Book Review: Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Del Rey (February 21, 2023)

Length: 240 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees weaves a compelling story and it’s quite imaginative for a retelling. That’s why it pains to say I found it quite disappointing.

In this strange and very different reimagining of the Beauty & The Beast fairy tale, we follow a promising young ballerina in 1930s Chicago who suddenly finds herself standing at the crossroads of fate when her talent attracts the attention of a wealthy patron. Growing up in hard times following the Great War, Grace Dragotta only had one dream: to dance for the Near North Ballet Company and become their prima ballerina. After losing her family, the ballet becomes her life, and through hard work and dedication she finally achieves her goal.

But as it turns out, things aren’t that simple. Grace finds out that her new coveted position comes with strings. It turns out that Master LaRosa, a enigmatic prince and philanthropist of the arts had arranged for her to become prima ballerina after making a hefty donation to the company. As part of the arrangement, Grace must also travel to LaRosa’s estate and live with him there, but for what purpose, she has no idea. All she knows is that her new master’s mansion is as otherworldly and mysterious as the man, and that she must unlock its secrets in order to discover her purpose.

While I really don’t want to knock Nocturne too hard because in truth the story is quite creative, admittedly this book can also be a little confusing. The beginning is the most straightforward and easiest part to understand, but unfortunately it is also the slowest. With a mother who wasted away from illness and a brother who was gunned down in the streets, Grace has a backstory that is both tragic and traumatic, but it also takes forever to unfold.

By the time she makes prima ballerina and is whisked away to some rich prince’s palace, the pacing starts to pick up, but this is also when things start to get weird. Once Master LaRosa’s true nature is revealed (and It’s honestly quite predictable), we next start down this endless winding path of him telling Grace what to do—what to eat, how to dress, when she can leave the house and only to go where he wants her to go. He’s a “Beast”, that’s clear enough, but then he also shows her his creepy portal which is a gateway to the realm of death and asks her to marry him, making it clear he will not stop until he gets the answer he seeks. For Grace, the situation is complicated, and not only because he is her patron. In spite of herself, she finds herself drawn to the master and his proposal because of the power only he can give her, even knowing that accepting it will cost her everything. Only her love of life and dancing prevents her from saying yes.

But issues surrounding this whole disturbing scenario aside, deep down I know the author is only trying to mirror the original source material. Truth be told, what I actually struggled with the most was the writing style, which was purple to the extreme—one of the worst examples of overly flowery and convoluted prose I’ve ever seen. Wees seemed more interested in showcasing her ability to come up with fancy metaphors and use a thesaurus than anything else. It became almost unbearable to the point where it took a lot away from my enjoyment and any interest to follow the plot or connect with the characters, when so much of the text is just insubstantial fluff. It’s hard to relate to or sympathize with Grace and her troubles when it’s all being overshadowed by the over-the-top prose.

Ultimately, I can’t say I would recommend Nocturne. It’s a unique take on a fairy tale classic for sure, but the execution was somewhat marred by the flowery writing style which negatively impacted my ability to engage with the story and characters. I wanted to like this book so much, but it just wasn’t for me.

28 Comments on “Book Review: Nocturne by Alyssa Wees”

  1. That’s a bummer. I became intrigued with this one when I saw it’s pretty cover and that it was a retelling of The Beauty & the Beast had me more intrigued! But then I read reviews that all complained of the flowery prose and it pretty much scared me off. Lol. It’s nice every once in awhile but not as a whole storytelling point. Sorry to hear it was a disappointing read. Nice honest review though!


  2. Great review, Mogsy. And I applaud you for wading through the whole book – it would have been a DNF from me pretty smartly. I trudged through far too many literary reads where style trumped substance when I was a young woman to have any patience for that sort of nonsense, these days:)).


  3. Hmmmm… That’s too bad. I don’t mind a little purple prose mixed in here and there but it can get very old very fast when overly done. Sorry to hear that was the case with this one.


  4. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 03/12/23: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: