Vassa in the Night
by Porter, Sarah

Inspired by the Russian folktale classic "Vassilissa the Beautiful," a modern fairy tale finds a girl from a working-class section of a magical Brooklyn tapping the powers of her dead mother's protective doll to defend against the evil of a murderous owner of a local convenience store. Simultaneous eBook.

Sarah Porter is a writer, artist, and freelance teacher who lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two cats. She is the author of the Lost Voices Trilogy (Lost Voices, Waking Storms, The Twice Lost) in addition to Vassa in the Night-all for the teen audience. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from City College.

*Starred Review* Spring is approaching, but the nights in Brooklyn keep lasting longer. For Vassa (mother dead, father gone, stepmother absent) and her two pseudo half stepsisters, this night-hour curse is just a nuisance, until all the lights in the house burn out. Vassa's sister sends her to buy light bulbs at BYs, a chaotic franchise where the building dances and shoplifters are beheaded. When she accidentally crosses tricky owner Babs Yagg, Vassa finds herself making a deal: if she works (and survives) three nights in the store, Babs will let her live. Witchy Babs might be willing to cheat to win, but Vassa has some magic of her own up her sleeve, literally: a fast-talking, always-eating wooden doll named Erg, a gift from her mother. With a deft hand, lovely prose, and an eye for details, Porter reworks the Russian story of Vasilisa the Beautiful, setting it in an industrial Brooklyn where magic seeps into the mundane. There's plenty of body horror here-Babs' minions are the reanimated hands of corpses, she traps Night in human form, and the heads of shoplifters sit on pikes around the store-but the end result is an ethereal, almost dreamlike fairy tale that generates a magic all its own. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Brooklyn is an enchanted kingdom where most aspire to arrive—most of it, that is, the exception being Vassa's working-class neighborhood, where the white teen lives with her stepmother and stepsisters, struggling with the feeling that she does not belong. In Vassa's neighborhood, magic is to be avoided, and the nights have mysteriously started lengthening. Baba Yaga owns a local convenience store known for its practice of beheading shoplifting customers, but it seems that even the innocent are susceptible to this fate. One night, after an argument with a stepsister, Vassa goes out on an errand to Baba Yaga's store—one she knows may be her last. With her magic wooden doll, Erg, a gift from her dead mother, Vassa is equipped with some luck that she will very much need. Erg is clever and brazen, possessing both an insatiable appetite and a proclivity to swipe the property of others. But will Erg's magic be enough to help free Vassa from Baba Yaga's clutches and possibly her entire Brooklyn neighborhood from the ever increasing darkness? Vassa's narration is smart and sassy but capable of wonder, however familiar she's become with Brooklyn's magic. In this urban-fantasy take on the Russian folk tale "Vassilissa the Beautiful," Porter weaves folk motifs into a beautiful and gripping narrative filled with magic, hope, loss, and triumph. An enthralling, magic-tinged read about home, family, love, and belonging. (Urban fantasy. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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