Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this lovely Wednesday? I faltered a little with my writing last week, but it’s just because I’m lazy. Otherwise, things are good here. It’s the last Wednesday of February already, so you know what that means. Book review time! This month, I felt like reading something in the fantasy vein, so after some searching, I decided to try out Nocturne by Alyssa Wees. It was released by Del Rey Books yesterday (February 21st). As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for granting me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!
Nocturne follows Grace Dragotta as she rises to the challenges of becoming prima ballerina at a small Chicago company during the Great Depression. It’s been her dream since she was little, her escape from a hard life, but when she finds herself practically sold to a mysterious patron, she realizes the world is much bigger than she ever dared to dream. But is it a dream or just another nightmare that she’s entered?
The plot. It’s basically a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but with throwbacks as far as Hades and Persephone. Grace is sold to the Beast (Master) who whisks her off to the land of the dead in a bizarre attempt to woo her. Things go wrong when Sleep starts meddling for his own foolish and selfish reasons. It gets a little complicated, but that’s okay. My biggest complaint with the plot is how easily Grace is persuaded to do what she does to Death. The whole time, she’s cautious and wary and does her best not to fall for any bullshit, but a two second conversation with a dude she knows is sus makes her act like an idiot. I found that a little annoying.
Characters. They were all a little flat. Not even Grace grew or changed very much. Death and Sleep didn’t have enough page time to really be explored. The bestie and the Mistress were static as well, but interesting in their own ways. But, if I’m being honest, I didn’t really expect much from them from the very beginning. Have you ever started a book and just known the characters weren’t going to learn anything? This is one of those books.
I usually save the writing for last, but it’s really the whole reason I picked up this book. The description and cover make it seem like it’s going to be poetic and lyrical and pretty. It is after a while, but it takes a few chapters to get into a groove. It’s not exactly what I was hoping for, but there are some nice phrases and musical bits. I admit that I looked at other reviews before I wrote this and one of the big complaints people have is that the prose is too purple. It’s overwritten. Well, it’s supposed to be. And for the most part, it’s lovely.
Last, the pacing is off. The beginning is super slow and a bit too firmly rooted in the real world, so when the fantasy elements enter into things, it’s jarring. But once I got past the real world and settled into the fantasy, I found that my desire to keep reading finally kicked in. From then on, I found it to be enjoyable despite the things it was lacking.
Ultimately, I enjoyed Nocturne for what it was. I was compelled to keep reading after things got interesting. But it’s not something I will ever read or think about again and that’s okay. Some books are just like that.
Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. My initial rating was 4, but the more I thought about it, the more issues I had with it. It’s an okay book and if you’re into fairytales, it’s worth checking out. I don’t recommend it with zeal, but I don’t think it’s something to avoid either.