Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Published by Tor Teen on September 20, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings
Pages: 304 Format: ARC Source: BEA
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.
In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.
But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .
I acquired this ARC from the publisher at Book Expo America. This does not impact my thoughts and opinions in any way.
In my quest to read more and more stories inspired by Russian history and fairytales I knew I wanted to pick up Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter. Bringing the folklore of Vasilisa the Beautiful to the streets of Brooklyn creates a strange new world where magic and reality collide. There’s plenty to experience within these pages, but for me this book missed the mark.
Characters tend to make or break books for me and this may be why Vassa in the Night didn’t live up to the hype. Every single human character was pretty basic and there was no real connection between them. Vassa, as the MC, should have shone, but I really didn’t care for her. The wooden doll Erg was more compelling with her honesty and attitude. The other characters of the not so human variety might actually be one of the best parts of this book.
Wooden dolls come to life, hands that have their own minds, a drugstore that dances on chicken legs, and ever present Night are just a bunch of the fantastical elements within this story. This book is full of extremely weird and strange things and while entertaining, it was really over the top. Unfortunately this led to the human element of the story being lost with all of the craziness that ensued.
It probably helps to know the original story before diving into a retelling but I’m not sure it would have helped Vassa in the Night. Mixing Russian fairytales and Brooklyn, NY would not be my first choice. I do have to give Sarah Porter kudos though for taking on these two vastly different areas and trying to bring them together. I even enjoyed her writing style with moments of such beautiful prose that I couldn’t help but keep reading. It just didn’t add up.
Overall Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter was alright but a bit of a disappointment. While it was an interesting retelling, the narrative was all over the place and the characters were pretty lackluster. I just wanted a whole lot more from this story. I’ll say if you’re into super strange stuff or Russian tales that you should give this one a shot, but otherwise it’s probably not for the masses.
So are you interested in Vassa in the Night? Have you read the original Russian fairytale? Do you like your books super strange? Let me know in the comments below!