I am a huge fan of the Dark Academia genre and how it is being updated for our modern-day society. So when I heard about A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee, I knew I needed it in my life. I got to read it last year, but then it releases in the UK next week, so I was lucky enough to receive an eARC from Titan Books.
A twisty dark academia thriller about a centuries-old, ivy-covered boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.
Felicity Morrow is back at the Dalloway School to finish her senior year after the tragic death of her girlfriend. 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. Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s past. 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 now, 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. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is 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. And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway-and in herself.
Publication Date: 22nd February
TW: death, murder, violence, strangling, shooting, fire, grief, drowning, PTSD
A Lesson in Vengeance is the whisper in the dark, the slight chill in your bones that you cannot get away from and the sense of something horrible lurking just out of sight. Simply put, this is a book that lends itself to obsession and will make room for itself in both your shelf and your heart.
Every so often, a book comes along that just takes control of your very mind, heart and soul. A Lesson in Vengeance is one of those books. It just made an indelible mark on my heart as I fell deeper and deeper into its dark labyrinthine mystery.
This is my first book from Lee, but now I need to devour the rest of their work. I really, really loved their writing style. It just was delectably written so gorgeously evocative and easy to lose yourself in. I actually rationed myself to a certain amount of pages per day as I just wanted to savour every last page. The book was just permeated by this dark, witchy and brooding atmosphere that seeped through the pages and captivated my mind. I loved the focus on literary influences and the unrelenting pursuit of success at any cost. This is the beating heart of Dark Academia, with the rotting sense of corruption and evil at the centre of these institutions. It’s a testament to the unrelenting academic rivalry and competition fostered by these driven, claustrophobic settings. This is a rivalry that burns bright, but also has embers of mutual respect and something more. It is an intense, forceful and cutting deep-dive into one twisted, symbiotic relationship between two people forced to the boundaries of society.
From the start, Lee drops these little hints and whispers at the darkness of what has happened before. This is a book that does not hold back in its intensity and emotional depth. It really goes there at times, forcing you to question your own reading experiences and what is being presented to you. There’s this consummate sense of something sinister slithering between the pages. It truly is like lightning in a bottle. Something dark is always bubbling beneath the surface, with traumatic flashbacks and memories disrupting the linear narrative. I really enjoyed the ambiguity about the supernatural, with flashes of something unexplainable but this is also complicated by narrative tendencies towards the deceitful and manipulative. Lee does not allow for any easy answers, instead leaving you with a tangled knot of human complexity and emotions.
A Lesson in Vengeance is electric and all-consuming. Lee has crafted this intimate tale that utterly consumes you and ensures that you will leave changed irrevocably by what you have read. This is just stunning in every single way.