Snapshot Review: Oculta by Maya Motayne

Title: Oculta
Author: Maya Motayne
Series: A Forgery of Magic, #2
Pages: 544
Publisher: Blazer + Bray
Release Date: April 6th 2021

TW: abuse, racism, suicide

      “After joining forces to save Castallan from an ancient magical evil, Alfie and Finn haven’t seen each other in months. Alfie is finally stepping up to his role as heir and preparing for an International Peace Summit, while Finn is traveling and reveling in her newfound freedom from Ignacio.
      That is, until she’s unexpectedly installed as the new leader of one of Castallan’s powerful crime syndicates.
      Just when Finn finds herself back in San Cristobal, Alfie’s plans are also derailed. The mysterious organization responsible for his brother’s murder has resurfaced—and their newest target is the summit. And when these events converge, Finn and Alfie are once again forced to work together to follow the assassins’ trail and preserve Castallan’s hopes for peace with Englass.
      But will they be able to stop these sinister foes before a new war threatens their kingdom?”

      “He could feel goose bumps rising on the wall, pressing against the back of his neck. It was excited to have him so close, eager for another addition to this repulsive room.”

  • Alfie – One of my favorite things about this series is the lead characters. Alfie remains one of my favorite male characters in a fantasy series. He’s softhearted, idealistic, willing to do anything for his kingdom and the people he loves. Despite the loss of his brother and his struggle to take on the responsibilities of leading a kingdom, Alfie doesn’t lose his desire to do better for his people. He sometimes falters, but he still presses on.
  • Finn – Finn thought she was free from Ignacio, the man who raised and molder her, but in Oculta she must come to terms with her inner demons that take on a familiar form. Finn is also thrust into an unfamiliar position, becoming a thief lord and in charge of one of the underground gangs. Finn is used to working by herself; her motto has always been to look after herself first. Her relationship with Alfie continues to challenge her preconceived ideas about herself and her tendency to go it alone.
  • Luka – Every scene with Luka is pure gold. Luka once again adds a bit of humor to the story. He is less diplomatic and more cheeky in how he deals with others compared to his cousin. But I love that Luka got to be more than the comedic relief in this one. He is dealing with survivor’s guilt and his new found abilities. How he deals with this adds tension between Alfie and him and it was really interesting to see their roles kind of reversed in this one.
  • ColonizationOculta brings Castallan face-to-face with its former colonizers, the Englassens. A peace summit between the two countries is meant to broker a truce, but instead has caused strife within Castallan. The people have not forgotten how Englass enslaved their ancestors, stole their language, and cut them off from magic. Alfie and his parents have sought out a dialogue in hopes of eradicating Englass’s magical caste system which currently prevents the lower class from practicing magic. Not an easy feat when Englassen royals worldview is so rooted in privileged and power.
  • Rushed ending – So much happens in the last couple of chapters of the book that at times it felt a little rushed. As a reader, I wanted a little more time to process certain revelations.
  • More Finn and la Familia – I really enjoyed Finn’s storyline with la Familia, but thought the novel could have delved deeper into this organization. Aside from one person, we don’t get to know la Familia and I think it would have served Finn’s character to see her interact with the children that Kol once employed in particular.

With Oculta, Maya Motyane explores colonization, politics, and civil unrest in a sequel that is sure to make readers scream for more with its unpredictable ending.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)

Twelve Days of…Latinx Book Recommendations: Day 9

This “Christmassy” series is brought to you by my love of books by Latinx authors and my need for all of you to read them. Every day for twelve days leading up to Christmas, I will be gifting you all with a recommendation of a book by a Latinx author, along with twelve reasons why you should pick it up. Hoping to have lots of fun with with series which I am not so subtly calling Twelve Days of… Latinx Book Recommendations. Covers are linked to Goodreads. Feel free to sing this first part to yourself aloud.

♬On the ninth day of Christmas, my favorite Latinx blogger gave to me, a recommendation for…♬

Nocturna by Maya Motayne

      “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.”

Reasons You Need to Pick This One Up:

1. Soft male lead character
2. Fierce female lead character
3. Latinx fantasy
4. Addresses slavery and colonization
5. Afro-Latinx characters
6. Magic system tied to Spanish language
7. Affectionate male familial relationships
8. Dark and unique villain
9. Reluctant heroes
10. Great banter
11. Chancla joke
12. Slow burn friendship and possible romance

Have you read this one? Are you planning to read it? Which Latinx fantasy novel are you looking forward to?

The Friday 56: Nocturna by Maya Motayne

The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a little sauced. I’d like to be in bed at a decent hour. So let’s make this quick.” She tilted her head and slowly looked him up and down. “Unless you’d like to skip the fight and join me there?”

I’m late today and that’s because I’ve been sick, but today I woke up feeling better. Still a little out of it, but I’m getting there. Today I’m sharing an excerpt from one of my favorite 2019 fantasies. Maya Motayne’s debut Nocturna was such a fun debut. I loved both leads, was incredibly taken in with the world building and with each page I read, grew more and more in love with it. Read my review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “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 by Maya Motayne

Title: Nocturna
Author: Maya Motayne
Series: A Forgery of Magic, #1
Pages: 380
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 7th 2019

      “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.”

swirl (2)

“What did you do that would make you never want to see your own face again? What makes you bury it under all this magic?”

Maya Motayne’s Nocturna is an exciting fantasy debut that embraces its Latinx culture, seamlessly weaving it into a high fantasy setting. When Prince Alfehr “Alfie” Reyes returns home to Castallan, he has one goal in mind: find his older brother who was swallowed by a magical void months earlier. If he doesn’t succeed, he will have to accept his role as the next king, something he is not ready for. Finn Voy is used to being on her own. Her ability to change her appearance has been invaluable, after all, you can’t catch a thief if you don’t know what she really looks like. When Finn is blackmailed into stealing an item from the royal family, it places her in direct opposition with Alfie. Their encounter sets up a series of events in which the prince is forced to make an impossible decision in order to save his cousin, but in the process he unleashes a dark and ancient power. As unlikely allies, Alfie and Finn race to stop the malicious magic from reuniting to its master, an event that will bring back a darkness capable of corrupting the entire world.

Nocturna is a Latinx fantasy that doesn’t detach itself from real world history. It addresses colonialism and slavery while also creating its own unique world. Castallan was once enslaved by Englassen colonizers who believed only they deserved to wield magic. They stripped Castallans of their culture, including their language which tied them directly to their magical abilities. Castallans were able to expel the Englassen out of their land and reclaim their language and magic. Nocturna underscores the long-term consequences of colonialism and how a culture is forever altered by it even in ways that at first seem inconsequential. I loved that the magical system in the novel had so many different layers. While people had an affinity for a particular elemental type of magic, their level of skill depended on training and study. Finn and Alfie have also been gifted with propio magic that manifests in different ways but is tied to how a person perceives themselves.

I loved both Alfie and Finn as characters and they were both easy to like and root for. Alfie has grown up the second son and never imagined that the kingdom could one day be his. He is haunted by the death of his older brother Dezmin, and isn’t sure if he can live up to the same kind of expectations. Alfie is sensitive, compassionate, and despite how much he beats himself up for any dark thoughts he might have, incredibly good. It’s always so refreshing to read about a soft male character and I especially loved how important his relationship with his brother and cousin, Luka, were to him. The Alfie and Luka dynamic was one of my favorites in the novel and it’s so rare to see such an affectionate relationship between two male relatives in fiction.

I loved how brusque Finn could be, her words were often as sharp as her blade. She is also clever and crafty. Much of who Finn is is a result of the traumas in her life. She grew up poor and lost her parents at a young age. Finn was taken in by a man who enjoyed controlling her, who was possessive and abusive. When Finn was finally able to get away, she had already learned keeping people at bay was both easier on them and herself. Like thievery, it’s just another means of survival. Much of her character arc revolves around her reclaiming personal autonomy. Her dynamic with Alfie is a lot of fun to read because they are so different, but also because they make a stellar team. I loved how rewarding their interactions were and how each of them made such an significant impact on the other.

Maya Motayne’s Nocturna is a fun fantasy that functions on multiple levels both as a fictional story and narrative on Latinx history. With every page I read, I grew more and more invested in the characters and the bittersweet ending left me begging for more.

★★★★

(4/5)