unlikely friendship between Finn and Alfie definitely ended up being my favourite part of the book.
Magic solves everything
The dark magic in the book was something that I was really intrigued to hear about, although the inner workings of it was kind of hazy. Finn has the ability to mould faces with her special affinity or propio. I loved hearing how she used it at the start of the book, with finer facial features requiring more work and magic, but she doesn’t really make use of it as much as she could’ve throughout their journey. At one stage, she does use it on other people, but then it was kind of reliant on their own magic usage as well. In any case, why would someone with her ability require an invisible cloak? It just didn’t make any sense.
Magic was a mask Finn had slipped over her head so many times, she’d almost forgotten what her own face looked like. But that was just how she liked it.
I liked how certain individuals had different propio which would give them certain powers, but then the use of magic was just too convenient and could solve all of their problems in the story. Alfie seems to be able to heal any wounds that he receives, and there didn’t seem to be many consequences to the use of it aside from people getting tired. If magic is going to be freely available to every character in the story with no limits or boundaries, then it kind of removes the element of danger.
Because everything seemed to be easily solvable in the story, either due to the magic or plot conveniences, I kind of lost interest at the halfway point. The rest of the book kind of followed in the same vein of things, and even the fun moments between Finn and Alfie didn’t really hold my attention.
Not enough world-building
I liked the Latinx inspired elements in the story, as the Castellan throne rose up after the Englassan rule, but there wasn’t too much more world-building past this point aside from the food, fashion and Spanish phrases thrown in here and there. I know it’s not the purpose of an #ownvoices author to educate about their culture, but it honestly felt like it was barely there throughout the story and could’ve been fleshed out a lot more.
I can definitely see why there’s a lot of comparisons between this book and A Darker Shade of Magic, because Finn felt like a similar character to Lila Bard. However, I think there were enough differences to set the two apart, with the Latinx-inspired elements and the propio magic system. While the banter between the two characters was definitely my favourite part of the story, there were one too many plot conveniences that limited my enjoyment for the rest of the book.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Trigger warnings: parental abuse, blood and gore, torture
Nocturna is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99 or from The Book Depository.
Thank you to Hachette Australia for sending me a review copy!