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Vassa in the Night

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. - (Baker & Taylor)

“A dark, thoroughly modern fairy tale crackling with wit and magical mayhem.” —Leigh Bardugo, New York Times bestselling author of Shadow and Bone

“An enchantingly twisted modern fairy tale, perfect for those who prefer Grimm to Disney. Inventive, darkly magical, and beautifully written, it will stay with me for a long time.” — Kendare Blake, New York Times bestselling author of Three Dark Crowns


A powerful and haunting tale for teen fans of urban fantasy, fairy tales, magic, and horror who enjoy books by Leigh Bardugo, Kendare Blake, Catherynne Valente, and V. E. Schwab.

When Vassa’s stepsister sends her out to buy lightbulbs in the middle of the night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well.

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 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….

· YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection
· Booklist Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection
· Booklist Youth Top 10 SF/Fantasy Selection
· Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year Selection
· Kansas Reading Circle Selection

- (McMillan Palgrave)

Author Biography

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. - (McMillan Palgrave)

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Trade Reviews

Booklist Reviews

*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.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

When Brooklyn teen Vassa heads into the endless night to buy lightbulbs, BY's (a convenience store on chicken legs) witchy owner Babs won't let her leave. With help from smart-aleck magical doll Erg, Vassa frees herself and other prisoners. Strangely lovely imagery mixes with the straight-up weird for a vivid, enjoyable urban fantasy inspired by Russian folktale "Vassilissa the Beautiful." Copyright 2017 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus 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.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Porter (the Lost Voices trilogy) delivers a suspenseful reinvention of the Russian fairy tale "Vasilisa the Beautiful," set in a darkly magical version of present-day Brooklyn. "Traps don't get more obvious than this," reflects protagonist Vassa at one point. "And they don't get more irresistible." The wryness and impulsivity in Vassa's comment are emblematic of her personality, and it's that very mix of qualities that drives her to make a fateful stop at the infamous local bodega, BY's, which sways on chicken legs and advertises its right to behead shoplifters (the head of one of Vassa's classmates hangs outside, as proof). Accusing Vassa of stealing, the proprietress, Babs, forces her to work in indentured servitude for three nights, during which time Vassa discovers that Babs's magic may be connected to the growing imbalance between day and night affecting the city. With help from her talking wooden doll, Erg, Vassa endeavors to bring down the witch. It may take a little effort for some readers to ground themselves in the near-hallucinatory strangeness of Porter's setting, but those who do will be rewarded with a feverishly imagined and deliciously surreal adventure. Ages 13–up. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 9 Up—Sixteen-year-old Vassa Lisa Lowenstein's mother is dead, and her father is gone. She has a stepmother and two stepsisters. It's an odd living arrangement but no more peculiar than a lot of things in her working-class Brooklyn neighborhood. The nights have been especially strange, growing longer and longer. When her stepsister sends Vassa out in the middle of the night for lightbulbs, the only store that's still open is the local BY's. Everyone knows about BY's, and its owner Babs Yagg, but people do tend to remember a store that dances around on chicken legs and has a habit of decapitating shoplifters. When things don't go as planned in BY's, it will take all of Vassa's wits and her enchanted wooden doll Erg's cunning to escape the store alive and maybe even break whatever curse has been placed on Brooklyn's nights. This stand-alone urban fantasy is inspired by the Russian fairy tale "Vasilisa the Beautiful." Although Vassa is described as incredibly pale, the rest of the book is populated with characters who are realistically diverse for its urban location. Evocative settings and imagery help bring this bizarre corner of Brooklyn to life. Vassa is a cynical, no-nonsense character who is quick to make jokes and take risks with the delightfully sharp-tongued Erg at her side. A deliberate lack of romantic tension makes this a refreshing read, and elements of traditional horror blend well with high-concept fantasy in this surprising and engaging tale. VERDICT A must-have for YA urban fantasy collections.—Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library

[Page 115]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

Vassa's Brooklyn is not full of wild parties, late night rendezvous, or designer fashion. Vassa's Brooklyn is dangerous, secretive, and very magical. Between a difficult stepmother and argumentative stepsisters, the last thing Vassa needs is to find herself in the middle of an enchanted predicament with Brooklyn's most notoriously feared citizen, Babs Yaga. But late one night, her stepsister sends her to buy light bulbs from Babs's convenient store, which might result in Vassa's beheading, a policy practiced by Babs for suspected shoplifters. Hidden in her pocket, however, Vassa has a luck charm given to her by her mother—a small wooden doll named Erg who has secrets of her own. The doll has an unusual ability to help Vassa escape life-threatening situations and possibly to help her to free her entire neighborhood from Babs's blood lust. Modern fairy-tale fans will rejoice in this enchantingly creative story. Porter has crafted an original adventure of which the Grimm brothers would be proud. Inspired by the Russian folktale "Vassilissa the Beautiful" and full of wit and a bizarrely beautiful cast of characters, Vassa in the Night is a smart addition to any modern fairy tale collection. Violence is limited and thoughtfully addressed. Porter leaves readers hungry for more details surrounding certain events, but overall, Vassa in the Night is the perfect grown-up bedtime story for young adults.—Erin Segreto 4Q 4P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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