Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Vassa in the Night

Rate this 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 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…

296 pages, Hardcover

First published September 20, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Sarah Porter

9 books649 followers
I'm no longer checking goodreads. If you'd like to contact me, please write to wateryden (at) gmail (dot) com. Thank you!

If you'd like to support my work, please subscribe to my Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/sarahthelight...

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,153 (18%)
4 stars
2,082 (32%)
3 stars
1,937 (30%)
2 stars
864 (13%)
1 star
353 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,586 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
September 20, 2016
I’m slipping, saying too much; in a night this deep and strange the boundaries start to blur.

This is one of those books that I absolutely loved but I'd hesitate before rushing out to recommend it. Because it's weird. No, seriously, it's REALLY weird.

I guess it shouldn't be that surprising. The book promises a fairy tale version of Brooklyn, NYC, with talking wooden dolls, a witch's curse and people partying on rooftops at sunset. A story inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful. It's bound to be a tad strange. If you read the blurb and thought "awesome", then you're probably good. If you read it and thought "sounds a bit weird, but I'll try it", then you're probably not.

It's a story full of bizarre dreams, walking hands (yeah, just the hands), witches setting impossible tasks and an absent father who is now a German Shepherd. It's also a dark, gory, magical tale full of beautiful imagery and just the right amount of snark.
Around here it’s the dead who are living large. On the living side of the fence we have plastic kids’ bikes wedged into the balconies of burned-out apartment buildings. Mosaics of garbage and broken glass in the mud. So it’s not too surprising that I tend to wind up wandering around the graves. It reminds me that there are always options.

I kept trying to figure out what it reminded me of. At first I thought Laini Taylor, and later that changed to Catherynne M. Valente, but I think, in the end, it resembled the works of several authors of the weird and beautiful, whilst also having its own style.

While not necessary, I recommend a basic knowledge of the Vassilissa fairy tale, unless you want to experience some complete "WTF?!" moments. In this version of the story, Vassa lives in Brooklyn with her stepmother, two stepsisters, and a little secret hidden in her pocket - Erg, a talking wooden doll her mother gave her before she died.

Night has been slowly getting longer in Brooklyn, creeping over everything and making the morning ever further away. Even stranger than this is the magical convenience store that seems to float above the ground and has a policy of beheading shoplifters.
The parking lot is ringed in by poles maybe thirty feet high, and on top of every pole a severed head stares down, some with eyes and some with just gutted pits.

When Vassa stumbles in one night, she finds herself falsely accused of thieving by the owner - Babs Yagg. She desperately protests her innocence and, in return, is given three nights (and several impossible tasks) to prove it.

It's very atmospheric and creepy. You can practically feel the darkness and the magic swirling off the pages. I also really enjoyed the beautifully-written conversations between characters, and the friendship between Vassa and Erg.

The novel gets weirder and weirder, and builds to a crescendo of blood and secrets before delivering a bittersweet ending. For me, it was an oddly perfect mix of so many things I love and I felt completely sucked into Vassa's world. It's not one for those who like everything to make sense, but I really enjoyed it.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store
Profile Image for Navessa.
Author 10 books7,523 followers
February 7, 2017


I....uh...I don't really know how to rate this one, so I guess I'll settle for three stars.

Vassa in the Night reads like one of those dark, grim (see what I did there) fairy tales where the prince doesn't quite get to the princess in time and so she's eaten alive by a dragon. Only instead of a medieval or fantasy world, it's set in a part of Brooklyn that has managed to escape gentrification. A place where night lasts longer than it should, dolls can talk, and the local super market mounts the heads of shop lifters on spikes outside its doors.

Intrigued? Well, why not. This is magical realism at its finest.

There were a lot of things to like about this book. The prose is lyrical, the story (based on the Russian folktale 'Vassilissa the Beautiful') is imaginative and complex, and the characters are richly developed and painted in various shades of gray.

This book is definitely not for everyone, however. You can't half-ass it. You REALLY need to pay attention when you read it. Thanks to the heavy use of metaphor and Alice in Wonderland style weirdness, I can see a lot of people struggling to keep track of it all.

My struggles came with the MC, Vassa, who would do things like think, "How stupid would you have to be to step through this door into an obvious trap?" and then proceed to step through said door. And also with the romantic aspect of it and the slow unraveling of sense.

I mean, it's an old school style fairy tale. It's supposed to be weird, but the book started to lose me a little when the equivilant of this happened:

Overall, I did enjoy most of this book, but I really hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

This review can also be found over at The Alliterates.
Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,244 followers
December 14, 2016
3.5 stars

It's only logical: BY's can't kill everyone who shops there. If they did, they'd go out of business.

This is such a strange, odd book. Truly..there were so many elements that made me think "wtf?" But it's all really awesome in the most unique way. I had no prior knowledge of the fairy tale it is based on, Vasilisa the Beautiful, though I think that made me enjoy it even more. I lived for how bizarre certain elements were and I'm not sure it all would have seemed quite as bizarre if I'd seen it before in the original fairy tale even. I was enchanted from the start by the fantastical components and that perfect blend of darkness and humor. It ended up being so much fun! I think my only faults here would be when the story began to drag somewhere along the line not furthering along the plot. And then the ending was very rushed, frustratingly leaving certain questions unanswered. The journey to get there was still worth it.
It’s a destination and everyone piles up and congratulates themselves on having made it all the way here from some wherever or other. To them this is practically an enchanted kingdom. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not the part where I live.

We have so many weird things in this story. There's a chain of dancing convenience stores that dance on chicken legs. They behead shoplifters, so be dubious of that ring of rotting heads just outside. There's a wooden doll who can walk and talk named Erg. She's mainly known for her huge appetite and bad habit of stealing. Oh and only Vassa knows about her. There's walking hands..I was picturing Thing a la The Addams Family. There's a witch...who happens to run the convenience store. There's bleeding swans. Nights that seemingly never end and can last insane amounts of time. And a whole lot more. Like I said...it is so beyond strange.
Sometimes I get sick of how demanding she is. Sometimes I’ve even toyed with the idea of letting her go hungry for a few days, or even not feeding her again. She’d complain at first but eventually, I’m pretty sure, she’d just go back to being inanimate.

Erg is the only thing Vassa has from her mother. One night (remember....you don't know if night will be over in a few hours or days...) Vassa needs lightbulbs. The only store open is BY's. It's a risk that she takes only to get accused of shoplifting. Despite the insistence of her innocence Babs, the witch owner, sentences Vassa to 3 nights of work.
“Vassa? Remember how you said that no one sees past the obvious stuff? If I go by what’s obvious, then I’d have to assume that you’re a raving, pathological liar.”

There is plenty of magic as this is a magical realism story. And it's beyond atmospheric and creepy. I don't think I would have liked it quite as much if it didn't feel so unique and out there to me. It really made for a fun book. I'll have to check out the original fairytale now.
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,828 reviews2,189 followers
April 1, 2017
3.75 stars

This is quite possibly the most bizarre book I've ever read. But I actually ended up liking it a lot.

Vassa in the Night is a book I would have never picked out for myself, but I got it in one of my Owlcrate's and decided to give it a shot. I've been needing a change of pace with my genre's lately, so I picked up this one.

And my god, this book is weird. BUT the writing style sucked me into the story and I felt like I got lost in the pages of this peculiar tale.

“Why did it take me so many years to understand that Night is something you can talk to, something that might even decide to watch over you or kiss you just when you're about to crumple from loneliness?”

The story begins when one of Vassa's stepsisters asks her to go to the local convenience store to get light bulbs for their apartment. But Vassa's Brooklyn isn't like our regular Brooklyn, it's one under the curse of longer nights and sparse days. And the local convenience store isn't convenient at all, it's a place that beheads shoplifters and hooligans, run by Babs Yagg.

Vassa might be able to break the curse Babs Yagg has on the neighborhood, but she also might get herself killed.

“No matter who I couldn't save before, no matter if I'm stuck being a random mess of a girl, I'm still going to save something.”

Like I said before, this book is just plain weird. But at the same time it's enchanting. I went into this book expecting not to like it based on numerous negative reviews and a low average rating, so imagine my surprise when I just couldn't put it down.

I have no clue who I would recommend this one to, it's a hit or a miss for a lot of people. The only real negative thing I have to say about this book is the plot wasn't very coherent. While I enjoyed reading this very much, there were lots of times where I thought to myself "what the heck is happening right now?".

Sarah Porter is a brilliant writer, talented at what she does. I would be happy to read more by her in the future and see the world through her unique eyes again.

“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.”

Follow me on ♥ FacebookBlogInstagramTwitter
Profile Image for Drew.
449 reviews504 followers
November 21, 2016
“I wish that all of us together in this night could stop hurting. I wish we’d finally cease to bleed.”

2 1/2 stars. I'm so sad about how this book turned out. I was ready to love Vassa in the Night and accept it for its strange, glittery self. This book really was an oddball - beautifully written, but with one of the strangest plots ever. I'd read the reviews beforehand, knew what I was in for, and thought I could handle it.

At first, I just shrugged when talking dolls and walking hands made their appearance, when a magical store run by a witch who cut off thieves' heads was introduced as the main plot. I knew I was going to get weird and a little bit of crazy from this book, but the "weird" didn't end up being a problem. I think, by the end, I just couldn't love Vassa in the Night because it made absolutely no sense.

There was very little world building in this story based off the Russian fairy tale "Vasilisa the Beautiful." Apparently everyone in Brooklyn just accepted that the nights stretched out impossibly long and there were a couple of witches roaming around from who knows where. I also didn't like the inconsistency of how one side of Brooklyn seemed to be utterly human and normal (for example, Vassa's stepsisters), while the other side was full of magic and oddities.

I was hoping Babs Yagg (originally called Baba Yaga) would be a complex villain, but I felt really conflicted about her. Sometimes she just seemed to be a grumpy, tired old woman, and other times she was a raving, axe-swinging maniac. She confused the heck out of me.

The one thing I loved was the writing. The sentences, wording, and flowing descriptions were so gorgeous. I feel like I could read Sarah Porter's grocery list and it would still be breathtaking. There was also a touch of humor in Vassa and her doll Erg's characters that I liked. Erg was a wonderful, sarcastic sidekick and Vassa was so bizarre and delightfully funny.

This book reminded me a lot of Daughter of Smoke & Bone in that it was weird, beautifully written, and had a dreamlike quality. I love fairy tales, but am I the only one who feels like sometimes these retellings can go overboard? I read the original "Vasilisa the Beautiful" story and it made a whole lot more sense than this book.

Gah, I wanted to love this so bad. Just look at that cover, that beautiful title, the enchanting premise! I guess this just proves you can't judge a book by its cover.
910 reviews256 followers
January 6, 2019
Before reading Vassa in the Night, I came across countless reviews that did not like it - purely for the fact that "it doesn't make sense".

Well I'm sorry (not sorry), but I could not disagree more. If you're the kind of person who'll look at a Dali painting and think "but animals don't actually have legs that long", then this probably isn't the book for you, but the gorgeous dream-logic at work through Vassa is both consistent and mesmerising; I never once found myself confused, only captivated by the imagery and plot.

It's gruesome in parts, yes, hugely so. The pulling of Russian folklore into a strange otherworldly now lends itself to as much grit and grime and viscera as it does beauty and lusciousness. The characters are oddly suspended in this world - something in its oddity reminded me of the film The Lobster. The story is weird, offbeat, but follows its own rules and I loved it. Not quite perfect but I'm now dying to read more by the author!
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews839 followers
September 7, 2016
This book was so bizarre. Magical realism in YA, at its finest. Bizarre, but intriguing.

***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

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. . . .

What I Liked:

There are not nearly enough stories in YA that are heavily based in magical realism, at least in the last ten years or so. Magical realism isn't just fantasy or paranormal aspects; it's the combination of realistic elements with surreal or magical elements, in which the surreal or magical elements don't seem surprising or out of place. What comes to mind when I hear the words "magical realism" is Gabriel García Márquez, who wrote some masterpieces in magical realism. This story is a fairy tale retelling, set in an enchanted modern-day Brooklyn, following a young girl who is meant to be something extraordinary.

Vassa lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters, the oldest who loves her, the middle who hates her. The family lives in Brooklyn, where Babs Yagg has a BY's convenience store, famous for beheading shoplifters. One night after midnight, Vassa's mean stepsister orders her to buy light bulbs, and the only store opened after midnight it BY's. Out of defiance, Vassa goes. And while she isn't beheaded, she becomes trapped at BY's, forced to work there for three nights and sleep there during the day. While she's there, Vassa begins to figure out how to undo Babs Yagg's enchantment, and how to free the mysterious watchman motorcyclist who is made more of darkness than humanity.

This book is written in first-person present, following Vassa. However, there are a few chapters that delve into the past (and they are clearly marked), and they are in third person. While those few chapters were interesting, they also didn't feel totally necessary.

This entire book is so unique, starting with the setting, the characters, the retelling itself, and the bizarre plot. I mentioned that this story takes place in an enchanted modern-day Brooklyn. Most of the story itself is in BY's, in which Vassa must thwart Bags Yagg night after night to stay alive. The setting is fairly-tale-esque, but in a more modern place and time! I love how imaginative and richly detailed everything is, especially the setting. I got a good feel for this distinctive world. It was a slow-build type of world-building, which I was fine with.

Everything about this book is slow-build, especially the reveal of information and plot. We don't get everything all at once, which is great (no info-dump) and sometimes a little mean (you want more information about this or that NOW!). At first, Erg (the alive wooden doll) is a mystery, as well as Vassa's parentage and how she ended up with her step-siblings and stepmother.

I liked Vassa. At first I was a little annoyed with her, because of how she put up with Erg and her stepsisters, but I had a lot of respect for Vassa. When she becomes trapped in BY's, she isn't always thinking about how she's going to survive. She wonders about the night watchman who drives aimlessly round and round BY's, who is made of night and darkness. She is determined to free two lawyers who came to BY's, as well as the watchman motorcyclist. Vassa is kind and selfless, even if she thinks that her heart is hard.

I love the magical realism in this book! It's totally normal and accepted for a convenience store to behead shoplifters and display the heads on pikes outside the store... just like it's normal for the store to dance around on bony legs... just like it's normal for the store's "employees" to be two severed hands, scuttling about... weird, right? Vassa doesn't question any of this. I love how the author wove in these little details that are quite significant .

And really, this book is full of magical things. The dancing store, the severed hands that are "alive", Erg the walking, talking wooden doll, the swans made of snow, the motorcyclist made of darkness. So many interesting aspects of this book lie in the magic.

There is a small romantic part of this story! At first, it seems like the motorcyclist will be a love interest (which literally makes no sense since he never talks and he's made of darkness - i.e. nothing really tangible), but then it becomes clear that someone else is a love interest, someone more on the same wavelength as Vassa. Which I was fine with! That boy is sweet, though he wasn't at first.

The ending was pretty satisfying! There was one part, about the motorcyclist, that I thought could have been a little clearer. But it was a very good ending with everything wrapped up. In fact, I'd say it's a very positive ending for what I was expecting. I vaguely know the story of Baba Yaga (the children's version, though), and I don't know the original story's ending, but I will say that this version's ending is good!

What I Did Not Like:

Ehhh, nothing I can think of specifically. The book started a little slowly and didn't really begin to get REALLY good until the light bulb scene happened in the middle of the night, and Vassa went to get some at BY's. I was pretty hooked after that.

I did mention that I would have liked more clarity on the part of the ending about the motorcyclist and the darkness. We know that a certain thing happened, but the "how" eludes me still.

Would I Recommend It:

If you like magical realism, and/or fairy tale retellings, then this might be one for you! Magical and mysterious, the story is every bit as unique as I'd expected. When I finished the book, the first word that came to mind was "bizarre" - this book was bizarre, and a little dark, and very enjoyable.


4 stars. I actually didn't know much about this book before I received the advanced reviewer copy (thank you, Tor!), but I'm glad they sent one my way. This book was exceptional! I don't think I did it justice, with this review.
Profile Image for Misty.
796 reviews1,230 followers
September 13, 2016
Initial thoughts: Just under a 5 for a bit of a rush-job on the ending, but for the most part, lurved it. And really lurved Vassa.

Now, I’m going to say right off the bat, this story is certainly not for everyone. It’s weird and it’s odd (and somehow those are different things). The nights are getting longer and longer, even though the clock stays the same (weird), and there’s a talking doll who could eat several times her weight in…well, anything (odd). But more than that, it’s an occasionally non-linear story (something some readers struggle to follow or stay engaged in), where nearly everything is off-putting and slightly discordant—or should I say diskordant, because every single ‘dis’ word that has a C in it (and you’d be surprised how many there are), instead has a K—and this is yet another layer of the strange and bizarre and weird and odd that will be found in Vassa’s pages. And yes, though that may not seem like much, it is a symbol of just how thoroughly The Odd pervades this book. It’s written to make you a little uncomfortable, to keep you more than a little unsettled. Plenty of people struggle enough with “weird” books when it’s just the contents that are weird, but when the storytelling itself goes wonky, that’s enough to drive some readers away.

What’s more, it’s disturbing and it’s dark, and yes, those are most definitely separate things, though they certainly go hand in hand. I mean, there’s a dancing store on giant chicken legs (disturbing), surrounded by a fence of heads on spikes (dark). There are glitter nail polish –wearing disembodied hands (disturbing) who wield axes and are bloodthirsty to tear people apart (dark). There is a missing father who has made possibly one of the strangest fey deals in any story I’ve ever read (no spoilers, but…disturbing and odd and weird), and a half sibling who sends her sister to the dancing chicken-legged store at night, knowing it could very well end with her head on a spike (and hoping it will—dark). There are no cookie cutter happy endings here, where resolution is given to each bit of each story line; where the good guys always win and the bad guys always get what’s coming to them, and any real damage done is undone. Vassa’s world is one that is pretty downtrodden and unsettling even before she gets snarled up in Babs’ murderous machinations*, and even if she should prove victorious and manage to survive her very long nights at BY’s, she still has to go back to that small, unhappy world.

But—there is hope. As with any fairy tale worth its salt, there is some small chance of a silver lining, an improvement in one’s lot. And there is the realization of self that only the really good fairy tales possess, that newfound understanding of one’s own power and competency and agency. And all of these things—these weird, odd, disturbing, dark things—are what drew me in and made me love the book. No, it won’t be for everyone, and the lack of perfect resolution may mean that even some readers who were enjoying the book will feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under them by the end, or as if they’ve invested their time for not enough pay off. But for those—like me—who enjoy the surreal and the bizarre, who like their fairy tales dark and their retellings darker, and who appreciate a good Coming Into One’s Own type of story, you may find it doesn’t get much better than Vassa. It’s fantastical and strangely compelling and has a great voice, and it hits a lot of right notes (the thrills! the chills! the funnies and tinglies!).

I’ve seen some people say it was slow, but you all know I’m not the person to ask about a book’s slowness, because I always seem to love them more when they build and burn and luxuriate in setting the scene.** (Though I will definitely agree with those who felt the ending seemed rushed by comparison, because it most definitely did.) Though it doesn’t seem there are plans as of yet for a sequel, I’m hoping there will be, because I would like to fall into Vassa’s world again, to see what becomes of her and some peripheral characters, and also to see if we get any resolution of some of the weirder storylines—but all in all, I find myself heartily recommending it to those who think they are likely to like the weird things I like, and only cautiously recommending it to those who don’t – and fully curious to know the thoughts of any who do end up reading it!

*Claiming for future bad punk band name… Winking smile
** To an extent, because there are definitely some books that my godddddd are too slow. And I can not abide info-dumping, which makes a book insta-slow.

Profile Image for Angelina.
108 reviews36 followers
October 15, 2016
I feel like this is a read that you either will adore or absolutely hate. There is no middle on it and I loved it.... It was so interesting and so unique. The characters were awesome, they were the kind that sticks on your mind for daya after you finish the book
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews907 followers
December 5, 2016
An Advance Reader Copy was provided by the publisher for review. Quotes pulled from the ARC may be incorrect and may be subject to change.

Two sisters, step-mother, no father and the main character is exceedingly beautiful. At first I was getting Cinderella vibes, but then it changed and upended everything I knew. It was just so different and unique that I can't ever look at a convenience store the same way again.

Vassa in the Night was one of the most bizarre and well written books I have ever read. I actually don't even know what I just read, but the imagination and creativity to pull it off was incredible! I'm still confused, but the good kind because I was thoroughly entertained! The quirky characters, the creative magical realism setting, the plot.. They all worked out and what the result was? One charmed reader who will tell others how bizarre and odd it was.

Here's the one memorable example in the book:

"There is a convenience store on chicken legs. If you're caught stealing, they behead you and place it on a pike in the parking lot."

Vassa in the Night will charm reader's socks off! It definitely charmed me :)



"My sole ambition is to be anyone but me, and anywhere but here." (29)

"Well, I try not to be mean, anyway. For whatever that's worth. I don't honestly think it's good for much." (140)

"I know a night-doll-monster-beast isn't the most conventional choice for a boyfriend, but does his inhumanity really have to be a deal breaker?" (153)
Profile Image for Tara ☽.
304 reviews251 followers
September 2, 2018
"Night sees you, Vassa."

How do I explain what exactly this book is about? It is (I say, in a mournful voice) well nigh impossible. Is it a retelling of Vasilissa the Beautiful? A little bit, but not quite. Is it a fantasy story? A little bit, but not quite. Is it a story about magic, about a lost girl, about the beauty of the night, about the broken pieces of ourselves that we hide within us? That is how I can best describe it.

More than anything, though, Vassa in the Night is strange. Don't get me wrong, it's beautifully written, with a gorgeous, captivating, imaginative story, but it is probably one of the strangest books I've ever read. It's one of those stories where you just have to go into it knowing that not everything will make sense, where you have to just accept things as they happen with little more than a shrug and a "Ok, I'll go with it." I suppose that comes with the territory for magical realism, but even out of the magical realism books I've read, this one stands out as being the most potentially confusing. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes I like being befuddled.

It almost gave me an Alice in Wonderland vibe. The characters Picnic and Pangolin definitely gave me Wonderland vibes. Again, I am by no means complaining. I adore Alice in Wonderland.

The storytelling is wondrously atmospheric. It's almost entirely set at nighttime, and you could feel the loneliness, the way the nights seemed to never end, and the strange comfort that the protagonists took in the darkness. The imagery was absolutely amazing; I could clearly picture Babs Yagg's store (sidenote: why isn't she called Baba Yaga in this??) dancing on its chicken legs with glowing neon lights, the only bright thing in the stretched-out dark night below the stars.

I'd say the best time to read this book is in winter, when the nights are long. You'll feel like Vassa herself, stuck in the space between the ground and the stars, taking comfort in the dark, and the only thing separating you from magic is a half-second and a stolen breath. There are also some excellently creepy parts in the book (mostly involving bloodthirsty disembodied hands) so reading it at night will lend itself to that too! The ending does get quite gruesome, so you'll probably also need a strong stomach.

My only piece of advice left is this: Be prepared for the strange, and just roll with it. Be an Alice (or, I suppose, a Vassa.)

"Dream first. Die later."

Profile Image for Constantine.
836 reviews136 followers
April 29, 2020
Rating: OK

Urban Fantasy + Young Adult +Retelling

Very ambitious, sometimes funny and whimsical and other times confusing and boring!
This is a modern retelling of Vasilisa the Beautiful and Baba Yaga by Alexander Afanasyev. We follow this strange story of the girl Vassa and her wooden talking doll Erg. I have picked up this book at a used book store. The beautiful cover attracted me and I had no idea what the story was about. When I read the synopsis then of a girl who lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters I thought this might be a retelling of Cinderella. Turned out a totally different story.

Sometimes it felt like the story was becoming something like Alice in the Wonderland because everything seemed to be strange but it definitely lacked the charm that Lewis Carroll's classic has. What this book excels in is creating this dark weird atmosphere. I just wish the characters were as strong or at least the plot was more defined and not all over the place.

If you like to read something strange and wicked maybe Vassa in the Night will appeal to you. If you find the idea of a father leaving his family to become a dog appealing then give it a shot 😁. For me, this was an ambitious project that could not live up to its goals. I am going with an OK rating.

Profile Image for Simona Stoica.
Author 16 books711 followers
June 21, 2017
Recenzia completă: http://bit.ly/2sPWr5H

„Noaptea te vede, Vassa. Noaptea te cunoaşte.”

Din când în când, simt când o carte este potrivită pentru mine. Poate că are o copertă ce sfidează imaginaţia cititorului, o formă de artă modernă, uşor abstractă, de o frumuseţe ce răzbate pe parcurs, nu de la prima privire. Sau un personaj intrigant şi viclean, imposibil de catalogat drept erou sau antagonist, cu o înfăţişare ce surprinde şi şochează, un intrus în sfera fantasticului. Poate m-a fermecat un fragment citit dintr-o suflare, dar o suflare atât de îndelungată, încât ai uitat dacă e zi sau noapte, dacă eşti copil sau adult, dacă ieri a devenit azi sau dacă timpul s-a oprit. Dacă mica mea introducere ţi s-a părut neobişnuită, nu ştiu dacă eşti pregătit să citeşti Vassa şi Noaptea.

Înainte să citesc romanul, am căutat povestea rusească Vasilisa cea Frumoasă, sursa de inspiraţie a autoarei Sarah Porter. Cu câteva idei în minte şi cu o viziune mai mult sau mai puţin clară a temelor surprinse în folclorul rusesc, am păşit în miez de noapte pe străzile din Brooklyn, unde magia a învins logica. Dar nu orice formă de magie: nu te gândi la vrăji de bază, blesteme sau la incantaţii şoptite la o răscruce de drumuri. Uită de legi şi de norme, de reguli şi de ordine, pentru că nimic şi nimeni nu este ceea ce pare.

„- Somnul e mai mare decât orice noapte. E îndeajuns de mare să umple mintea. E mai adânc decât orice noapte. Aşa că până şi noaptea se poate pierde în el.”

Noaptea stăpâneşte oraşul. Îl posedă, îl controlează, îl transformă. Zilele sunt din ce în ce mai scurte, ore preţioase de lumină şi de libertate, de activităţi cotidiene, o undă de normalitate în haosul ce se răspândeşte la apus. Întunericul este slujitorul nopţii, însă nu ascunde crimele ce sunt săvârşite sub protecţia sa, nu ascunde sângele ce se îmbină cu primii fulgi de nea, marcând un nou sacrificiu, o nouă pedeapsă, o nouă jertfă.
Profile Image for Taylor.
767 reviews421 followers
December 18, 2016
I'm in love with Russian folklore so I extremely excited to read Vassa in the Night. It sounded amazing and I seen a bunch of great reviews so I had pretty high hopes.
I loved the modernization of such a classic Russian folklore and it was so bizarre and amazingly weird.
Vassa in the Night is set in America but I would have loved it if this was set in Russia.
The magic in this book is so insane and crazy, I loved it so much.
I didn't find this book to have much of a plot. No one was really doing anything and the overall book seemed to to lean very heavily on the weirdness and magic.
I didn't really all in love with the characters. I didn't hate them but they just didn't connect with me.
Overall, even though the plot and characters weren't there, I loved the concept and everything else. If it didn't have the Russian folklore aspect, this book would have been pretty boring.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Gold.
Author 1 book21 followers
March 25, 2016
This is what a YA book should be -- dark, specific, weird... Vassa lives in a dystopian futuristic Brooklyn with Erg, the doll who lives in her pocket. There is so much wonderful imagery. The perilous journey Vassa must take to Baba Yar's convenience store, the scuttling helpers there. The whole thing is like Tim Burton meets Judy Bloom in a Salvador Dali painting. Or maybe Madeline L'Engle meets Fellini. Whichever: read and love.
Profile Image for Andrei Bădică.
373 reviews153 followers
July 29, 2019

"Babs a spus că există reguli, dar am bizarul sentiment că mâinile s-ar putea să creadă că regulile sunt făcute pentru a fi încălcate - la fel ca oamenii și inimile lor inutile."
"am senzația ciudată - o simt în piept - că sunt lucruri despre care pur și simplu nu vorbim."
"Chelsea ar spune că cele mai simple soluții sunt cele mai bune."
"Așa e. Partea importantă. Lucrurile interzise pe care nu le spunem, căci ramificațiile lor, ca niște rădăcini vii, ni se întind în piept, ne invadează arterele și se hrănesc cu sângele nostru..."
Profile Image for Amerie.
Author 5 books4,141 followers
March 28, 2017
Fantasy? Magical realism? Wherever it falls, I so enjoyed the accelerating madness of this dark tale.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,757 reviews757 followers
January 31, 2018
This book was so wonderfully weird, I was instantly hooked from page one and I was only drawn more in as it went on. Everything about it was so original, it was totally unlike anything I’ve ever read before and I couldn’t have loved it more.

Vassa was such an excellent character, something about her just clicked with me and I was incredibly invested in what would happen to her and how her story would turn out.

I also really loved the role that Night played in the story, it was just pure magic and added so much to the story. And I loved how that aspect of the story turned out, it was just perfect! I really couldn’t have loved this story more!
Profile Image for Nicay.
258 reviews92 followers
February 10, 2017

Originally posted at The Nerdy side of a Queen


“Night knows you, Vassa.”

In Brooklyn, the night was much longer than an ordinary night as the BY store appeared in their little town. Vassa was living with her stepmother and her two stepsisters after her mother died and her father leave them alone.

One night, when Stephanie – the step sister of Vassa instructed her to buy some bulbs in the BY store; she hesitates for a moment because the BY store was well-known for being the reason of chopping the heads of its shoplifters. Vassa, along with her talking doll, they went to that BY Store, and they met the owner and at the same the cashier of its weird franchise store.

But, sometimes the unexpected events would be the start of something magical.

Walking hands, dancing store, talking doll, a weird motorcyclist will be the weirdest things I encountered during reading this fabulous book.

I’ve been captivated by the charmed of this book as I read the first two sentences of its blurb. And another reason was, I have also a thing for weird stories.

As I read the Vassa in the Night; to be honest, I can’t see what would be the sense of this book, what would be the outcome. The characters seem really weird, and I can’t predict the character of our main heroine. She was dumb with her decisions, but sometimes she would become a smart one when some circumstances occurred. But, I finally get the main reason why it happens!

By the way, this book was based on the Russian Fairytale – Vassilisa the Beautiful. To be honest; I am not familiar with that Russian Folklore, but as I searched the Vassilisa the Beautiful, they really have the similarities.

Sarah Porter successfully made the re-telling of the old fairy tale, and I am really amazed on how the story ends beautifully.

The comparison between the two based on what I had read – the Vassilisa the Beautiful only represented the Day, Thunder & Storm. But, the Vassa in the night embodies the importance of family’s past on what you would become today.

And this line:

‘There was part – of somebody – a little girl – and that part so much the girl couldn’t carry it inside herself anymore. So it went into a doll. It made the doll alive. And the doll carried it for her. For six years.’

And, it really broke my heart.


Profile Image for Carrie.
3,162 reviews1,518 followers
September 12, 2016
Vassa lives in an enchanted version of modern Brooklyn with her step sisters and step mother and her magical talking doll that her mother had given her when she was a child. One night when Vassa returns home her step sister tells Vassa she needs to head to the local store to pick up some light bulbs. The problem with this is the only store open late at night is the local convenience store that is run by Babs Yagg who has a policy of beheading shoplifters whether they are truly guilty or not.

Vassa in the Night is a modern retelling of the Russian folktale “Vassilissa the Beautiful”. I wasn't familiar with the original version going into this one so I had no clue of the weirdness this would contain, a store ran by a witch who has trapped night itself and has dismembered hands guarding the store along with a girl with a magical talking doll that likes to cause a bit of mischief of her own.

First starting out this story as weird as it was I found myself completely fascinated and intrigued while loving the uniqueness of the tale. However, somewhere along the line I think it just tended to stall out for me and started to drag a bit when it seemed the story continued to throw in weird things but dare I say not make anymore real progress with the plot.

In the end I'd say this one was just an OK read for me. A lot of weird things going on so I'd warn that this is definitely an out there type of fantasy read that probably won't be for everyone but somewhat fun if you like that type. Perhaps it might have been a bit better if knowing the story it was based on but I can't say for sure myself.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.wordpress....

Profile Image for Zyra .
203 reviews81 followers
June 2, 2017
too weird and too much obsession with the night. also at the end, the painting part with vassa was too confusing to me. it was more like vassa was stumbling in to things by chance rather than adventure during these nights. her toughness was just for the act, she was nothing more than a confused girl throughout the book. also i didn't understand what in the world picnic & pangolin said through the book. at least make the characters say something normal people can understand. no it does not make it look retelling like or more mysterious if characters are not understood.
Profile Image for Vikki.
271 reviews48 followers
March 22, 2017
This was such an odd but wonderful book. It is a Russian fairytale retelling set in modern day Brooklyn, New York where a magical convience store is open 24/7 and the shop owner beheads shoplifters and hangs their heads on pikes outside the store. The police become befuddled or confused whenever they go to arrest the shop owner so the store becomes a part of the community. Vassa, a teenage girl whose mother died and father choose to become a literal dog, lives with her stepmother and half/step-siblings. Her mother gave her a wooden doll named Erg that came to life the moment her mother died. A mischievous doll, Erg, steals Vassa's sisters possessions and causes trouble and drama but is Vassa's only real friend. The nights start to become longer (like days long) and as people need grocery items in the middle of the night, the magical, beheading convience store gets more and more customers/victims. When Vassa's half-sister sends her to the store to get light bulbs since all of the ones in their apartment mysteriously go out all at the same time. How will Vassa survive the night with her little thieving wooden doll?

There were beautiful descriptions and parts of the book that were written just like a fairytale but this is definitely a book you have to patiently read even if you don't totally understand what is going on at the moment because everything will be explained. And I loved Erg so much despite all the trouble she causes Vassa.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

My reviews are posted on https://tiggertheturtle.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,264 reviews222 followers
February 23, 2017
A dark fantasy based on the Vasilisa the Beautiful fairy-tale. Strongly reminiscent of Catherynne M. Valente and Frances Hardinge, I would recommend if you like your YA fantasy to be dark and weird and beautiful.

Vassa is a 16 year-old girl living in Brooklyn with her step- and half- sisters, her step-mother and a creepy wooden doll that only she knows about. Night in this world has been getting longer and longer. Not in terms of hours and minutes, but in terms of experience. If you can wrap your head around that, this book won't present any problems. There's also this new chain of convenience stores, BY's where the stores dance in the air on giant chicken legs and you have to turn your back and sing a jingle to get them to lower for you. They also have a policy of beheading shoplifters and mounting the heads on poles outside their outlets as a warning. One day Vassa has reason to go into her local BYs and then meets the proprietor Babs and then things get interesting.

This is very much YA, but is quite dark and very violent. Vassa has good reason to be depressed and fatalistic and is often that through the book, but her doll Erg goes a long way to keeping her up and when she's motivated she's a great heroine. It's also very weird, with some bizarre magical things that happen throughout that are unremarked, with others that are apparently shocking. Some of it is horrific, some of it is hilarious, and sometimes they're even both.

In terms of flaws, despite being a short book, it feels overlong in parts, particularly during dream sequences. It also has sections that feels like set pieces with not quite enough bridging narrative. Still very, very good.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,743 reviews2,271 followers
September 20, 2016
Now Available!

3.75 Stars

Based on, or perhaps inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful this YA novel is weirdly wonderful as it introduces you to a view of Brooklyn like you’ve never seen.

Vassa has a tiny doll named Erg, which she takes with her everywhere; it was bestowed upon her by her mother right before she passed away. With her mother gone from this life, and her father gone from her life, she lives with her two stepsisters and their mother, her former stepmother. Vassa shares her secrets, her life with Erg, her tiny, sassy, wooden doll who happens to be a bit magical, and Erg, in turn, shares her opinions of Vassa’s choices.

In the neighborhood where they live is the “magical” BY’s “convenience store.” BY’s bright lights and unusual parking lot display where severed heads tower above on poles are notably different from other stores. Some stores just put up signs to dissuade shoplifting. One evening, Vassa’s wicked stepsister, who is always accusing Vassa of stealing her things, sends Vassa to BY’s for light bulbs, and things get interesting.

Vassa may be young, but she is fierce and independent, a little bit like a slightly younger version of Katniss Everdeen waking up in place designed by Neal Stephenson and Tim Burton. With the help of Erg and some friends, Vassa needs to unravel the magic that enables BY’s its powers in order to return home.

Peculiar, strange, dark, very different and very well written. Sarah Porter’s imagery was spectacularly weird, this world that she’s shaped is bizarre and twisted but she makes it come alive.

Pub Date: 20 September 2016

Many thanks to Macmillan / Tor Teen, NetGalley and to author Sarah Porter for providing me with an advanced copy for reading and review.
Profile Image for Janani(ஜனனி)⁷.
594 reviews229 followers
February 28, 2017

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

You know how problematic the mathematics is. This book exceeds the level of complexity than the maths subject. I was perplexed throughout the book. I read the words but sometimes I couldn't make any sense of it. And this was a retelling of Russian folk story. I haven't read the original story, so I couldn't tell whether it was a good one.

I don't know what I feel about this book. Nah., maybe I should re-phrase it. Do I feel anything for this book? DEFINITELY NO.

But I was intrigued by the idea of capturing the night and holding it as a hostage in a body. This sounds pretty cool, innit?

The people in that neighbourhood had to endure the lengthy night. Vassa was living with his stepmother and stepsisters. This would bring Cinderella's memory. But, here at least one sister was kind to her. Vassa couldn't bear living with them and that's when an opportunity came from her another infuriating sister. She provoked Vassa to go to the local convenience store where Babs, the owner was always shouting her voice off like the Queen of hearts, "Off with their heads". And that's how her magic adventures start.

As a lover of magic, of course, I would love to read anything that has the single word "MAGIC". But I didn't feel any magic in or about it. I found everything strange and weird.

The two things I feel odd about is:

1. It seems so childish to me. Maybe that was the point? Was it a middle grade?

2. Vassa has a magic wooden doll, Erg. The doll has sarcastic wits, I should appreciate it. I was okay with that. But, when it crawls over your body, it sounds creepy.

Even though it was so strange, I was NOT bored. And it's dark indeed as Leigh Bardugo blurbed. How I missed the violent murder scenes!

Saying I was disappointed would be an understatement.
Profile Image for Marina.
914 reviews167 followers
September 29, 2016
I've been anxiously awaiting this book, with mixed expectations, since it was announced. As a Russian immigrant living in the US, the story seemed to call out to me, but Reader, I'm jaded. Mostly because I'm constantly on the look out for Russian based and inspired novels, but more often than not, I've been disappointed. So my approach to this novel was one of caution and reserve.

The story is very reminiscent of Deathless both in writing style and weirdness levels. But unlike Deathless, Vassa in the Night has no "Russian spirit". Vassa is not Russian, not even in a second-generation immigrant kind of sense. There was just absolutely nothing Russian about this story except tidbits of borrowed fairy tale. And even then, this "retelling" is so far and so changed from the original, you'd strain yourself to find more than a couple parallels. So the story summary is correct in saying that it is only 'inspired by a Russian fairytale' because it's only that, in every other sense, it's very much an American story.

Setting the "Russian" aspects aside, the story is actually very original, well written, and weird enough to be utterly magical. Vassa undergoes tremendous growth as a character and she is a great though sometimes an unreliable character.

The setting and world building are a bit weak. I'm not a New Yorker and only visited, but I definitely did not get any sense of New York or Brooklyn. Also, considering what a huge population of Russians New York has, there's even a mostly Russian neighborhood at Brighton Beach or "little Odessa". I'm surprised Vassa doesn't mention anything about it or knows more Russians simply from living around them. It feels as though the author either didn't do enough research or didn't care enough to include these elements in the story- which feels vaguely insulting.

The story is also filled with magical realism, though sometimes veering into deep fantasy, but not all of it was explained. Do these things just exist? Do people just accept it? It's said that magic traveled along with the people, but why?? And again, it's not like she talks about the huge Soviet immigrant influx and population in Brooklyn. I mean they accept a store chopping people's heads off and putting them on a stake. But it's not really explained how much "magic" is accepted or whether it was just because of Babs.

The names bothered me as well, especially "Vassa Lissa", but at least that was kind of explained as being important to the plot. But I don't understand the change of Baba Yaga to Babs Yagg... "Baba" is not a first name, but a really informal way to address an elderly woman, similar to "granny"; dropping the "a" from Yaga makes it masculine by Russian naming conventions - but she is simply Grandma/Granny Yaga. That's like if I changed Uncle Sam to Unc Sama, that's how it sounds. I realize Russian naming conventions are hard to understand to foreigners but come on (and unlike with Vassa Lisa, there was no explanation given for it).

So overall, I liked the story for itself, but I would hesitate to recommend it as "Russian" or even Russian inspired.
Profile Image for Michelle.
494 reviews106 followers
October 20, 2016
4.5 stars

This is probably one of the weirdest books I have ever read and I can tell you it is so worth the read. Somehow Sarah Porter is able to add such depth and such strong human characteristics to characters that are not even human. Our main character, Vassa is human but some of the other characters are not human, but that doesn't mean we should see them as if they are inhuman (did that make any sense?). I had no idea what was going to happen while reading it. I don't even know how to tell you guys about this book. You really just need to read it for yourself because it is indescribable.

Other mentionables:
-I love Vassa so much. She is not some normal, every day girl who turns into a badass superhero over night, but she is real. She is human with human pain and problems. She has such a beautiful heart. I don't usually see this type of consideration and compassion Vassa possesses. Of course, she is snarky as well, and she does everything she can to help others even when she should really be worrying about herself. We don't get a lot of these kinds of characters that often and that really should be remedied. I truly admire her bravery and her strength of keep going.
-Erg. I can't even contain how much I love her. She is four inches of pure sass, adorableness, love and I can't get enough of her. Seriously. She eats like I do which is awesome and she has Vassa's back which is even better. She is a bit of kleptomaniac but she has other qualities I can get onboard with. :)
-I love Vassa and Erg's relationship. They care so much about each other. I love every single one of their interactions. They were some of my favorite parts.
-I took a half a star off because the pace of the book was slow for me. It took me much longer to finish this than it should have but even if it does drag, it is worth it in the end.
-There is basically no romance in this book for those who prefer little to no romance. I enjoyed a nice break from the conflict and complications a romance may present.
-The writing is to die for. Whoa. Maybe I shouldn't have said it like that. However, the writing is so lyrical, beautiful and fits the story so well. There is some lovely imagery she presents to her readers and I admire the beauty of her words.
-I cried. Like real full roll down my face tears. I won't tell you why. Bring some tissues when reading this.

I normally wouldn't have picked up this book to read if it wasn't in two of my box subscriptions but I am so happy that it was. This book was so beautiful and I rarely ever say that about a book. Yet, it was also disturbing and creepy if you are into that as well. This is one of those books that you won't know if you will like it (or love it) if you don't try it. ;)
Profile Image for The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori).
1,173 reviews1,307 followers
March 4, 2020
Full Review on The Candid Cover

Vassa in the Night really surprised me. This is a magical realism story, but also a retelling of a Russian fairytale. The characters are very likeable (especially the talking doll) and the setting is so vividly described. I really enjoyed this one, even with no knowledge of Vassilissa the Beautiful.

I am a big fan of magical realism novels, which is probably why I enjoyed Vassa in the Night so much. In this book, there is a creepy convenience store that is actually on legs and surrounded by severed heads. Vassa is sent to the convenience store only to be accused of stealing and sentenced to work three nights at the store. There are so many magical aspects that were also pretty creepy in the book, such as two hands that wander around the store. I found all this to be really intriguing, and I loved being introduced to all the characters and the new concepts.

I loved Vassa and Erg’s characters. Vassa is a brave girl who is full of determination and hope as she is stuck working in the creepy convenience store. Vassals best friend is someone who is not quite human, Erg. Erg is a wooden doll who is human-like. She is very good at sneaking around and has a good sense of humour. The fact that she is a doll is very original and I really enjoyed reading about her.

The setting of Vassa in the Night really interested me. At the beginning of the book, the story takes place in Brooklyn, a very fancy setting which I always enjoy. I was so ready for glamour and parties, but the story takes a very dark turn when Vassa arrives at the convenience store. I actually liked this setting even better, since it is so new. There are so many little details about the shop that really make it come to life. The way everything is described is so vivid and, although I wouldn’t want to visit the store anytime soon, I could definitely picture it clearly.

Vassa in the Night is a magical realism story based on a Russian fairytale. I loved the cast of characters and the unique setting. I would recommend this book as it is so different from anything I’ve read before and the perfect book for the fall!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,586 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.