Retold Russian fairy tales are becoming vogue. They're generally darker than Disneyfied Brothers' Grimm stories, so when I heard about one with unusually long nights, living dolls, and Baba Yaga running a convience store and chopping the heads off shop lifters, I was sold.
Vassa's parents are both gone and she lives with her step-mother and two step-sisters. Life's not really going anywhere. School is meh. She's not sure what she'll do after she graduates (if she graduates). Her step-mother hates her and her step-sisters think she's a klepto. But Vassa can't tell them that she's not the thief. Erg is the thief. But telling them that would mean telling them about Erg and she's promised to never tell anyone about Erg. Erg is her best (and only) friend. She lives in Vassa's pocket and is the last gift she has from her dead mother. Erg is a living wooden doll that looks after Vassa, and frequently gets Vassa in trouble. Vasshas other problems too. She let her sister talk her into going to the local BY's run by a woman named Babs. It's the only store open at night, but people who go there don't always make it back. Bab's lines the parking lot with the severed heads of people she says are thieves as warnings to others. And Erg has a habit of stealing. But Vassa isn't the only one with problems. Nights in her home of Brooklyn are getting longer. Minutes have stretched to the length of hours and now Vassa and her sisters can watch multiple movie marathons in one night and still get plenty of sleep. One day the night may not end and dawn may never come.
Vassa in the Night is darkly beautiful. It feels both like a fairy tale and a story of modern girl trying to decide what to do with herself when there aren't a lot of choices. Vassa and Erg banter and bicker like the best-friends you see everywhere, and unlike some fairy tales they don't always like eachother and some of their habits get on the others' nerves, but they're there when in it counts. It also doesn't shirk from blood and death. People mess up and the consequences are brutal. This is a fairy tale for people who want something absurd and folklorish yet grounded in real problems with real people. (Yeah it doesn't sound like those two things should coexist but they do. You just gotta trust me on this. And if you do, you'll find something both new and old that'll tease your brain.)