Title: Vassa in the Night
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Tor Teen, 2016
Edition: Hardcover, 296 pages
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. When Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for lightbulbs in the middle of the 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…
Inspired by the Russian folktale “Vassilissa the Beautiful,” and her years of experience teaching creative writing to students in New York City public schools, acclaimed author Sarah Porter weaves a dark yet hopeful tale about a young girl’s search for home, love, and belonging.
This book came in OwlCrate’s October box and was perfect for that October-Halloween-creepy sort of vibe going on. That’s part of the beauty of subscribing to these boxes – or being part of a book club – that you get exposed to books that you wouldn’t otherwise pick up and read. I’d like to think that I’m always up for the challenge – even if I may be confused and not always enjoy the new challenges.
Vassa in the Night was one of those challenges. And even till now, I couldn’t really say for sure whether I enjoyed it or not. I liked the mystery and humour. But I was confused by the general story and I think that has to do with not knowing the Russian folktale which inspired the book. But there may be something to be said of not knowing anything about it and just enjoying the story without the outside influence. There were certain elements to the story that I found confusing and strange but it added to the mysterious and magical qualities of the book.
I found Vassa to be childish, immature, and whiny most of the story. But with the beauty of character development, Vassa grows up as a character to become someone I can almost root for. I actually loved the characters of Dex and Sin – murderous little and handsy henchmen for Babs. They don’t talk much but they grew on me.
I don’t think that Russian folklore-type stories are ever going to be my thing but I’m glad that I got a chance to read Vassa in the Night. It was a darker magic than I’m used to and hooked me from the start, even if it was in its own confusing way.