Vassa in the Night

I really wanted to love this book. I received it for free from the Tor Books booth at Comic Con, where I also (very briefly) met Sarah Porter. After I read the inside flap, I turned to my sister and told her that Vassa in the Night sounded like my kind-of book. I was especially excited because the synopsis reminded me of Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, a book that I really enjoyed. I read Vassa in about eight hours, and while there were parts that I liked, I was ultimately disappointed.

Vassa in the Night felt unfinished. I was initially intrigued by the idea of BY's, the convenience store with "a policy of beheading shoplifters." I was on the edge of my seat when Vassa first called the store down, but the location quickly lost its charm. By the end of the book, I wasn't sure why it even took place in a store. I doubt Babs Yagg makes a lot of money with the aforementioned policy, even if her store is the only one open during the very extended night hours. Certainly, Vassa didn't see a lot of customers in her time there. Why, then, does Babs Yagg own and maintain a chain of convenience stores? Considering the setting and the fact that the idea of gentrification is alluded to in the synopsis, I was expecting a critique of that and of capitalism. I didn't notice one. If that had been the case, the store could have been an ideal setting. It was not.

Many of the small cast of characters felt just as replaceable. We are introduced to Vassa's sisters, Chelsea and Stephanie, early on, but they are absent for most of the book. Instead, a character named Tomin is introduced to help Vassa set things right. Personally, I would have preferred to see Stephanie realize the error of her ways and her and Chelsea come to Vassa's rescue. I think their reconciliation could have dovetailed nicely with Vassa's revelation at the end of the book. Instead, the relationship between the sisters is another missed opportunity.

There are more loose threads of perhaps less importance. I still want to know more about Vassa's mother, Zinaida, and about Bea and her relationship with Babs Yagg, too. Vassa in the Night could have been a great book, but it didn't work as well, or do as much, as I hoped it would.

Have you read Vassa in the Night? What did you think?