Thursday, 27 October 2016

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Vassa in the Night, a retelling of the Russian folklore tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, tells the story of Vassa, a young girl living in an alternate Brooklyn that is plagued by dark magic. Residents of Vassa's neighbourhood have noticed that, whilst the days last mere hours, the nights last for days - and this all started when the local convenience store,  BY's, was open by Babs Yagg - a shopkeeper who has a tendency to behead thieves. When Vassa heads out to BY's in need of lightbulbs, she finds herself tied up in a contract with Babs, and her life will be forfeit if she's unable to work at the store for three nights without making any mistakes. However, Vassa has help - a magical wooden doll by the name of Erg, made for Vassa by her mother before she passed away. With Erg's trickery, can Vassa survive three nights at BY's, and maybe even break the curse upon her neighbourhood?

Bookmark from Behind the Pages
I've always been a huge fan of Russian-inspired fiction, so when I received Vassa in the Night in September's Fairyloot box, I was over the moon! I had previously read the tale of Vasilisa the Beautiful, and I would recommend reading it if you're planning on looking into this novel - if anything, it'll help you understand what's going on when the magic gets too much!

Overall, Vassa in the Night is quite a quirky, nonsensical book - but this is often the case with folklore, and definitely isn't a negative. It reminded me a lot of one of my favourite books, Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, but is written in a much more whimsical style to this. The book is very much written like a fairytale, what with the "things coming in threes" aspect, the overarching quest to save Brooklyn, the hero (Vassa) and the villain (Babs). There were also interludes which took place whilst Vassa was asleep, a little touch which I really liked - and these definitely complemented the plot. 

Vassa as a main character was interesting, but I didn't fully connect with her. I liked her attitude and sarcasm, but would've liked to have got to know her a little bit better. I do feel as though Erg got in the way of this at points, as she could be a very irritating character at times. I sometimes struggle with magic realism as a genre, but it managed to (mostly) make complete sense in this book - it worked well, in any case. It stuck to both the original story and to Russian folklore in general really well, and I appreciated this as the Russian aspects were basically what made me want to read it in the first place. 

The only negatives I had with this book was that it could be a bit slow at times - considering that the majority of it is set in one location, this is bound to happen. I also did get a bit confused at some points, such as some sort of crazy fight scene towards the end (which confused me so much that I genuinely am not quite sure what happened). There was also a bit of a love interest at one point, which I just didn't understand - it came from nowhere and had absolutely no build up or purpose.

I'm not entirely sure who to recommend this book to, just because it's written in such a niche style, but if you're interested in Russian mythology or magic realism, I would definitely recommend taking a look at it! 

Have you read Vassa in the Night? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments!


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