ARC Review: A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

*ARC courtesy of Netgalley*

Publication Date: February 22nd 2022 (UK version)

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.

Thoughts and feelings …

I would just like to say that I have never drank so much tea as I have in the last two days while I’ve been reading this book. It just seemed appropriate, being wrapped up a blanket with a cup of tea. Really matched the vibes of this book.

Talking about the vibes, this book had them all: all girls boarding, wealth, lesbians, dark academia, mysterious, spooky.

A Lesson in Vengeance follows Felicity who’s returning to Dolloway Academy, a school known for the infamous deaths of five girls who were suspected witches, for her senior year following the death of her best friend. Also starting at the school is Ellis Haley, a writing prodigy who specifically chose to go there to gain inspiration for her second novel. The two team up with Felicity helping Ellis learn more about the school and it’s history and ends up encompassing all of those vibes I just mentioned.

Overall I really liked my time reading this book. I’ve only read two Dark Academia books: The Secret History by Donna Tart and The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – and I’ve got to say I enjoyed a YA version. I had so many questions while reading it, but not in “I have no idea what’s happening and I feel so stupid” kind of way, but in a “there’s so many ways this book could go and I’m intrigued” way and I enjoyed that. I enjoyed wanting to constantly be reading this to get to the bottom of what was going to happen.

I read someone’s review that said the first half of the book felt like a totally different book to the second half and I agree with that. The first half of the book really leaned into the magic and ghost aspect of the school while the second half became more geared towards dark academia and a mystery/thriller. I feel like those two halves of the book could be bridged together better.

My other gripe with this book is the whole thing surrounding Felicity’s best friend. I feel like now, even though I just finished this book, I’m still not sure what to happened to her. Obviously I’m not gonna ask the questions I’m asking myself here, in this review. That would be big time spoilers but just know I’m sat here in mild confusion.

Like I said, I really did enjoy this book as a whole though. I had a lot of fun with my reading experience which is really all I can ask for from a book. It weirdly inspired me to go write and also to look up what classic ghost and horror books are available at my uni library. On a totally related note, next time I’m there I’m gonna pick up a copy of The Haunting of Hill House. I feel like if you want to read something atmospheric and mysterious this is worth picking up!

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