Monday, September 19, 2016

ARC Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Title: Vassa in the Night
Written by: Sarah Porter
Published: September 20, 2016 by Tor Teen
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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. . . .

Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher at BEA. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I was so excited to pick a copy of this book up at BEA. It is a total me book, a dark fairy tale retelling with a modern magical realism setting. And Vassa in the Night is definitely an interesting and unique story, but unfortunately a lot of it just didn't really work for me. It was an okay read but it didn't blow me away.

One of the things I was really looking forward to about this book is the retelling aspect. I always love a modern fairy tale or folklore retelling especially if it's something different so one with Russian folktales sounded so interesting. I didn't know this story in advance so I looked up a quick synopsis. I could see the changes the author made to the original and hey were interesting but I think maybe you would get more out of this retelling if you knew the story. Because for me it just felt confusing as I was looking for the original in this version.

And being not very familiar with the original story I instead should judge this book based it's plot development. And the overall part of this book was in a word, confusing. I wasn't exactly sure what the endgame was. It was working towards something but I wasn't entirely sure what that was. There wasn't a clear motivation or goal beyond, survive. And that's totally fine but for such a plot driven reader like myself that just felt muddled and confusing.

But one of the things I did like about this book was the world. I love dark and unique YA fantasies and that's absolutely what this book was. That uniqueness kind of strayed a little too far into the weird category but from a world building perspective that was fine by me. The author did a great job of setting the scene for this Brooklyn full of magic and mayhem. I don't usually picture things when I read but here I was imagining the store, the characters, and the actions. That I think is a testament to the descriptive writing and unique world.

Probably the weirdest thing about this book was the characters. Oh man, they were so strange. I've come across Baba Yaga in a few books before and she's always so interesting. Babs was definitely no exception. She was creepy and weird and had this great old world charm and modern flair. I also found Erg to be really fun. Talking dolls are not usually something I like but she was cute and sassy, a great sidekick. Even the main character of Vassa was interesting despite the fact that she didn't have much motivation. She was a reluctant hero and I love that trope so I enjoyed her.

On the whole, Vassa in the Night was an okay read. I found the world and characters fascinating and weird but that extension into the plot made it feel a little muddled.

I give Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. Despite the fact that it didn't blow me away this was an interesting read. It's definitely unique so if you are looking for something totally different check it out. I am kind of curious what people familiar with the original story think. And if you like magical realism and are looking for a strange and dark YA fantasy maybe check this out.


  1. I have to give this one a second try. I wasn't in a great mood when I started it, and it just didn't pick up fast enough to suck me in. But I do love weird and dark things, and your review gives me hope that I'll at least enjoy it. I mean, Erg is pretty damn cute.

    Sarcasm & Lemons

  2. I love the cover, and so many people rave about it... I WANT THIS BOOK!! ♥
    Didn't know about the retelling aspect, but it certainly adds a unique touch. Looking forward to reading it!