Nocturne by Alyssa Wees #BookReview #historical #fantasy

In this haunting, lyrical fantasy set in 1930s Chicago, a talented ballerina finds herself torn between her dreams and her desires when she’s pursued by a secretive patron who may be more than he seems.

Growing up in Chicago’s Little Sicily in the years following the Great War, Grace Dragotta has always wanted to be a ballerina, ever since she first peered through the windows of the Near North Ballet Company. So when Grace is orphaned, she chooses ballet as her home, imagining herself forever ensconced in a transcendent world of light and beauty so different from her poor, immigrant upbringing.

Years later, with the Great Depression in full swing, Grace has become the company’s new prima ballerina—though achieving her long-held dream is not the triumph she once envisioned. Time and familiarity have tarnished that shining vision, and her new position means the loss of her best friend in the world. Then she attracts the attention of the enigmatic Master La Rosa as her personal patron and realizes the world is not as small or constricted as she had come to fear.

Who is her mysterious patron, and what does he want from her? As Grace begins to unlock the Master’s secrets, she discovers that there is beauty in darkness as well as light, finds that true friendship cannot be broken by time or distance, and realizes there may be another way entirely to achieve the transcendence she has always sought.

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees is a historical fantasy that is more than a story. Instead, it’s a unique experience in music and dance that I rarely experience in prose form.

My Reading Experience:

This story took quite a bit of adapting for me as a reader. I was expecting an immersive tale about a ballerina in the 1930s and her mysterious benefactor. I got a fever dream experience that reminded me of what I remember about sections of works such as Dracula. It’s sometimes linear. It only sometimes falls under any logical construct. But it does offer an experience that will leave you utterly breathless with anticipation and wonder.


The characters are developed surprisingly well in this story. Because it is so atmospheric, I didn’t think about the character development while reading it. Though, because it is a character-driven story, growth is essential. And looking back on it, each character was developed exquisitely and in keeping with the story.

Narration & Pacing:

The pacing is also interesting. I argue that the reader controls the pacing. If you give yourself up to the experience and stop worrying about details, it reads quickly. If you must follow the story’s elements, the pace slows considerably. I allowed myself to experience it as if I was at the theater, and this was a performance being put on for my enjoyment. I let it flow through me and surround me with all its poetic beauty.


The setting was one of the most intriguing aspects of the story. It is set in 1930s Chicago, which was a very dark time. Gangsters were in charge, and the government was corrupt. Things like violence and prostitution were running rampant. The effect of the 1918 flu outbreak was still being felt, and polio outbreaks were also on the rise. Most families on the wrong side of the tracks knew loss, like the main character, Grace, who lost her whole family. But amidst all the darkness were still small kernels of beauty in the arts like ballet. This is the world that Grace escaped to and the one that protected her for as long as it could.

Read if you like:

  • Lyrical stories
  • An artistic experience
  • Ballet

Overall Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Writing Quality10
Character Development8
‘Couldn’t Put It Down’-ness10
Use of Setting10
All scores, except the overall rating, are on a scale of 1-10. The overall rating is converted to the standard 5-point system.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free advanced copy of this book to read and review.

22 Replies to “Nocturne by Alyssa Wees #BookReview #historical #fantasy”

  1. Lovely review, Tessa, you really hit the high points of the story. I also enjoyed this and my review is up today too. I’ll agree with you that the pacing was a bit slow at times.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Its always interesting when a book goes a direction we weren’t expecting, especially when we enjoy it. Wonderful review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve got the ARC, but haven’t started yet. Now you’ve got me very curious about the story. But I’ll know to be prepared for the pacing.

    Liked by 1 person

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