Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter | Review

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Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter lying on the tiles surrounded by paper stars

4 stars 

“Why did it take me so many years to understand that Night is something you can talk to, something that might even decide to watch over you or kiss you just when you’re about to crumple from loneliness?” 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A few book reviews I had seen online warned that it’s strange, and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea etc. well it was definitely mine. I was enthralled. I do agree that it does have an odd vibe, but I did not find it as strange as some people made it out to be.

“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 neighbourhood.

In Vassa’s neighbourhood, 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 neighbourhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair” (Summary from Goodreads)

I will say that reading the original tale of ‘Vasilisa the Beautiful’ before starting this book helps immensely. It introduces the original characters and premise, and all the stranger parts of the novel make more sense. Without giving away too much, this retelling does a great job of completely revamping the story, while keeping its heart intact. I wholeheartedly applaud Sarah for that.

The characters make the book what it is, they fill the pages with soul, and you can practically feel them lift out of the pages.

I loved Vassa’s spunk; she was dealt a rather crappy hand in life. Even though Erg is great at getting her out of trouble, she also causes the vast majority of them. Vassa is insanely brave, though a large portion of that would have to be contributed to her downright stubbornness. Where others would have completely broken down in fear, (myself included) she remained resilient. However, I didn’t agree with the plot point where she starts crushing on the night watchmen that felt unnecessary. It felt odd, and forced.

I adored the swans. Especially their interlude chapter (which makes me wonder about the foot) and it’s a question that will never be answered. Someone needs to ask Sarah about the foot!

“You don’t have to be human to be a person. I mean you don’t have to be human to be somebody. I don’t know you that well, but you seem like way more of a somebody than lots of humans I know! Really.” 

Erg is quite the mischievous doll, and has a rather vibrant personality. This is a definite difference from the wooden doll in the original tale. However, I really enjoyed how she balanced out Vassa. Her backstory was great and I didn’t fully predict the particulars of her existence (but I was close).

Sinister and Dexter, the freaky disembodied hands, had an abundance of personality for a pair of hands. They felt very reminiscent and nostalgic for the Addams family.

Babs, oh boy is she quite the character, such a sadistic and vindictive old hag. Her love of decapitation and the scenes where we see her gleefully hacking at people is sickening, especially when the reason behind it is revealed. However, her surprise and anger whenever Vassa completes an impossible task is completely satisfying.

It was quite an interesting for Night to be spoken about as its own entity. It’s not something I have seen before, but I loved it and it made so much sense. That part of the story was easily figured out and sometimes it was annoying waiting for Vassa to catch up.

I absolutely loved the short interlude chapters that revealed important bits of the backstory. It was done in a non-intrusive, non-jarring way. It was very smooth, so for that I am appreciative.

I also enjoyed the whole stigma surrounding BY’s, that going in means you have a low probability of coming back out, because of how the odds are stacked against the customers.

I enjoyed the ending of the book, and the fate of the antagonist and everyone else. Although I was left with, a few unanswered question but that is to be expected from such an intricate tale.

“No matter who I couldn’t save before, no matter if I’m stuck being a random mess of a girl, I’m still going to save something.” 

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