[Baba Yaga, Vasilisa the Beautiful]
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.
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.
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!
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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