Vassa Lowenstien lives in Brooklyn with her stepmother and her two stepsisters. Things have gotten… strange, lately, and not just with her unconventional family. The nights have been getting longer, until it feels like you could fit an entire week in one of them. The tension between Vassa and her sister escalates until, one night, she sends Vassa out in the middle of the night for light bulbs. The only place that’s open is BY’s: a dancing convenience store run by an old woman named Babs, who deals with thieves by beheading them. Vassa knows she may get killed, but why should that stop her? It’s clear her family doesn’t want her around.
Babs may be a sly creature, but Vassa has an ace up her sleeve – no, really, a talking doll lives in the sleeves of her hoodies. Erg is cunning and wise-cracking as they come, and fiercely protective of her girl. With Erg’s help, Vassa may very well survive the night – and all the impossible, deadly tricks Babs throws at her.
I’d never read an adaptation of the Russian “Vassilissa the Beautiful” before, and from what I remember from the old tale, the book follows it pretty well. The writing is atmospheric and sharp-witted. Erg provides much of the comedic relief, but Vassa herself is quite witty and sarcastic. At it’s core, it’s about finding the meaning of belonging and family. It’s not quite your typical urban fantasy – some of the magic is kind of gross – but it was just under my threshold of weird and I enjoyed it. If you like darker fantasy and are tired of Snow White and Cinderella retellings, pick this one up.