Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Book Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Goodreads Overview:

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…

Jacque's Review:

I picked up a copy of this book at BEA several years ago. I finally decided to read it after going to an author event at my local library with Katherine Arden who wrote The Bear and the Nightingale. I didn't know anything about the Russian folktale Vasilisa the Beautiful prior to the event, which both books are based upon. 

Vassa makes a huge mistake when she agrees to fetch light bulbs from the local convenience store. She knows that entering the dancing building that seems to have brought perpetual darkness to Brooklyn is a risky move, but she feels like she has nothing to lose. She ends up trapped by the owner and has to work in the store to earn her freedom, which is a far better punishment than most people receive. 

While working at the store, Vassa learns about her mother's magical history and how her magical wooden doll, Erg, actually came to be. She realizes she may be the only person who can put an end to Babs's reign of terror and restore Brooklyn to what it was before darkness took over the city.

This was an interesting tale filled with unusual characters and magical elements. I found it to be a slow read due to the fact that it was really far fetched and I couldn't relate to the story. I debated between 2 and 3 stars on Goodreads and probably wouldn't recommend it unless you are really into Russian folklore and can relate the elements in this story back to the original. I am curious to know more about Vasilisa the Beautiful to see where the stories overlap, but for now, I'm just ready to move on to something a bit more main stream.

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