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?

Legend

Sunday was the last day of Comic Con. My sister and I started the day at a BookCon @ NYCC panel, "Diversity, Class Systems, and Equality in Fantasy." (The panelists were Jennifer Jenkins, Marie Lu, Daniel Jose Older, Lara Elena Donnelly, and Laurent Linn. Ali Kokmen of Barnes & Noble moderated.) We arrived about an hour early, so to help pass the time she gave me one of the books she had brought along to be signed. It was Legend by Marie Lu, and I enjoyed it so much that I finished it by the next morning.

Legend is approximately five years old. It's the first of a trilogy, and the sequels, Prodigy and Champion, have already been released. (I plan on reading them, of course.) I haven't read many dystopias, but I'm familiar with some of the big ones. I found it preferable to Divergent, which I disliked, but I enjoyed the characterization and development more in The Hunger Games.

The main characters, Day and June, are quite alike, even though they come from very different backgrounds. For now, I'm going to chalk that up to what they have in common. (You'll have to read the book to find out what that is.) I'm curious to learn what brought on current events in the novel, and what the world is like outside of Los Angeles. I'm also itching to learn more about the Trials. My sister is reading Prodigy now, and I'll be borrowing it from her when I get the chance.

Before I go, I also want to take the time to thank Marie Lu. Since I finished Legend, I've read another book and gotten more than halfway through a third. I haven't read this much in a very long time, and I'm hoping this is the beginning of a good thing.