Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter (DNF)

Title: Vassa in the Night
Author: Sarah Porter
Date Added: October 15, 2016
Date Started: January 25, 2017
Date DNF: February 8, 2017

Pages: 296
Publication Date:
September 20, 2016
Progress: 20%

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…

The fact I didn’t finish this book proves that I don’t like every story with a dead mother paradigm.  God. Damn.  That sounds super cynical, but usually that’s my kryptonite for sympathizing with a character, and it usually holds my interest throughout any tale.

Vassa in the Night is based on the Russian fairy tale “Vassalisa the Beautiful,” a story I’ve never read, but I surmise it’s their version of Cinderella.  I’m still interested in reading the original source even if an offshoot didn’t hold my attention.  What drew me to it in the first place was the emphasis on the personification of “night,” and the prologue seems to promise that this will be a prevalent plot point.  I love when abstract concepts are incarnated into entities with (free) will, but the snippet at the beginning was probably supposed to tide the reader over until later.

I think Vassa fell flat for me because I was expecting a story more like Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, and instead I got an urban fantasy (as opposed to a Helprin’s novel, which is more magical realism).  UF is probably my least favorite subsection of the fantasy genre.  I just don’t have much interest in reading about established, mundane cities regardless if you slather a veneer of magic over their grime, and holy shit…I just realized that FFVII could arguably be considered (among other things) an urban fantasy especially considering Midgar is supposed to be an analogue of New York, so I’m totally talking out of my ass.  Let me attempt to mitigate.

FFVII only takes place in Midgar in the first part, and Winter’s Tale occurs in NYC (too), but it’s a version of the city that I lovingly refer to as mythopoetic New York with it’s magical realism and mystical cloud wall (not FFVII affiliated).  Winter’s makes New York magical, pulling it more into a fantasy realm rather than attributing some fantasy characteristics to a decaying, filthy husk.  While I love the dark and gothic, I’m less of a fan of the mundane and gritty.  FFVII does something similar in one, Midgar is based on NYC, it isn’t the city itself; two, it’s name comes from Norse mythology and the city is literally powered by the energy of stolen souls; three, it’s the seat of the corrupt power the main characters are fighting against; and four, the setting of the game consists of much more than that filthy, depressive city.  I love magical cities (I even have plans/notes to write about one), but I’m not really fond of magic in mundane cities unless it’s magical realism.

So Vassa didn’t really keep my attention for very long.  I found Erg, the doll her mother bequeathed her, annoying, whiny, and not worth the trouble she caused (maybe she becomes useful and worthwhile later in the story; I obviously couldn’t say, but I’m assuming this must be the case).  In the book’s defense, several reviews on Goodreads did state that you either fall in love with it immediately or you hate it.  It seems to be more beloved by the weird, of which I count myself amongst, but everyone’s weird is different, and my weird isn’t a huge fan of urban fantasy, which may be a prerequisite for enjoying this novel, and to add icing to the tombstone, this could be considered young adult, as well.

No rating.  I generally don’t rate books I don’t finish, and I also don’t think it’s fair to rate something that it’s a genre I know I don’t enjoy.  It would be similar to me rating an FPS game or giving an assessment of a sporting event.  Just because one doesn’t like a particular genre or activity it doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile, and I feel it’s important to recognize that.



19 thoughts on “Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter (DNF)

  1. I will admit to being slightly surprised at your dislike of UF, since you like paranormal romance and they tend to go hand in hand. (Not necessarily, obviously, but frequently.) I will point out that there are a few UF series that are borderline epic fantasy, the Kate Daniels series being the first one that comes to mind. I still think you’d love it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do have Kate Daniels on my TBR list, so I’m willing to give them a try! I’m not huge on YA either, but some of my favorite books are YA. I think it’s just finding that right formula. Most of the paranormal romance I like takes place in the more fantasy-esque worlds. My friend Kat has this story published called Soul Solution that UF and PR, and it’s probably my favorite of her books hehe. I think it’s hard for me to like modern urban fantasy, because I like the escape I guess? Even though most of the stories I like strongly comment on current state of affairs, but I guess because it’s coming at it from a different angle (and it shows the “good guys” winning most of the time) I still get that escapism and other point of view to look at problems. I could also totally be talking out of my ass and trying to come up with reasons lmao. But I definitely have Kate Daniels on my list to try. Oh! I like Anita Blake and Merry Gentry! They’re UF and PR. Or I liked them until the author went on a smut fest out of the blue.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I’m looking forward to reading KD. You’re the second friend who’s recommended it! Yeah LKH is kind of a lost cause. She’s gotten to that popularity point where she doesn’t care about critiques, because some people will still buy her books based on the name alone.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’m torn and could use your help. I’ve read most of LKH’s Anita Blake series out of order. I have the first 5-6 books, which are when the series was still good. I can’t decide whether to read them though since I know that the series takes a giant crap. I’ve almost donated them to the library multiple times but then think, “What if I change my mind?!” BUT they’ve been sitting on that shelf for well over a year now and I’m still in no hurry to read it. Should I just abandon the effort? I’m thinking yes, but remain too indecisive…

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I started reading this review with the expectation of being entertained by a FFVII tangent… and I was not disappointed! 🙂

    I honestly don’t know much about genres and sub-genres in novels. I’m still a newbie reader, haha. I think there are enough mundane cities on Earth. It’s much more interesting to read about magical ones in a fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It actually made sense! The tangent, well, in however what I say makes sense in my wacky world lol. Shakespeare and Final Fantasy aren’t that far apart since the Bard has provided quite a bit of inspiration for the series (very directly with FFVII with Lucrecia. He literally wrote about long poem about her and that’s where they got the name). Plus there’s this method of storytelling that I think of as the Shakespeare method where you have rising action, climactic event, then comic relief. FFVII does this brilliantly with Aeris’ death scene since afterwards (if I’m remembering correctly) Tifa and Scarlet get into this random slap fight, and you’re like “What?” but it makes total sense if you think about the comic relief aspect. I actually try to model my writing in that way, too, because you have to throw comedic things into even the most serious tale. Have to break up the somber otherwise things get saturated!

      I just think cities I already know are boring lol, in the fantasy sense. The beta story I’m reading takes place in close locales, but I’m okay with that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting! When you put it that way it does make a lot of sense. In a dark tale, I really love it when comic relief happens. I remember the Scarlet and Tifa fight now, lol.

        On a side note, have you seen all the fancy new screenshots for the FFVII remake? OMG I can’t wait to play this!! I hope I don’t miss half the side quests like I did in the original one.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I have seen them, but I’m being such a grumpy gus with it lol. It all looks really good, but I’m reserving my excitement for when it comes out and I can play it. I’m kind of in the mood of not really wanting to read or know anything about it until it comes out. Then shutting off social media (which is like impossible). I’m being so weird about it! But I’m trying not to rain on anyone else’s excitement parade, because it’s such a big thing, and I’m all for anything that makes people happy and gives the something to look forward to 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thant’s understandable! You’ll enjoy it more on the big day if you don’t know much about it. It’s kind of like wanting to be surprised on Christmas, lol. I missed so much of the story on the original and I’m excited to try out the remake. Surely Squeenix won’t screw this game up, but a small part of me fears this for some reason, haha.

            Liked by 1 person

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