Vassa in the Night
Author: Sarah Porter
Release Date: Sept. 20, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Fairytale Retelling
Brooklyn is cursed and people barely seem to notice. A single night in Brooklyn can last for what amounts to days in the outside world. Vassa and her step-sisters spend the long nights fighting off boredom with movies and books. When all the lights suddenly burn out in their apartment, Vassa is sent to the only store that remains open the whole night, BY’s.
BY’s dances on chicken legs within a circle of decapitated heads. A warning to potential shoplifters of what will happen to them if they attempt to steal anything. For Vassa, who has always been wrongfully perceived as a kleptomaniac, it’s suicide to step inside. Wanting to prove everyone wrong, she takes the chance. When Vassa is inevitably accused of shoplifting, the owner of BY’s makes a deal. If Vassa can work three nights in the store without messing up, she’ll be free go home. Vassa quickly learns that the store and it’s inhabitants has no desire to play fair. To survive, she’ll need to rely on some unlikely allies.
Full of dark imagery and a lot of weirdness, “Vassa in the Night” was a great departure from the typical Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson retellings. The imagery and the world that Porter built for her characters was definitely the highlight for me. There’s some wonderfully twisted scenes sprinkled throughout the story, especially toward the end. If reading about decapitated body parts and pools of blood bothers you, you might want to skip reading this one. It’s not the most gruesome thing I’ve ever read (if you can handle Laurell K. Hamilton‘s early Anita Blake books and Kelley Armstrong‘s stories, you should be fine).
The two aspects of the story that didn’t work for me was the pseudo-love triangle and, to a certain extent, Vassa. Luckily, the love triangle doesn’t get much page time and was easy to ignore. The only thing that made it memorable is the weirdness of the crush Vassa develops on the store’s night “watchman”. The other aspect that was hard to cope with at times was Vassa. She has a “I’ll show them”/”Everyone is so stupid” vibe that was mildly irritating at times. However, I appreciated that her character had some growth. I left the book actually disappointed that this was a standalone. I would have liked to have seen more of Porter’s world and watched Vassa’s character continue to grow.
All in all, this is a great standalone YA fantasy/horror book. I would highly recommend it if you’re interested in Russian fairytales or are looking for something different to read in the YA genre.