Nocturne by Alyssa Wees
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Let’s start off this review with a little confession, shall we?
I participated in a Readathon this week where one of the prompts was to read the lowest rated book on your TBR. While this isn’t the lowest rated book overall, it was the lowest rate ARC that I currently had to read.
Always trying to check off some ARCs, I decided to give it a go, but I didn’t go in with high expectations.
Luckily for me, Nocturne turned out to be a pretty great example of why I tend not to look at ratings and reviews before I pick up a book. I know that goes against everything we’re doing here, but it’s the truth.
Reading is an incredibly subjective activity. Pair the right book, at the right time, with the right Reader and magic can happen. Read that same book when your in a certain mood and it can be a total flop.
I’m clearly the right Reader for this book. This story is set in 1930’s Chicago and seamlessly blends Historical Fiction with Dark Fantasy and light Romance.
Our main character is Grace Dragotta, who after being orphaned, ventures out on her own and joins a dancing company. A life she dreamed of. When we meet Grace, she is a teen and on the cusp of being elevated to prima ballerina within her company.
Unfortunately for Grace, raising to this rank is bittersweet. She only gets the role after her best friend, Emilia, leaves her spot as prima to be married. Grace is losing the closest person to her in all the world. She doesn’t know how she’ll get by without Emilia’s comforting presence.
Not long after her ascendancy, Grace receives word from her Mistress that she has caught the eye of a mysterious, wealthy patron. In order to keep her dance house afloat, the Mistress essentially sells Grace to this man.
Grace is forced to live at his estate, only traveling back to the studio to train and perform. There’s a lot of whispers about her new life, but Grace tries her best to just get on with it.
As she learns the shocking truth about her patron, it’s clear that the life she dreamed for herself will never come to be.
Y’all, I really enjoyed this. It’s not a complicated story. It’s pretty straight-forward, well-written and the concepts are easy to understand.
I should note that I grew up in dance and playing the violin, the two artistic pursuits that the main character engages in. Having my own personal experience and passions in those two areas did increase my connection to the story. I loved Grace and learning about her life.
This feels very much inspired by Beauty and the Beast. I loved those elements. I wasn’t expecting them and every time I would come across something that made me think of that classic tale, it would make me happy.
The relationship between Grace and her Master, was lush and evocative. I really enjoyed the truth of him and what he was offering her. Additionally, I enjoyed the evolution of her feelings for him and her place in his world.
Wees writing is quite beautiful and I liked the way she wrote the initial set-up and then progressed the plot. I thought the pacing of this was fantastic, it kept me engaged the entire way through.
Overall, I found Nocturne to be lyrical, dark and enchanting. Wees successfully swept me up and away into a whole other world. In a way, it felt like a love letter to the healing power of artistic expression. I’m so glad I finally made time for it.
Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was gorgeous and I look forward to reading more from Wees in the future!