Review: Vassa in the Night
Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
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 away 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…
Vassa in the Night is a dark urban fantasy retelling of Vassilissa the Beautiful, a Russian fairytale. Vassa lives in Brooklyn with her step-sisters and her step-mother. Her world is full of magical elements. For instance, no one knows why but the nights just last longer and longer every day.
One day, Vassa heads off to BY’s a local convenience store that BEHEADS SHOPLIFTERS. Yes, you read that correctly. Totally creepy. She ends up being stuck there and has to survive Babs’ impossible and demanding tasks for three nights. Thankfully, she has her companion, Erg, a wooden yet magical doll given to her by her deceased mother.
Vassa in the Night was quite the adventure. I love magical realism and this book is like THE DEFINITION of magical realism. However, I did find there were some flaws for me that kept me from enjoying this book as much as I would have liked to!
Vassa was a great character. She stood her own and she was sassy and yet she was flawed and insecure; I loved that about her. Her relationship with Erg was extremely touching and fun! I enjoyed Vassa’s growth throughout the novel and how she became her own person, dealt with her problems and ended up being in a much better place then she was at the beginning.
The world Sarah Porter created was definitely a lot of fun! It was full of dancing chicken-legged convenience stores, people turning into animals, a personification of Night, a walking-talking wooden doll, hands with no bodies and so many other extremely creative elements. The atmosphere was incredibly palpable from the first to the last page. It was dark, yet very magical. Moreover, elements from the original fairytale were incorporated in a very creative fashion and were well adapted to the setting in the book. However, I do feel I was confused quite a few times because things tend to go so crazy in this world. Actually, there’s still a few characters who’s purpose in the book I don’t understand (like the two lawyers? what was that about?).
The ending was extremely satisfying in my opinion, I enjoyed how everything was tied together. I felt for Vassa and even teared up at the end. On the other hand, I felt the plot dragged on at times and this book while quite short took me longer to read than it should have. I felt like everything was a bit slow and lacked action. However, I understand that these parts were needed for the character growth and self-development. Therefore, I still enjoyed the book even though I felt it dragged at times.
[Oh and I enjoyed how there was no romance or even a love interest although it was hinted at that and I thought that’s where it was headed. It felt refreshing to have a female character who didn’t care/want to absolutely have a significant other for once. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, I enjoyed this book but it is extremely bizarre and unsettling if you are not prepared for this level of magic and weirdness. Sarah Porter’s prose is simply exquisite and so is her use of imagery. Her creative mind is absolutely genius for inventing such a wild wild world.