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February 20, 2023

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees ~ a Review

by MK French

In 1930s Chicago, Grace Dragotta settled on ballet as her emotional home when orphaned in the Great War. Becoming the Near North Company's prima ballerina took sacrifices, including losing her best friend. But getting Master La Rosa as her personal patron opens her world wider. As Grace uncovers the Master's secrets, she finds beauty, truth, and that there might be another way to achieve the resplendent world she always longed for.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of fairy tale Nocturne by Alyssa Wees
February 2023; Del Rey; 978-0593357477
audio, ebook, print (240 pages); fantasy

Grace goes through a lot by the time she gets to be a prima ballerina. She lost all of her immediate family by the time she started formal ballet training "late" at 13, and in the next seven years worked constantly to improve, setting aside her violin training. Her best friend retiring to get married and have children leaves the Prima spot open for her, and even that doesn't ease the desire to have more in her life. That desire leads her to wonder why Master La Rosa chose her for patronage when he refused to meet her in person, why he would send an incredibly personal gift, and then remain silent. 

The sense of loss and want permeates this novel, to the point that I have a hard time connecting with Grace. Anything she has is questioned and never enough, making her feel sorry for herself rather than taking whatever time she has left with Emilia before her retirement. The Master just as deliberately cultivates the eerie persona that causes others to talk about him in whispers; he drops incredible amounts of money to get whatever he wants, and no one seems to question his motives but Grace. With her stuck in the house, the story takes on a Beauty and the Beast tone, with more overt magical elements. Once that happens, it all clicks into place. Now the mood and tone make sense, and it starts coming together as if part one was an elaborate prologue to the true story.

That being said, it's a necessary start to see Grace in action, to see her world and what matters to her. Those connections show up again and are the links and reminders of her humanity in the face of magic, ghosts, beasts, and Noctem, the city of the dead. I really enjoyed that part of the story, the way the ghosts moved and the way time and space flexed. Ballet and music are languages and magic of their own, and Grace has both. She is caught in a supernatural game but has tools of her own to fight back once she figures out the truth. Nocturne is defined as a short piece of music suggestive of night, which is often both the realm of death and sleep in fairy tales. This is an aptly named and lyrical novel.

Buy Nocturne at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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