Vassa in the Night

Vassa in the Night

Book - 2016 | First edition
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In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, Vassa uses a magical gift from her dead mother to take on Babs Yaga, the witch who owns the local convenience store. Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful.
Publisher: New York :, Tor Teen, a Tom Doherty and Associates book,, 2016
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780765380548
Branch Call Number: TEEN FIC Por
Characteristics: 303 pages ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Vasilisa prekrasnai͡a. English


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Aug 26, 2019

This is a really interesting retelling of the tale of Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave. It is a modern take, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland and The Neverending Story. Vasa goes out into the night to BY's, a horrifying version of 7-11 where if you are caught breaking the rules you are beheaded. Unfortunately, she ends up having to bargain for her life and promises to remain at BY's for three days, only being allowed to leave if she is successful at all the tasks set before her.

There is enough of the original tale present that it is a cohesive story, while on the other hand there is enough originality to drive this retelling forward. The pacing was a bit slow, but after finishing it I understand how important it was to the atmosphere the author was creating. Many will find this book odd. Some will go so far as to say it's "too weird". But don't let that put you off. We all need a bit of weird in our lives from time to time.

I was interested in this book when it initially came out because I saw it quite a bit on bookstagram (I think it was part of a subscription during its release) and I was intrigued to see how the Russian folklore was incorporated. So on a whim last week I picked this up at the library! It’s based on “Vasilisa the Beautiful”, which I originally heard on the podcast ‘Myths & Legends’. Porter’s urban fantasy take on this classic story takes place in working class Brooklyn and the main setting is a magical convenience story rather than an evil witch’s hut. While I appreciated the revamping of the story I feel like the story lacked depth and development overall. It suffered from fairy-tale flat characters. I hated the weird love interest in it. The attempt I think a magical realism or perhaps dream-like writing fell flat on its face, in my opinion. Sadly, I was pretty disappointed in this. At just under 300 pages, it was a quick read if you’re looking for a fairy-tale retelling. But, honestly, I’m happy I didn’t spend my hard earned pennies on this. Back to the library you go.

ArapahoeLesley Feb 08, 2018

I had no familiarity with the original fairy tale and I'm not sure it would have helped. This took me a long time to get through. Maybe it just wasn't for me.

May 05, 2017

Wow, what a book! This YA book is amazingly and elegantly written, holds no cliches, and truly is one of the best books I've read in quite some time. If you are intrigued or scared of Baba Yaga and her chicken house and wonder what it would be like if the fables and fairy tales came true and open a deadly convenience store in Brooklyn this book is for you!

Apr 29, 2017

"Brace yourself, Vassa. Be strong. There's a tragic shortage of heroes in the vicinity and nobody will do this if you don't."

Wow, I loved this. A significantly more satisfying Alice in Wonderland-style tale with a jerkish yet savvy narrator, who's voice I adored.

It's a classic heroes journey where the opposition holds all the pieces and the hero, none. Everything must be figured out, trial-and-error style, and the frustration and triumph Vassa experiences is visceral and real. The writing was clever, the wordplay was tricksy and made me Think, and the story did something different with the original Baba Yaga and Vassalissa tale while still keeping its spirit alive.

It was bloody and gruesome, but not in bad taste: it never felt excessively so. I love a good heroine who isn't afraid to mess with severed bodies.

PimaLib_ChristineR Feb 13, 2017

A fascinating retelling of a Russian fairytale, but so much more. Vassa has a secret doll given to her by her mother on her mother's deathbed. That the doll can eat, comfort Vassa and get her into trouble with stealing doesn't seem so strange in this magical Brooklyn where night keeps getting longer and there are "people of quality." When Vassa goes out into the night to buy lightbulbs at BY's she is in for a strange time where she learns that even other humans may not be what they seem, including herself.

A meditation on sorrow, strength and commitment, Vassa is a must read.

Nov 14, 2016

Vassa in the Night is one of those books that sets a very distinctive tone for its readers right off the bat: in a world where dark magic encompasses Brooklyn, lives Vassa, a young woman who ends up on a quest for light bulbs, and ends up on an extraordinary journey to find home. In a lot of ways, many of us have read a story like Vassa in the Night before, but this book shines in a way that really captured my attention through start to finish.

First off, the world-building in this book is delightfully and vibrant. Porter does an amazing job illustrating Vassa's world, the people who inhabit it, and provides so much vivid imagery of what surrounds Vassa in her adventures. Furthermore, the book has such fantastic characters who are wonderful to grow alongside with in the story. My personal favourite character was Erg, but I am a sucker for creepy talking dolls (in that they generally give me nightmares every time). But serious, Erg is funny, cheeky, and she gets some of the best lines in the whole story. She makes for a great companion to Vassa in the story, and I loved their relationship. I also adored Vassa as a character and thought she got a lot of great growth in the story, and she's simply lovable, flaws and all.

I think the only thing I struggled with in terms of this novel was the ending. I felt the ending wrapped up everything a bit too conveniently, and found the ending didn't have as strong a finish as I would have liked. However, I do love where the ending was going, the way it built up, and the way it was written. I think Sarah Porter has really wonderful ideas, and I do think her writing does a fantastic job reflecting a lot of where she wants her stories to go.

I loved my time with Vassa in the Night, and I am sad that my time with these characters and this world is over. While I don't hope for a sequel, this is one of those books that I feel can be easily recommended for lovers of fantasy and retellings. I wish I had been more familiar with the story this was retelling, but I also loved how much I loved going into this story completely blind as well. Definitely check out Vassa in the Night, as it's one of those standalone fantasy adventures that feels like a wonderful journey. Plus it's weird and delightful, and crazy. Read this book.


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Not that there isn't any magic around here. If you're dumb enough to look in the wrong places, you'll stumble right into it. It's the stumbling out again that might become an issue. The best thing you can do is ignore it. Cross the street. Don't make eye contact - if by some remote chance you encounter something with eyes.

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