My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Publication Date: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen
Point of View: 1st Person & Feminine
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Folktale Retelling
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. . . .
If I hadn’t read the summary of the original Russian fairytale ‘‘Vasilisa the Beautiful,’’ I would have thought this book to be totally cray-cray.
But it still doesn’t make much sense.
It’s very different from what I now know of the classic story. The main elements are still present – father and mother gone, talking doll, bitchy stepmother, orders to fetch light, Baba Yaga and her skulls and dancing house and tedious riders, the chores, etc. – but the ending is entirely different and so are the setting and magical events.
But again, I’m not the must trust-worthy person to compare those two.
However, I am a reader and I must admit I felt quite confused by the ending as well as the darkness seeping into people and the true identity and predicament of Vassa’s mother. And what’s with her father wanting to become a dog to collect his dead father’s (maybe) approval?
The world-building makes no sense. Most of the characters do, but the events are seriously strange. The magic, also, has no back-story. Where does it come from? What kind of world does Vassa live in? And I really didn’t see the point of Bea’s role in the story, aside from her cursing Babs and giving the doll to Vassa’s mother who then gave it to her daughter.
I guess it can be said that I ‘‘didn’t get it.’’ I wish I had, but it may also be part my fault since, after a while, I had to speed up my reading of it as I really wanted to finish it as fast as possible and be done with it, especially its craziness. So it is possible that I may have missed or not paid attention to slight details about the story and world.
The sad part is that it was extremely intriguing in the beginning. I couldn’t wait to know what would happen next, even though I already had a mild knowledge of Vasilisa’s story. But, like I said, after a while, it just becomes too weird and convoluted, more than it should have been. I felt like Babs’ magical house was a second Wonderland. And I’m not a die-hard fan of Alice’s absurd adventures.
So that’s it, folks. I didn’t get this one. It was too strange, even for me, as I usually welcome strangeness in my reads. But ‘‘strange’’ does not necessarily mean inventive or captivating. Sometimes it just means strange.
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