Friday, September 23, 2016

Blog tour: Vassa in the Night

Hello! Welcome to the blog tour for Sarah Porter's Vassa in the Night! Many thanks to Raincoast Books for setting up the tour and sending an advance copy. This is definitely not your average story, not your average fairy tale retelling. Today on the tour, you'll find an excerpt of Vassa in the Night. Enjoy!

I look up at the TV for a moment to see a girl with big curls and a plaid cap walking past shuttered stores. The street is dark and she jumps as a rat skitters over her boot. She looks lost and lonely, hunching her shoulders to hold off the night. Then a tide of light washes her face and she looks up in rapture to see a BY’s. Wow, you can see her thinking, it’s still open! The store dances and spins and as the girl pirouettes ecstatically more BY’s stores appear around her, and more, all dancing on spindly legs of their own, until the whole dark night gets crowded out by the flash of their windows. “Turn around,” the girl sings. “Turn around and stand like Momma placed you! Face me, face me!”

We’ve all seen this ad a million times, of course. None of us can be bothered to make snide remarks anymore, or to mention that they left out the all-important ring of stakes skewering rotting human heads. All the mockery we could possibly mock is too done and too obvious and wasn’t really all that funny in the first place. We used to sing, “Turn around. Turn around and run the other way! Chop me, chop me!”

We don’t bother. Maybe it means we’re getting old. Maybe the nights are so long now that we’re only superficially kids, and we’ve lost years to the darkness.

Steph suddenly puts a hand to her throat and lets out a gasp.

“What?” Chelsea asks her. “You lost your locket?” She shoots me a significant look. The slight squirming in my pocket stops dead.

“I was wearing it! I hope— maybe I just knocked the clasp open?” Steph starts ransacking her pillows.

“It will show up soon, I’m quite sure,” Chelsea says, taking time to enunciate each word, and arches her eyebrows my way. 

I excuse myself to the bathroom and perch on the toilet lid. The bathroom is bright pink, with this cheesy mermaid wallpaper Steph picked out when she was five; the shower curtain is stained with garish purple streaks from my hair dye. I can feel the lump in the pocket of my hoodie but it’s as still as a wad of used tissues. Erg is pretending to be asleep. I get her by one tiny wooden foot and drag her out anyway. She dangles upside down, her eyes closed, her painted black hair gleaming in its flat spit curls. She doesn’t react when I drop her in the sink, which is enough to prove that she’s faking.

I turn the water on full blast. I’m not a kleptomaniac, really. I just harbor one. Erg leaps up sputtering, water sheeting off her spherical head. Her feet clop on the pink porcelain as she leaps around but the sink is too slippery for her to climb out; she’s lacquered so she doesn’t have much traction. She lands on her carved blue rear, legs clacking. “You turn that off! Vassa! You’d better stop!”

“Are you going to give the locket back?” I’m not going to yield quite so easily. I’m sick of getting blamed for Erg’s lousy behavior.

“Probably. Eventually. If you don’t do anything to provoke me in the meantime.”

Thanks so much for stopping by. Below is my review, and don't forget to check out all the other tour stops! :)

Title: Vassa in the Night
Author: Sarah Porter
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: TorTeen

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.

Vassa in the Night is a dangerous tale of magic, cunning, and impossibility. A tale of curses and luck, of clever dolls and captured watchmen, of a lonely girl looking for the missing piece of herself.

Vassa is complicated. Her world is complicated. She's smart, sarcastic, and alone. Her mother dead, her father gone, her stepmother not in the mood to care much about a daughter not biologically hers, and her stepsisters who sometimes like her but mostly bicker at her. All Vassa has is Erg, the wooden doll given to her by her mother, but Erg can only do so much, like eat food in Vassa's pockets and steal trinkets from her stepsisters when no one is looking. Vassa needs to find her strength, her willingness to fight back. Sometimes she has to do it on her own. Sometimes she has to be strong and face her fears, face the things that make her sad.

I love it when authors combine the real world with magic, when it's sort of commonplace and running alongside cars and subway trains and cell phones. Here, the creepy magic of Babs Yagg and her bizarre stores is mixed into Vassa's Brooklyn neighbourhood. Where the locals know that there's magic afoot and know to steer clear of it. You never know what magic is in your neighbourhood. I'm not that familiar with the tale of Vassilisa the Beautiful, the Russian folktale, but there were elements I recognized. This just made me want to revisit the original.

This is one of those impossible to describe books. It has a number of things: impossible magicks, sarcastic heroines, intriguing side characters, inescapable situations, and a cunning villain. I did enjoy reading this, reading about Vassa and her struggle to survive the nights in BY's, reading about the different characters and creatures that would pop up looking for answers. This is definitely a different kind of fairy tale retelling set in the present day. So if you like real life plus the (supposedly, presumably) impossible, then definitely give this a read.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)

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