Publishing Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Young Adult Magical Realism/Fantasy
The Premise from the Publisher: "In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they've arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now-but not Vassa's working-class neighborhood. In Vassa's neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters-and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa's stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg's help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch's curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won't be playing fair...." (TDA).
My overall thoughts and review: For starters, one thing that I left out in the premise is that the book is based on an old Russian fairy tale/folktale called "Vasillisa The Beautiful" - if you haven't heard of it before, a quick google search gives you the premise, but essentially, it is more along the lines of "Grimm/Anderson" in terms of fairy tales instead of the "Disney" version we are used to. So I think that knowing that it is a modern interpretation on the original tale is important before you plunge into the book. That said, you can easily read it without knowing it, but I found it really helped me understand certain aspects of the book. The book follows Vassa and her wooden doll, Erg, as they go out searching for light bulbs from the terrifying Babs Yagg (Baba Yaga - in the original! I liked that Porter kept all the names close to the original source text) and from there, things get quite complicated. I would characterize this book as magical realism as its finest. I love reading magical realism books and I found that Porter did an amazing job incorporating an old fairy tale into modern day Brooklyn. The story does move quite quickly and sometimes, it can be quite hard to keep up with the weirdness that Vassa encounters, but I think that is what I enjoyed about it so much. I loved how it kind of reminded me of "Alice in Wonderland." I never read the old fairy tale in it's entirety but I knew bits about it and overall, it had that very topsy turvy feel that I enjoy in books. I like when you don't know where the text is going next because then it isn't predictable and that is exactly what Porter delivers. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Erg and Vassa.. so much so that sometimes, I forgot that Erg was a wooden doll in Vassa's pocket. My favorite parts were definitely the dialogue between the two. Overall, I would recommend this book for fans of magical realism who want a good YA read about friendship, family and loss.
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)
Now available for purchase at:
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And as part of the blog tour, some stops will have an excerpt from the book! I have the prelude to share with you all today. So give it a read! Hopefully along with my review.. that will be enough to nudge you to run out and pick up a copy! ;)
Excerpt from Vassa in the Night: "Prologue"
When Night looked down, it saw its own eyes staring back at it. Two big black eyes, both full of stars. At first Night ignored them. Probably that strange gaze was its own reflection in a puddle, or maybe in a mirror left shattered in the street. Then it noticed something that made it curious: those eyes were full of stars, but the constellations inside them were unfamiliar. It was like gazing into the sky above another world.
Night decided to investigate. It reached out tendrils of darkness to examine this odd phenomenon. The eyes nestled, as eyes often will, inside a human face, at the top of a strong man’s body. But how could night— another, different, unimaginable Night— live inside a human being?
The man waited, unmoving, on a dark field ringed by houses. Between his widened lids stars flurried through expanding black. Planets circulated like blood. Night had never seen anything so much like itself before, and a terrible longing surged through it. Maybe, finally, it had found a companion; maybe it was saved from being forever alone!
Night drew closer to him, and then closer still. The man waited, as rigid as death. He did not react in the slightest when Night came and perched on his cheekbones to get a better look. It breathed across his lashes and set them trembling. The man did not answer, not even with a blink. When Night shyly kissed him he felt very cold.
All of that should have been enough to make Night wary. It should have drawn back in alarm, floated safely above the streetlamps. But Night had been lonely for too long, and it forgot all about caution. It did not even notice that the man’s face had peculiar coloring: pearly grayish white from the bottom of the nose down and coal black above. All that interested Night was what it saw inside his eyes. A meteor shot through their depths trailing brilliance after it. Night yearned, more than anything, to follow that streaking light.
If only it had been honest with itself, it would have admitted that the situation was suspicious. But Night, which hides everything in folds of shadow, is not in the habit of honesty. Since the man did not react to its caresses, it decided to touch him more deeply. A bit nervously, it stroked between his eyelids. His skull seemed to be hollow. He wasn’t breathing. Night prodded again, curling a dark tendril through one empty socket. But the man still didn’t move or even smile. Didn’t he notice that Night was there? Didn’t he realize Night loved him? Having gone already so far, too far, Night lost all restraint and licked and coiled its way into those eyes. It tried to speak. To beg for some reply.
And then the eyelids snapped shut, slicing right though Night’s soft body.
Please be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour for more content! ;)
Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of this book was sent to me by Raincoast Books and the excerpt was also sent over to me by Raincoast Books. The excerpt is written by Sarah Porter and comes directly from the published book. All opinions are my own.