Felicity Morrow is back at the 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 finish high school. 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 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, and she has 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 to help her research 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 herself.
Amazon Link: A Lesson in Vengeance
Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: YA Dark Academia
Rating: 5/5 stars
Dark academia is a new-ish genre that has a lot in common with dark fantasy and Gothic novels. I’ve reviewed a couple of other dark academia titles this year, but this is one of my favorites so far and a great introduction to the genre. You can also read my article on the YA SFF blog about this book: 3 Reasons Why A Lesson in Vengeance Should Be Your Next Cozy/Creepy Fall Read
I could not put this book down! I’ve been anticipating it for months and it was even better than I expected. It’s a tightly-controlled narrative with lots of twists and cliffhangers at the end of nearly every chapter. A wild ride with beautiful prose from start to finish, and I didn’t know where it was going, so I had to find out.
And it had hallmarks of a cozy yet chilling fall read. Occult rituals, reading horror novels, ghosts of murdered witches, drinking tea and reading the tea leaves, betrayal, and lesbian longing. An all-girls’ school with fountain pens, sweaters and plaid skirts, herbs and Tarot cards and digging up graves.
I also appreciated how gay it was to name the main character Felicity Elisabeth. (If you’re not familiar, Felicity Merriman is an American Girl character, and fans often ship her with her best friend Elizabeth. For many girls in my generation, she’s the original horse lesbian. There are no horses in this book, but Ellis is a sword lesbian since she’s on the fencing team.)
This book is perfect and deserves to be reread in the fall, so I need the paperback to save for next year. I will make vegetarian coq au vin and a nice chamomile tea to enjoy it with. It matches Toky Babylon for cozy gay murder vibes.
LGBT representation: the main characters are both lesbians and there is a romance between them. There is also a minor character who is non-binary. The author is queer and non-binary.
Highly recommended for fans of the Bronte sisters, Pretty Little Liars, sword lesbians, dark academia, and the Salem witch trials. I think this is one of those books that you’ll really love (if you like all the boxes it ticks) or you’ll probably hate it if it’s not your thing (if you don’t like lesbians, melodrama, or morally gray/problematic characters).
Here is the book in my reading journal: