Book Review: Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

Posted February 23, 2023 by WendyW in Book Review, bookblogger / 30 Comments

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

by Alyssa Wees
Publication Date February 21, 2023
Published by Random House Worlds
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Genres: Fiction / Action & Adventure, Fiction / Fantasy / Epic
Pages: 240
Format: ARC

***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***

In this haunting, evocative 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.

“An enchanting and lyrical fever dream bursting with dazzling prose and dark romance, Nocturne enthralled me.”—Erin A. Craig, New York Times bestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrows

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 the 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.

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees is a fantasy, about a young girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina set in Chicago from the end of World War I, through the great depression.  

Story Recap:

Grace Dragotta had a rough life growing up in Chicago.  Orphaned at a young age, and then her brother is brutally murdered by the gangs in Chicago, Grace plays the violin for money on a street corner, but she really wants to become a ballerina.  After hanging out near the North Ballet Company, they take her in and train her to become a ballerina.  

Eventually, she becomes the Prima Ballerina because she has a benefactor.  The mysterious benefactor takes her into his huge home and only asks that she dance with him every Sunday evening.  Who is her mysterious benefactor and why did he choose her?  

My Thoughts: 

The first part of this book reads like historical fiction, we learn about Grace and how she grew up.  We see how hard she works to become a ballerina and her relationship with her best friend and fellow ballerina,  Emilia.  We meet Mistress, the matriarch of the Ballet company see how she rules the girls.  This first part of the story is mostly straightforward as we learn about Grace’s life as a ballerina, but there is an air of mystery that made me uncomfortable and anxious to find out what more would happen next.  

The book’s second part is more about the Master or the benefactor.  Things start to get more mysterious as the Master keeps his identity secret from Grace.  We know not all is clear with the Master, but I had to read and find out what happens next.  

I loved this beautifully written fantasy.  


I highly recommend Nocturne to anyone who enjoys fantasy. I received a complimentary copy of this book.  The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

About Alyssa Wees

Alyssa Wees is the acclaimed author of The Waking Forest. She grew up writing stories about her Beanie Babies in between ballet lessons. She earned a BA in English from Creighton University and an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago. Currently she works as an assistant librarian in youth services at an awesome public library. She lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband and their two cats.

UK Cover:

Both covers are pretty, but I prefer the US cover.

Have you read Nocturne? Which cover do you like best?

30 responses to “Book Review: Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

  1. Secret identities are always interesting, especially if he is keeping it a secret from the MC! I think I prefer the UK cover more but they are both beautiful in their own way!

  2. Sounds mysterious and lovely. My daughter wants to be a ballerina, so I might have to read this. Ha! Thanks for the review.

    • Grace loves being a ballerina, so she has a positive outlook on life in ballet. It just gets creepy when we meet the benefactor.