Vassa in the Night Review


Vassa in the Night
By Sarah Porter
Published by Tor Teen
ISBN13: 9780765380548
Pages: 296
Genre: Fairytale/Retelling

Book Blurb:

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 away 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…


I am coming in strong by stating this is probably the book of 2016 for me. Despite the countless negative reviews and less than ideal feedback that originally had me anticipating great disappointment, Vassa in the Night has persevered with shining colors. Uncanny and full or otherworldly, eccentric symbolism, it is easy to accept that this will not sit properly with all. For myself, it was a reading experience that cannot be compared to any previous retelling and has provided a new level of expectation to the genre. This is exactly the sort of storytelling that I live for. From beginning to end, I wanted more, and it continued to give. Describing what I received will be challenging. The complexity that makes this story so gratifying is not easy to articulate without divulging spoilers.


Before attempting to read and understand this story, I cannot stress just how valuable I feel it is to familiarize yourself with the original tale of  Vasilisa the Beautiful and Baba Yaga by Alexander Afanasyev. This is a retelling based on Slavic folklore, and it is different from what one might expect from fairy tales. Useful information for those looking for a quick breakdown of the original fairy tale can actually be found here on Wikipedia. I am not normally a fan of recommending wiki, but this information is pretty solid and there are several illustrations worth looking over. You may also be interested in reading Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave by Marianna Mayer

This retelling takes the folklore that originally took place within a hut in a forest and transports it to current day Brooklyn. Only this is not the Brooklyn you may think you know. It is littered with areas of magic. However, magic is not something that the denizens actually welcome, exactly.

“See, to whatever degree we have magic around here, it is strictly the kind that’s a pain in the ass.”
-Sarah Porter, Vassa in the Night

We soon learn that many, including are heroine, go to great lengths to avoid contact with anything pertaining to magic. One particular area that is avoided at all costs, would be the local convenient store BY’s. However, in a fit of anger and hurt, Vassa finds herself venturing out one night to this very store to pick up lights bulbs (significant symbolism). This is where the story unfolds, and she soon uncovers the many fantastical and deadly secrets of the shop owner Babs, realizing she may never leave alive.

It is truly difficult to discuss or dissect the plot in great length without the risk of ruinging the reader’s first encounter. I will mention that there is some super heavy symbolism occurring. The over all reading experience may become somewhat frustrating or confusing to those who are not familiar with the folklore. You will need to be prepared and ready to slowly digest this book at times. While it was thoroughly entertaining, it was not the light read the blurb originally had me believe. There was a lot happening. This one was what I call a “tabber”. I marked various sections and had to let certain events sink in over time.


The characters completed Vassa in the Night for me. Their eccentric manners and incredibility provided a real air of magic and life to this fantastical and peculiar story. Nothing and everything about them made sense. There was such an alluring mystery promoted with each individual, that they continued to draw me forward. I had to know them, I needed to.

“You don’t have to be human to be a person. I mean you don’t have to be human to be somebody. I don’t know you that well, but you seem like way more of a somebody than lots of humans I know! Really.”
― Sarah Porter, Vassa in the Night

Vassa, our protagonist, is full of wit and charm with her style and flare. She proves to be resilient and compassionate, while also maintaining a bit of fear and fluent sarcasm that played well into the environment and craziness. She reacted very appropriately to inappropriate situations. I loved her! Is she completely credible? Maybe not to the full extent, but nothing in the story is. That is what makes it so attractive.

Erg is Vassa’s one true companion. She happens to be a wooden doll that has been given life and left with Vassa as her mother’s last gift before passing. She is a bit of jerk, but not without her own endearing qualities. She also happens to be a clepto. Her contribution to the story is not to be undervalued, as she seems to be the perfect sidekick. She and Vassa belong together like freis and ketchup. But make no mistakes, she will anger you at times.

We are also presented with Babs, the shop owner. She is deformed, cruel and ruthless. She is a terrific villain that I was able to appreciate on several fronts. She is an enigma and cleverly adds to the flare of Vassa, as they work against one another so greatly.

Perhaps one of the most mystifying characters would be the store’s night security, a motorcyclist dressed in black. He is ever-present and of great significance, as you will discover most things within this tale are. Nothing and no one are to be taken for granted.

World Building

The majority of our tale resides within BY’s, an odd convenient store that happens to be perched upon two dancing chicken legs, and also happens to be the only chain open at night (the story takes place throughout the extent of several nights that happen to be much longer than an average, normal night).  If you have taken the suggested moment to do your homework, you have established the connection between the store name and Baba Yaga. BY’s is run by none other than “Babs”. It also happens to be enclosed by a gate containing the severed heads of shoplifters. Intrigued or repulsed? It’s okay, I understand either reaction. I was personally intrigued, as I live for the weird. But there is a bit gore that occurs. While I did not find it to be heavily disturbing, consider yourself warned.

“The light projecting from BY’s waves like a flag across the parking lot, sometimes catching one of those skewered heads and making it shine: dead women and men becoming moons in my personal night.”
-Sarah Porter, Vassa in the Night

The majority of world building within Vassa in the Night is attributed to the strong elements of fantasy and magic and unconventional characters. The author has managed to create an atmosphere that is completely distinct offering an encounter unlike anything I can easily compare it to. It is rich, complex and at times confusing.


Sarah Porter’s writing is somewhat bizarre. She has taken a very individualized approach to story telling that can only be loved or hated. While I found it to be fluid, the symbolism is rich and almost poetic at times. So it is easy to see how it might feel flowery to some. I personally found myself completely submersed within this different and welcomed style. The pace was not always as steady as I would have liked, but my interest never waned.


I really wanted to delve into this so much more, it is impossible without revealing too much, and the revelations are part of what make this tale so fantastic. Vassa in the Night is a truly rewarding and individualized experience that not all will be able to find appreciation for. It is a very distinct twist on a fairy tale that many are not going to recognize. I think that taking the time to make that familiarization will greatly affect the over all impact. While there is something truly magical happening within the pages of this beautiful retelling, it required a slower pace to digest and fully grasp. The symbolism is heavy and it can easily become confusing at times. The end result was a complex tale that will surely delight and enthrall some while leaving others confused or frustrated. For myself, it continues to resonates so strongly with me that I am sad it has ended.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Purchase Vassa in the Night

44 thoughts on “Vassa in the Night Review

    1. It is very out there.. I can see how it lost some readers. Especially if they are not familiar with the original tale. The comparison makes it so much more understandable. I really hope you like it ❤❤❤ I am so glad you liked the review. I struggled to describe it haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love your reviews! And I’m not familiar with the original fairy tale… do you think that might throw me off? What about you? Are you familiar with the original?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The link I provided in the review to pull it up in wiki will give you enough of the original story to connect it all 😘 I had to google it and read it first. I was unfamiliar. Glad I did. I recommend doing that, but still think if you like “weird” you could appreciate this 😊

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow, 5 stars! I had a feeling you were going to like this book. And I’m so glad that you won the box and that you loved it so much. I was like what is going on when I read this but I don’t have a lot of patience either. I DNF Wintersong last night for the same reasons as Vassa. 😂 I’m thinking you might like that book. Awesome review, Danielle!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t get around to starting this because of the Anti Bullying Readathon. I am so glad you loved it. I was dreading reading it before, but it sounds like a story I will at least like if not love. Thanks for the link to the original fairytale. 👍 I had already seen so many bad reviews when I first saw it on Netgalley that I didn’t request it. I only have it because a publisher sent it to me in place of a book I requested. I thought at first they sent it unsolicited because thery had my address, and were still going to send me the book I asked for, but they didn’t ha ha. 😝

    Thanks for sharing your review. And I know that still sounds corny as hell, but I haven’t come up with anything better yet. 😆

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe, thank you 🙂 I hope you are able to find the same enjoyment as I did in the book. Obviously it was a huge hit for me. It was a bit of a slower read, but in a very good way. I have also been under the weather, so it might be faster paced than it felt to me. And hey, the cover is gorgeous 😉 ❤ So at least you received a physical copy!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wahh! Your book of the year! I’ve seen this book around quite often for the past couple of weeks and had no clue what it was about. Now I know it’s a retelling of an ancient fairytale! These retellings are taking over the Young Adult world. 😛 Fantastic and beautiful review. It’s pretty nice to see a book being appreciated although some people are able to hate it as well.

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is not all poetic though. It is more so in the sense with all of the symbolism, which get very heavy at times. It is definitely out there! It was easy to personally give five stars, but I also hesitated because I know a lot of readers will not agree haha.


  4. Your review actually just restored my hopes for this one! I’ve only seen one other good review and then several negative ones so I was feeling hesitant but from the way you describe it makes Vassa sound like something I would love. I’m big on poetic writing and symbolism, those are two of my favorite things to see in books. I’ll definitely have to look into the original fairy tale. Have you ever watched Spirited Away? A fun fact I learned while talking to someone else about Vassa was that the witch in Spirited Away is based off Baba Yaga as well and that movie definitely has its oddities and is a bit out there at times but I love it so much. So, I have hopes that I’ll end up enjoying this one. We’ll see! Great review as always. 😊💕

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s cool! I’m glad it’s not just me that made that connection haha. I get what you mean though. I feel like it’s one of those movies that is popular but at the same time not. If that makes any sense. It’s such a fantastic movie. 😊
        You’re welcome! I have a feeling that I will too. 💕

        Liked by 1 person

  5. A truly excellent review! Loved how you linked to Wiki, because I have seen tons of negative reviews about this one that thought the book was so weird…maybe they were expecting something else, I don’t know. But if you know what it’s based on, maybe you can appreciate it more! I’m so curious about this one!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting! I’ve only read the not so good reviews for this book so when i saw in my ibox that you had a review up I was intrigued by what you thought of it. It was great to see you loved the book and reasons why you loved it. You reviewed it so well, I feel I want to read the book just to test myself. I know quite a lot of Russian fairy tales, being from a countrh that was under Russian occupation so this is definitely interesting to me 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amazing review!! Lilly and I were just talking about it earlier and how you made us want to give the book a chance. I definitely will be reading the original tale before heading into this one. There are some books with really low ratings that I as well have loved so maybe this one will be a gem in that bunch. Happy you enjoyed it =D

    Liked by 1 person

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