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Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Publish Date February 21, 2023; 240 pages

Thanks to #netgalley and #randomhouseballantine for the advance copy of this book - the opinions are my own.

First Sentence(s): "The Master came into my life like the dusk. Slowly, until all the city was covered in night. and I, a star waiting to burn."


Set in 1940s Chicago (although it could have been anywhere/any time), this is the story of a young girl's (Grace) survival of a difficult childhood; she's orphaned young and taken in at a small ballet school where she eventually becomes a prima ballerina. She finds a mysterious patron who pays the school an exorbitant amount of money with the agreement of the school's Mistress that Grace will now live with him as she continues to dance.

"This was a dangerous precedent to set - pain as anchor, pain as relief from the fear flapping like failing wings, telling myself the only way to conquer it was to kill it, to bury it deep."

Grace feels betrayed by the Mistress, as if she were sold to the Patron, who we discover is the human form of 'Death' and he wants Grace's soul. Death is served by an attendant, who also has an ulterior motive in appearing to help Grace. Separated from her best friend Emilia, and with no support system, Grace makes some difficult and questionable choices. But, with the help of Emilia, Grace survives.


I struggled with this story. Verbose, overly descriptive and not in a pretty way, confusing motivations - I found it challenging to stay engaged with the story. The blurb makes it sound like it should be interesting, but it mostly wasn't. I found a few nuggets of well turned phrases, but to me that isn't enough to pull the book out of the average range.

"I could say something here about hope. About how having it is glorious but losing it is gutting. How it's a bit line wine - too little and you won't feel anything, too much and it will make you sick. I could say that all hope has edges, sharp ones, and even the shallowest of cuts will sting."

Ultimately, the book wasn't for me.

Challenges tagged:

COYER 1st semester: 16 books read

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