My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Title: A Lesson in Vengeance
Author: Victoria Lee
Format: eBook (NetGalley)
Publication Date: 8/3/21
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Categories: Young Adult, Dark Academia, Mystery, Thriller, Witchcraft, LGBT+, Mental Health
Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
For fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House comes a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.
Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.
Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.
Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.
It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.
And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.
The vibe in A Lesson in Vengeance is dark and it’s done so well. Our setting is Dalloway School which is a boarding school for girls but the school comes with a history of murder and witchcraft. The girls who come here are intellectuals, I mean I had to google some big words in this one. They talked like intellectuals, dressed like it, smoked like it too (Ellis did at least) and these are teenagers! How are they so sophisticated?
Felicity has a dark past at Dalloway, her ex-girlfriend, Alex, died there. Ellis Halley is a new student, a novelist at seventeen and the two girls become friends. Felicity is dealing with grief and guilt because of how Alex had died. She has seen a therapist and was on anti-depressants but being back at Dalloway is getting to her. Felicity feels like Alex is haunting her. She thinks that maybe her intense research into the witchcraft the Dalloway Five had practiced years ago lead to an evil presence on campus, that she herself is cursed when she delved too deep. But Ellis wants to prove to Felicity that magic isn’t real and the deaths of the Dalloway Five were straight-up murders instead. It helps that Ellis is a novelist and doing research to write a story about murder anyway – so the girls set out to replica certain events of the past. But these girls are not who we think they are. They play off one another so well – two mysterious, very intellectual girls, one with a hidden agenda, the other just trying to keep up.
There is blood, tarot and tea readings, secrets, history, research, books (so many books) and events that make you question everything.
The setting of Dalloway is so dreary and gloomy with fall turning into winter as shadows creep on this old campus. I really enjoyed it and this would make a wonderful book to read in the fall.
This book is twisty! I found myself surprised at some of the twist and turns and it made me read this book in one sitting. At one point the beginning reminded me of a female cast of Dead Poets Society. Felicity is an unreliable character dealing with her past with Alex, and it made me question a lot of things and even her sanity. Ellis is mysterious and we only know so much about her until the end where a lot of reveals take place.
Triggers: death, self-harm, killing of animal, drowning
I like how the story progresses, the twists and turns, but the ending was a little anti-climatic for me. It built up nicely but then it resolves quickly, like it was that easy for Felicity to fix everything yet we do learn why…which was another mind blowing moment – but I almost missed it. I caught it and re-read the passage a few times to make sure I wasn’t misreading but it was rushed.
The pacing was okay, the beginning is slow, and the ending is rushed. It’s supposed to be slow and atmospheric I guess because we are being immersed in the setting, we get lost in Felicity’s thoughts because she is lost in grief, guilt, obsessed with the witchcraft history and wondering if she is being haunted. There were times I wanted that part to speed up, I wanted to know was it murder or witchcraft? Both?
This one kept me interested from start to finish and I enjoyed it a lot despite some issues. I can’t say I read a lot of dark academia but this definitely opened me up to this genre and it’s aesthetic. The atmosphere and setting was well written and the twists were shocking and fantastic. Felicity and Ellis are two very smart girls, but in the end we figure out who was the more clever one, I suppose. If you like eerie settings, an unreliable narrator, twists and turns that make you question what you are reading, then you will enjoy this one.
📚 ~ Yolanda