Title: A Lesson in Vengeance
Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: YA, Mystery/Thriller
Published: August 3rd, 2021 (Delacorte Press)
Synopsis: 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.
Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Teen, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Felicity Morrow has returned to Dalloway School to redo her final year after she had to take some time away to recover from her girlfriend, Alex’s death. She is determined to move past all that and focus on graduating, but when Ellis Haley, a new student and prodigy writer, asks for help researching the Dalloway Five, the mystery of five students who died on campus centuries ago in incidents proclaimed as witchcraft, Felicity can’t help but be drawn back into her fascination with the occult. As a method writer, Ellis wants to recreate the murders and disprove the existence of witchcraft, but when history starts to repeat itself, Felicity becomes convinced that not only is Alex’s ghost haunting her, but also the spirit of one of the five students out to get revenge on her for the events of the past year.
So I’ve managed to stumble into a second dark academia novel in a matter of weeks, just proving that the genre really isn’t for me. However, I enjoyed this a lot more than Ace of Spades for one main reason: the book was so atmospheric. Right from the first page, it was easy to imagine the setting of Dalloway School and its eerie history and it was the perfect backdrop for this story. A Lesson in Vengeance was a fast paced read that held my attention throughout and I enjoyed the many twists and turns in the story.
We see the entire story through Felicity’s eyes, and it’s quite obvious pretty early on that she is an extremely unreliable narrator. I usually tend to dislike this trope, but I liked how it was handled in this book. The way Felicity’s experiences and feelings are portrayed makes the reader really start to question things, wondering if she is delusional and imagining whatever is happening around her due to her obsession with witchcraft, if someone is messing with her on purpose – or if there really is something more sinister going on? While I wasn’t a huge fan of Felicity, she was a very interesting main character and made the story that much more gripping when the story turns into psychological thriller territory partway through the book.
This was undoubtedly a suspenseful read, and the tension was maintained throughout – though I did start suspecting the truth about halfway through. The issue I had was that this didn’t fit for a high school setting. I felt like they were way too independent considering they’re at boarding school. It might have worked better with older characters in college, similar to Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House, especially since the girls didn’t really behave like typical teenagers at all, disdaining technology and quoting poetry and literature. It’s not that there’s any inappropriate content per se, but given the general feel of this book and the behavior of the characters, in my opinion, the only thing that made this YA was their age.
As for the ending, Felicity’s arc is satisfactorily resolved, though what actually happened to Alex is never made clear. Additionally, I was hoping there might be some insight provided into the Dalloway Five and the truth behind it all, but that is left as a mystery. Overall, this was an interesting read, though the magic and witchcraft aspect could have been integrated better. Just as a note, this story delves a lot into mental health and trauma, so I would definitely advise checking out the list of content warnings that the author has posted on their website just to be safe. If you like thrillers with a touch of the supernatural, I would highly recommend this book.
A Lesson in Vengeance releases on August 3rd, 2021.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!