September 22nd, 2016 by Pingwing
Hi! I’m excited to be participating in the blog tour for Sarah Porter’s Vassa In the Night! Check out the synopsis below, and then read on for a Q&A with Sarah, and my review – and be sure to check out the other tour stops!
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. . . .
Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students.
Sarah was kind enough to answer a question I had for her! Because Vassa in the Night was inspired by a folktale, I was curious about what her favourite folktales and fairy tales were growing up, and which ones are her favourites now. Her answer is below:
I grew up with Pace Wheeler’s Russian Wonder Tales; they were my favorites as a kid, and that hasn’t really changed. A lot of books I loved growing up, and still love, have fairy and folk elements in them, like George MacDonald’s THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN. I didn’t get it as a kid, but now it seems obvious to me that Irene’s grandmother is a version of the moon goddess. I’ve also always loved “Thumbelina” and other Hans Christian Andersen stories. There was a copy of Thumbelina with lenticular illustrations that I was absolutely obsessed with at age seven or so. Another book I love that isn’t exactly a fairytale, just very fairyish, is Maeterlinck’s THE BLUEBIRD. It was a classic once and now it’s mostly forgotten, which is a terrible shame. If I were rich, I’d want to make a hallucinatory movie based on it.
Thank you Sarah for answering my question! I remember reading some Hans Christian Andersen stories as a kid, and I’d like to go revisit them now that I’m older.
Read on for my review (and thank you to Raincoast for the ARC)!
Source: Received from the publisher, for free, for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the contenct of my review.
Author: Sarah Porter
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Published By: Tor Teen
My Rating: Somewhere between 3.5 – 4 out of 5 stars!
I was so intrigued by this book as soon as I heard about it. Vassa In the Night sounded so different and unique.
This definitely turned out to be a unique story! I had no idea what to expect, and even once I started to read and got into the story, I wasn’t really sure what was going on! This was such an interesting book because that feeling of uncertainty about where things were going and how Vassa was going to accomplish her tasks kept me on the edge of my seat.
I really liked the darkness and occasional gruesomeness of the world that Sarah Porter has created in this book. And knowing how high the stakes were, and seeing the consequences that befell people who came into Babs’ store, kept the tension so high! I also liked Erg, Vassa’s doll – she had such attitude and was really funny at times.
At times, despite my interest in the story, I found myself totally confused. I don’t know if familiarity with the folktale that inspired this book would clear up some of that confusion, but it was a bit difficult to get invested in the story during those moments where I truly felt like I had no idea what was going on.
Overall, Vassa In the Night was a wild ride of a book: dark, fun, and unpredictable. Recommended!
September 20th, 2016 by Pingwing
(As I mentioned in my post announcing this rewatch project, there will be spoilers!)
Season 2, Episode 22: All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two
Image and episode summary from Wikipedia:
Dean, devastated by Sam’s death, sells his soul to a Crossroads Demon (Ona Grauer) in exchange for Sam’s resurrection, and is given only one year before collection is due. Ellen later arrives at Bobby’s home, and gives them a map of Wyoming that Ash had left in the Roadhouse’s safe. Research reveals that Samuel Colt—creator of the Colt gun—created a giant devil’s trap using railway lines. At the trap’s center is an old cowboy cemetery, which Azazel forces Jake to go to. The hunters are there to meet him, but Jake subdues them long enough to use the Colt as a key to open a mausoleum. Sam then shoots Jake in the back, and finishes him off with multiple shots as he begs for mercy. As the mausoleum doors begin to open, they realize that it is a Devil’s Gate —a doorway toHell. A rush of demons escape and break the iron railway lines of the devil’s trap, allowing Azazel to enter. As Ellen and Bobby try to close the gateway, Sam and Dean take the Colt to confront Azazel. Unfortunately, the demon catches them by surprise and takes the gun. He taunts Dean’s demonic pact and questions if what came back was “one hundred percent pure Sam”. Azazel prepares to kill them, but the escaped spirit of John Winchester grabs him. This distraction allows Dean to take back the Colt and shoot the demon in the heart, finally killing him. As Bobby and Ellen manage to close the gates, John’s spirit moves on. However, while Azazel is now dead, hundreds of other demons escaped, an army’s worth and their work is not done yet. Sam also promises to find a way to save Dean after he admits to him about his deal.
Oh yes, we open with ‘The Road So Far’, and ‘Carry on My Wayward Son’, by Kansas! As this is the season finale, we get a recap of all that’s come so far. This song is basically the unofficial theme song for the show, and I am moved every time I hear it!
We open with Sam’s dead body in some safe house with Dean and Bobby. Bobby comes in with some food but Dean isn’t hungry. Bobby gently asks Dean if it’s time they bury Sam, but Dean refuses. Bobby is understandably worried, but Dean says not yet. He isn’t going anywhere. Bobby doesn’t want to leave Dean alone, saying something big is going down – end of the world big – and he could use Dean’s help. Dean says to let it end. Doesn’t Bobby think Dean’s given enough, paid enough? He’s done with it, all of it, and tells Bobby to get out. Poor Bobby! He loves these boys. Bobby leaves but tells Dean that he knows where he’ll be.
Next we see Jake camped out somewhere, and as he dozes to sleep, he sees the yellow-eyed demon. The demon congratulates him for being the last man standing, but Jake tells him to go to hell. The demon says he needed Jake, but Jake says he’s going to wake up and hunt the demon down and kill him. The demon tells Jake to be a good soldier or else he’ll harm his sister and mother. Grudgingly, Jake asks the demon what he wants him to do.
Meanwhile, Dean is keeping watch over Sam’s body, talking to him about their childhood, remembering when Sam was hold enough to start asking questions about their life. Dean says he always tried to protect Sam and keep him safe, that their dad didn’t even have to tell Dean; Sam was always his responsibility. He says he had one job and he screwed it up, and for that, he’s sorry. OH MAN Jensen Ackles is so great! This is heart-wrenching. He says he lets down the people he loves: he let their dad down, and now he’s supposed to let Sam down too. But he tearfully asks how is he supposed to live with that? What is he supposed to do?
Dean takes off in the Impala, and gets out at a crossroad. He buries everything he needs to make a crossroad deal! What is he up to?? (Haha I already know)
When Dean turns around, a crossroad demon is there waiting. The demon taunts Dean, saying he’s got his family killed and is all alone in the world. She knows Dean wants to make a deal – his soul to bring Sam back from the dead. Dean asks for 10 years for Sam. The demon refuses, but Dean says it’s the same deal they give everybody else. “You’re not everybody else”, the demon replies. She asks why would she want to give Dean anything? He tries to bargain, saying his last offer is 5 years or no deal. Again, the demon refuses. She walks away and tells Dean to bury Sam before he starts stinking up the place. Dean calls out to her to wait. He asks what does he have to do? The demon tells him to quit grovelling, and says she could get in a lot of trouble for doing this, but she offers him a deal: Sam back from the dead, in exchange for one year of Dean’s life before the hellhounds come for him. And if he tries to get out of it, the deal is off and Sam drops dead. She says it’s a better deal than his dad ever got. Dean kisses her, sealing the deal. At that moment, Sam’s eyes open. He’s alive! But Dean!
Sam checks out his wound in a mirror, but it seems to have healed. Dean walks in and is so relieved that he’s back. So happy to see Sam alive!
Sam asks him what happened. He tells Dean he remembers seeing him and Bobby and then he felt a sharp pain, saw Dean running at him, and that’s it. Dean tells him Jake stabbed Sam in the back and he lost a lot of blood, and Bobby patched Sam up. Dean says Jake disappeared into the woods and Sam is raring to go after him.
Over some food, Sam explains to Dean what happened at the ghost town. Sam doesn’t understand how he and Jake both got away, if the demon only wanted one of them. Dean says Jake left him for dead. Sam wants to track Jake and the demon down and stop whatever they’re up to. Sam asks Dean if he called the Roadhouse, and Dean has to break it to Sam that the place burned down. Ash is dead and probably Ellen too. He and Bobby think it happened because of something Ash found, and Bobby’s looking into it. Sam is eager to get going but Dean begs him to just take care of himself for a little bit first. But Sam says no.
So they hit the road. They show up at Bobby’s and Bobby’s reaction on seeing Sam is…something. He obviously is happy Sam’s back, but he knows Dean has done something bad to make it happen. Bobby explains that he found some demonic omens, all around except for one spot in southern Wyoming. It’s almost as if the demons are surrounding it. Bobby asks Sam to take a look and see if he can see something Bobby missed. He tells Dean to help him bring some books in from outside.
Once they’re outside, Bobby demands that Dean tell him what he did. He knows Dean made a deal and asks how long they gave him. When Dean tells him one year, Bobby is so upset. Dean is being a little too cavalier about only having one year left to live.
B: “What is it with you Winchesters? You, your dad, you’re both just itching to throw yourselves down the pit.”
Dean says that’s his point – his father brought him back. He isn’t even supposed to be here. At least this way, his life can mean something. Bobby asks if Dean really has that low an opinion of himself. Dean says he couldn’t let him die, he’s his brother.
B: “How’s your brother going to feel, knowing you’re going to hell? How’d you feel when your Dad went for you?” Touché, Bobby. Dean makes Bobby promise not to tell Sam about the deal.
They hear a noise and hide, ready to strike, but it’s Ellen! She’s okay! Inside, Bobby pours her a shot of holy water, just to be safe. Ellen is still Ellen! Dean asks what happened. She says she was supposed to be in the Roadhouse, but they ran out of pretzels, so it was just dumb luck that she wasn’t in there. Ash called and told Ellen to look in the safe, but by the time she got back, the place was gone and everyone was dead.
Bobby asks about the safe. Ellen says it was hidden in the basement. She pulls out a map of Wyoming. It turns out that the map Ellen brought has Xs that mark the locations of abandoned frontier churches, all mid-19th century. All of them were built by Samuel Colt. He built private railway lines connecting the churches, which just happen to be laid out in a devil’s trap. A 100 square mile devil’s trap made of iron lines! Sam says the omens, with the demons circling around, must indicate that the lines haven’t been broken. The demons can’t get in.
Now to find out what’s inside. Dean says there’s nothing but an old cemetery inside. They wonder what Colt is trying to protect. Dean wonders if Colt wasn’t trying to keep something out, but something inside. Bobby says a full-blooded demon couldn’t cross. Sam says he knows who could.
We see Jake get out of a car and encounter the yellow eyed demon. The demon tells him to walk 50 miles to the cemetery and open a crypt. Jake tells him to do it himself but the demon says he can’t. He tells Jake that if he’s going to open the crypt, he will need a key, and he pulls out the Colt! He tells Jake it isn’t just any gun – it’s the only gun in the universe that can kill him. He hands the gun to Jake, who of course immediately holds it up to the demon. The demon taunts Jake, preventing him from pulling the trigger. He tells Jake he’s been waiting for him for a long time. This will be the beginning of a better world; Jake and his family will be protected. Jake puts the gun down.
He enters the graveyard. It’s nighttime now, of course. Dean and crew are hiding in there already. Sam calls out hi to Jake, and he, Ellen, Dean, and Bobby slowly approach him, guns drawn. Jake is confused, telling Sam that he was dead, he killed him. Sam tells him to finish the job next time. Jake says he did. Sam is confused; Jake is saying that Sam can’t be alive.
They tell Jake to stop; Jake says or else what? Sam will kill him? He says Sam had that chance and didn’t do it. Sam responds that he won’t make that mistake twice.
Jake tells Ellen to put that gun to her head. She clearly doesn’t want to, but she can’t stop from doing it. Jake tells Sam that Ava was right – once you give in, there is so much you can do. Jake tells everyone to put their guns down, except Ellen. They comply. Jake thanks them, and turns around, putting the Colt into the crypt door, starting the process to open it.
Sam rushes over to Ellen and takes the gun, and shoots Jake in the back multiple times. What Jake forgot is, like Andy said in the previous episode, their abilities don’t work on the other special children.
Jake, down on his back, looks up at Sam and begs him not to – but Sam shoots him. OK. He’s dead. Sam does not look good. Dean is visibly concerned.
Meanwhile, the crypt door opens, and Dean pulls out the Colt. Bobby tells everyone to take cover. As the door to the crypt opens, countless demons pour out. Oh no! It would seem that the crypt is a Devil’s Gate – a door to hell.
The rails have been broken, allowing the demons to cross. The group rushes over to the crypt to try and shut the gate. Dean turns around and the yellow eyed demon is right there. He tries to turn the Colt on him but the demon takes it from him, sending Dean flying. Ellen and Bobby and Sam are trying to close the door to the crypt. Sam rushes over to help Dean, but the demon pins him to a tree, telling Sam he’ll get to him in a minute.
Turning back to Dean, the demon says he has to thank him: demons can’t resurrect people unless a deal is made. But thanks to him, Sam is back. He wasn’t counting on that in the plan. He asks Dean, hasn’t he ever heard that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is? Dean replies, “You call that deal good?”
The demon says it’s better than his dad ever got – and Dean never wondered why? The demon’s surprised. He saw what his brother just did to Jake – he asks Dean how certain is he that what he brought back is 100% pure Sam? He of all people, the demon says, should know that what’s dead should stay dead. As demons are streaming out from the gate all around them, the demon thanks Dean again and says he knew he kept Dean alive for some reason – until now, anyway. He couldn’t have done it without Dean’s pathetic self-destructive desire to sacrifice himself for his family.
The demon stands over Dean and points the Colt at him. However, someone – a spirit perhaps? – approaches the demon and grabs him. It’s John Winchester!!! He wrestles the demon, but is overpowered. However, by now, Dean has the Colt, and he shoots a bullet right into the yellow-eyed demon, who finally dies.
At the same time, Ellen and Bobby manage to close and seal the gate. They watch as the spirit of John Winchester stands up and faces Dean. He smiles at him and puts a hand on his shoulder, and turns to smile at Sam. OH MY GOSH MY EMOTIONS. Then John is bathed in a golden light and vanishes, hopefully to a better place than where he’s been.
Sam and Dean stare down at the dead meat suit of the yellow-eyed demon, with Dean saying, “Check that off the to-do list.” Ha.
Sam says he did it! Dean says he didn’t do it alone. Sam asks if their dad really climbed out of hell…Dean says the door was open and he was stubborn enough to do it. Sam asks where he is now. Dean doesn’t know. Sam can’t believe it. Their whole lives was leading up to this – killing that demon – and now he doesn’t know what to say. Dean does: “That was for our mom, you son of a bitch.”
Back at the car, Sam says that when Jake saw him, it was like he had seen a ghost. He talks about Jake saying he had killed Sam. Dean says he was wrong. Sam asks what it was – what happened after he was stabbed? Dean says he already told him what happened, but Sam knows Dean hasn’t told him everything.
Dean says they just killed the demon – can’t they celebrate for a minute? Sam asks Dean if he died. Did he sell his soul for him, like their father did for Dean? Sam insists that Dean tell him the truth. Dean shakes his head but Sam knows, and asks Dean how long he got. Dean tells him he has one year. Sam is not happy.
He tells Dean he shouldn’t have done that. Dean tells Sam he had to. He had to look out for him. That’s his job. Sam asks what does Dean think his job is? Dean saves his life over and over, sacrificed so much for him; doesn’t Dean think Sam would do the same for him? There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for Dean, he says. They’ll find a way to get him out of this. Sam says it’s his turn to save Dean’s ass, for a change.
Ellen and Bobby show up, with Ellen saying that the yellow-eyed demon might be dead, but a lot more came through that gate. Sam estimates maybe 200 demons – an army. Bobby tells them the war has just begun.
We end with Dean putting the Colt in the trunk, telling Sam, “We got work to do.”
What a great episode! Dean making a deal for Sam’s life, the end of the yellow eyed demon, a surprise appearance from John Winchester in order to save his boys, and hundreds of demons released from hell to ensure that Sam and Dean have plenty of work to keep them busy! This was a great season finale!
Overall Season Two Thoughts
This season was great! It really stepped things up from the first season, in terms of the overall storyline. It also raised some questions, like:
-what will happen to Dean next season now that he’s only got one year until his soul is claimed?
-why did Mary Winchester seem to recognize the demon the night that she died?
-what will become of Sam’s powers, now that the yellow-eyed demon is dead?
And of course, the bond between Sam and Dean is just as strong, even stronger actually, than it was in the previous season. And I love getting to see Ellen and Jo appear in this season. And of course, any time Bobby shows up, I’m happy to see him.
My (many) standout episodes from this season are:
In My Time of Dying
What Is and What Should Never Be
Al Hell Breaks Loose, parts one and two
I am super excited to move on to season three, since it begins my favourite era of the show: seasons three, four, and five contain some of my favourite episodes (although seasons 10 and 11 have been my favourite recent seasons).