Vassa in the Night
By Sarah Porter
Summary: 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…
Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate box.
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What the hell did I just read?
Vassa in the Night has to be one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. I mean, I think I enjoyed it, but I don’t even really know? How can I possibly explain this correctly?
There’s magic in Vassa’s world. There’s a convenience store that spins/dances and is the only thing open at night and they behead shoplifters and place the heads in the parking lot on poles. Also the nights are longer, but they last the same length of time, it’s just the hours pass more slowly. Also Vassa’s father left and she lived with her stepmother and half sister and stepsister and her dad left to become a dog. And Vassa has a wooden doll that she feeds and it talks.
So. Yeah. The book is super weird.
But the story was well told. It was a bit confusing, especially because even the things I mentioned above are revealed in a nonchalant type of way so your brain has no choice to be like “wait, what?” Because the rest of the story reads like a normal novel, it’s not the type of story that sweeps you away into some fantasy land. But as weird as it sounds, I kind of loved how unique it all was and how the author just threw those things in without making a big deal out of it.
The book is supposed to be a retelling of Wassalissa the Beautiful, a Russian folk tale. I do not know if it comes close or does it justice or anything like that, but the story was interesting.
If you’re easily put off by confusing books or world-building that isn’t super upfront and obvious, then this book is NOT for you. But if you have an open mind and want something a little weird, it’s definitely fun. It’s seriously perfect for those moments when you kind of get sick of so many similar plots and you just want a book to take you on an adventure you haven’t been on and can’t guess where it goes. Because there’s no way on earth you can predict what will happen next in this book. I promise. I’m giving it four stars just for being absolutely one of a kind and unlike anything else I’ve ever read.
Side note: I believe the story is easier to understand if you’re familiar with the original tale, so if it’s super confusing, I suggest trying to read that before giving up on this book.