[Baba Yaga, Vasilisa the Beautiful]
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!
"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.
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.
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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