Wednesday, September 28, 2016

VASSA IN THE NIGHT BY SARAH PORTER - BOOK REVIEW AND BLOG TOUR

Hello everyone!

I am back this week with a book review, as part of the Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter blog tour, hosted by Raincoast Books. Make sure you check out the other tour stops on the graphic below to see some Q&A's with the author, as well as some more excerpts.


I am so excited to be able to share an excerpt of the book with you, as well as my review. First the excerpt. This little snippet really shows the sass of the narration! Here it is:


And now for the review! Thanks so much to Raincoast Books for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


I'm trying to think of a genre to place this book in, and I'm not too sure. It's not really a fantasy, at least, not high fantasy, but maybe an urban fantasy. At the same time, even though there's magic, its not well known, or really shared that there's magic in the city/world. Regardless of the genre, this was a unique and interesting book.

The story follows seventeen year old Vassa in a magical New York City where the darkness of night is long and takes over much of the days. One night, Vassa comes home to find all the light bulbs burnt out in the house she shares with her step-mother and sisters. Her two sisters, Chelsea and Stephanie share the same mother but different fathers, making them half-sisters, while Stephanie and Vassa have the same father and different mothers. Vassa and Steph are almost the same age, and their dad went back and forth between his two families, until Vassa's mother, an eclectic painter, passes away from an illness. Afterwards, the father marries Steph's mom and shortly there after leaves everyone stranded.

Anyways, so the lightbulbs are burnt out and the only store open is BY's. Unfortunately, Babs, the owner of the store has a tendency to behead shoplifters, and the occasional innocent shopper. Still, they need light in the dark, so Vassa ventures to the store. After being tricked, Vassa is forced to work at the store for three nights, working off her debt, otherwise hers will join the heads on steaks in front of the store.

The story itself is based on a Russian fairytale, Vassalissa the Beautiful. Although I am not familiar with the original story, I still appreciated the retelling.

There were lots of magical elements in the story, perhaps my favourite was Vassa's doll, Erg. She is a small, wooden doll who is animated and helps Vassa. She also eats way more than anyone her size. I loved the interactions between Erg and Vassa. While in the store, there isn't really anyone 'normal' she can trust, so I enjoyed her candid conversations with Erg. The doll herself is a sassy things, and while she seems to know more than she's letting on, I enjoyed her spirit.

This story also had a bit of an Alice in Wonderland feel, I'm not sure if it was because it was a fairytale retelling or what. There's also the fact that there's this magic in the everyday world that you didn't know existed, and now Vassa, like Alice, is thrown right in the thick of it. She didn't know who she could trust so she kept to herself. There were strange things happening that couldn't be explained, especially towards the end.

One aspect I didn't love, and part of the reason why I didn't give this one a full 5 stars is I found some parts hard to believe. Now, don't get me wrong, for the most part, I was caught up in the wonder and excitement of the story, but at the same time, part of me was wondering where the sisters were. Even though they were mad, why didn't they come looking for her sooner? I also felt like, while clever, I think having the heads of your shoplifters on spikes out front is a bit extreme. Surely this can't all be legal, are the police afraid of being beheaded as well?

I also felt like some of the chapters weren't super necessary. There were a couple of flashback chapters from "last year" or "twenty three years ago," etc. and while they were interesting, I'm not sure they added too much to the story itself. The ending of the story was also a little confusing for me, I'm still not 100% sure what happened. I got the gist, but I think I need to go back and re-read things, to clear up some stuff.

There is also just the hint of a budding romance. It's by no means overpowering, but even still, I don't think it was necessary for the plot. I felt no connection between Vassa and the love interest, and I'm not sure it added anything to the story.

I did love the uniqueness of the story itself, and the writing. Vassa is whip-smart, and her partner in crime Erg has some great quips. While the story is told in first person through Vassa, there was never any confusion with what was happening with other characters, especially Babs. Vassa seemed to be able to read her from the very beginning, whether through some sort of second-sense, or just her intelligence.

Overall, this was an intriguing read like nothing I've ever read before.


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