I’m thrilled to be participating in the blog tour for Vassa In The Night by Sarah Porter. I first heard about Vassa In The Night at the Raincoast fall preview earlier this year, and I was immediately interested. It’s based on the classic Russian folktale Vassilissa The Beautiful. and sounded incredibly cool.
Here is a bit more about the book:
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. . . .
The author, Sarah Porter, also teaches creative writing to students in New York. She lives in Brooklyn and has published several other novels in a similar magical realism style. When asked about her writing routine, she said the following:
What does your writing routine look like? Do you have a favorite location to write?
Hi Jessica! I write every day, unless there’s some pressing reason why I can’t. I usually deal with emails and such in the morning, when my focus isn’t great anyway, and really settle in to write around noon, for anywhere from three to twelve hours. I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful study, so I always write at home unless I’m traveling.
You’ve heard all about what the book is about, and learned more about the author, so it only makes sense for me to share my opinion on VASSA IN THE NIGHT now.
So, what did I think?
To put it simply, VASSA IN THE NIGHT was spectacular. It would easily fall within the best dozen or so books I’ve read so far this year. I tend to enjoy magical realism novels to begin with, so I knew that VASSA IN THE NIGHT and I would get along well.
The world that VASSA IN THE NIGHT is set in was unlike anything I’d read before. At first, it appears just like modern-day Brooklyn, but then BYs is introduced. Baba Yaggs’ is the local 24/7 supermarket. At first, it seems just like any other shop, except for its unique habit of beheading the shoplifters. Vassa knows that BYs is to be avoided at all costs, until her sister dares her to go out there in the middle of the night.
What starts out as a simple shopping trip quickly turns into something so much more, and it’s up to Vassa to save her neighbourhood–and herself–from Baba Yaggs. With such a unique premise, it isn’t surprising that I felt drawn to it. The author’s writing is lyrical, and brings the world vividly to life. Although it was based on Vassilissa The Beautiful, VASSA IN THE NIGHT has the atmosphere and writing style of a fairy tale itself.
Although I really enjoyed the story world, I started out disliking Vassa. She seemed stubborn and brash, but her personality eventually grew on me and I started to root for her as the story developed.
If you’re looking for a dark, lyrical read and love fairy-tale retellings or magical realism, then you absolutely need to get your hands on VASSA IN THE NIGHT.