Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is supposed to be something to do with Halloween. However, I don’t really read that many (read: any) horror books because I get scared more easily than a five year old. So instead, I decided to review a book that is on the creepier side: Vassa in the Night. This is actually a really hard book to review because I can’t tell whether my confusion is just personal or something in this book itself. I think that it’s probably more something on my side because I got so many recommendations for this book.
In Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute clothes, go to parties, and congratulate themselves on “making it.” Most of Brooklyn is like that, but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood. In Vassa’s world, where she lives with her stepmother and two fighting stepsisters, one can easily find magic, but it’s not so easy to find a way out. The owner of the local convenience store has a policy of beheading shoplifters and even sometimes innocent customers. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for lightbulbs in the middle of the night, she knows that she could very well lose her head to Babs Yagg. However, Vassa has a hidden bit of luck, a gift from her mother: a talking doll named Erg. Erg has a bottomless stomach and a sarcastic demeanor, but she has a ferocious cunning that just might help Vassa break the witch’s curse and free her neighborhood. But Babs Yagg won’t be fair…
This book had a really interesting concept as a retelling of Vasilisa the Beautiful. It drew me in because I love Russian inspired literature and just Russian culture in general. It had a lot of promise, and there was a lot that was really delivered well. The writing was quite beautiful, and the plot flowed along nicely, although there were a few sticky spots, especially the ending. There were also a few times when I felt really lost and had to go back a chapter or two and reread. The characters had a lot of spunk, especially Erg. Vassa was actually really brave, and she was pretty good at figuring out all the little puzzles needed to complete her tasks. Erg, however, was my favorite because she was so sarcastic and yet managed to convey a sort of wisdom, even if she didn’t say anything outright. I did like Chelsea, Vassa’s oldest sister, because she seemed to genuinely care about Vassa, but I do wish she got a little bit more spotlight because I think it would have served as a balance to all the other craziness going on. There was one character, Tomin, who I felt dropped out of nowhere. I felt like he was just kind of awkwardly there because he didn’t have enough romantic development with Vassa but acted too much into her to just be a friend. Anyway, probably my biggest source of confusion stemmed from the world-building, specifically the magic. Now, I’m a big fantasy reader and all for magic and craziness, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around the magic here. It just felt too “out there,” and I felt a bit disoriented because it felt like there was absolutely no explanation for the magic, as well as no sort of rules or order to it. This just really bugged me throughout the novel, and just could never really get into it.
I personally would not recommend this book because I didn’t enjoy it that much to be honest. However, it’s not so horrible that I would tell you to never ever read it, so if it sounds interesting to you, I say to go for it! It could be that I’m just not suited for this brand of magic and world.