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A Lesson in Vengeance

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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 witche 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.


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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 witche 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.

30 review for A Lesson in Vengeance

  1. 4 out of 5

    chai ♡

    SAPPHIC DARK ACADEMIA? [aggressively smashes that want-to-read button]

  2. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Lee

    i mean if you like lesbians and dark academia i guess you could read this -- this book is very close to my heart because it builds off my lived experiences as someone with psychotic depression, a heavily-stigmatized mental illness that is still poorly understood. i'm so excited to share it with you, and i hope that it reaches the right readers: the ones who have never seen themselves represented in fiction as complex, nuanced people rather than as caricatured villains. for the girls who are tired i mean if you like lesbians and dark academia i guess you could read this -- this book is very close to my heart because it builds off my lived experiences as someone with psychotic depression, a heavily-stigmatized mental illness that is still poorly understood. i'm so excited to share it with you, and i hope that it reaches the right readers: the ones who have never seen themselves represented in fiction as complex, nuanced people rather than as caricatured villains. for the girls who are tired of being called "crazy." this book is a lot of firsts for me. for one, it's my first book with a canonically nonbinary/trans character. as a trans author myself, this feels so validating, to be able to write a character like myself into a mainstream piece of fiction. it's also my first book with a big five publisher, that will be carried in bookstores. and i can't wait to share felicity and ellis' world with you all. that said, there is some content in this book that could be upsetting to some. you can find content warnings for this book on my website here.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    "Once upon a time I found it so easy to forget the stories about Godwin House and the five Dalloway witches who lived here three hundred years ago, their blood in our dirt, their bones banging from our trees." I feel like all of Goodreads was screaming "sapphic dark academia with murder and witches" at me to read this, which I very happily obliged, but even with keywords as magnificent as those I still found so many other things to fall in love with about this story. This is such a be "Once upon a time I found it so easy to forget the stories about Godwin House and the five Dalloway witches who lived here three hundred years ago, their blood in our dirt, their bones banging from our trees." I feel like all of Goodreads was screaming "sapphic dark academia with murder and witches" at me to read this, which I very happily obliged, but even with keywords as magnificent as those I still found so many other things to fall in love with about this story. This is such a beautifully crafted and hauntingly atmospheric book staring a lesbian main character who is coming back to finally finish her senior year at a very spooky boarding school. She is also living with an immense amount of grief, anxiousness, and psychotic depression. Dalloway School is a very isolated school, and the house that Felicity is going to be sharing with four other girls is even more isolated from the rest of the campus. And even though there are beliefs of witchcraft all over the school, the Godwin House is where five young suspected witches lived before they were murdered 300 years ago. The writing in this is so wildly fresh, and pleasing, and dare I even say the most aesthetic. The word choices and how each sentence is structured feels so very deliberate and it truly made the whole reading experience even better and even more haunting. Truly some of the best words and passages I've read in such a long while and it was truly a treat every single time I picked up this book, while I also seamlessly fell back into the story. There is also a major theme and plot of literature and how these five girls are working on different theses. Felicity's thesis is about misogyny and the portrayal of women in horror literature. Where a new girl named Ellis is working on an entire book, trying to research these murders to help be inspired for her next award winning novel. And because their projects kind of go together (and because they are living in a really creepy house that five women lived before they were murdered) they decide to work together, and Ellis very much wants to prove to Felicity that magic is not real once and for all. I really loved the constant bringing up of mental health in the past and how women who were not understood (even without mental health struggles) were so easily deemed witches and made them pay for it with their lives. I also just loved how we get to see an unreliable narrator talk about lots of unreliable narrators! Again, the writing in this book is just so well structured and it is so impressive all the building layers. But this book also centers around some very heavy and important things, like the importance of taking your prescribed medications, and how scary isolation can be and how it can also make you much more susceptible to be abused without necessarily realizing it easily. And also, how much darker things can turn when those two things are happening to you simultaneously! I just had a really good time reading this, I think it's not only beautiful but it's so very important, and the ending will truly leave you screaming. "...old and rotten tales about missing girls and desolate mountain cliffs, how Felicity Marrow claimed it was an accident, but no one else was there to say for sure." Trigger and Content Warnings: murder, death, gore, violence, grief, loss of a loved one, a lot of blood depiction, rituals, a lot of alcohol consumption (under aged), a lot of smoking, substance abuse, talk of racism, anxiety, anxiety attack, vomiting, self harm (to get blood), talk of suicidal thoughts, actual suicidal thoughts, talk of being institutionalized in past, mention of illness with an elderly family member, lots of mentions of not taking prescribed antidepressants, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, a situation with sever parental neglect and abandonment, and animal deaths that are pretty dark. in general, this book is very graphic, and have very visceral depictions of struggling with mental health, please use caution! Blog | Instagram | Youtube | Ko-fi | Spotify | Twitch Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤

  4. 4 out of 5

    literarylesbian

    Coming back to rewrite my review after reading this book several months ago. This book… plot aside, there were some serious issues with representation in this book: - The black side character’s only purpose was to teach the white main character about racism. Black people do not exist to hold white people’s hands and educate us, and this depiction is deplorable to say the least. - While the author is non-binary, I still find the non-binary side character in the book deserving of criticism. The rando Coming back to rewrite my review after reading this book several months ago. This book… plot aside, there were some serious issues with representation in this book: - The black side character’s only purpose was to teach the white main character about racism. Black people do not exist to hold white people’s hands and educate us, and this depiction is deplorable to say the least. - While the author is non-binary, I still find the non-binary side character in the book deserving of criticism. The random scene where the character taught the mc about pronouns was so weird to me as a non-binary reader. - I also found the depiction of mental health painfully ironic. The character talks about how women of the past were viewed as crazy, and how mental health played a role in this. Despite this, the mentally ill characters are often viewed poorly in this book. Everyone’s mental health journey is different, but I felt like the issues within the book were not handled as I would’ve wished. My experience with the author: - As I mentioned, I previously reviewed this book before it was published. My review wasn’t exactly kind, I tend to be extremely frank and I won’t apologize for this or attempt to police my tone. - I was sent a finished copy of this book by the publisher, and as requested I posted an image on my Instagram story. Like suggested, I tagged the author. I also included a small piece of text telling my followers that I had a review for the book on my goodreads. I want to make it clear that I would NEVER tag an author in a bad review, and that’s not what I did here. There was nothing even hinting the tone of my review in the story post. - Not long after, I suddenly began to review an alarming amount of negative feedback on my review. Shocked, I then found out the author blocked me (which is fine, I am not upset over this part). But went on to tweet about a poor review that clearly was mine, prompting their fans to find my review. - Critical reviews are a part of being an author, I can understand the frustration that one may of had over criticisms regarding representation (specifically that of one’s own identity). But people are still able to poorly represent their own community, and I won’t apologize for doing so. - An author deciding to comment on bad reviews is so insanely inappropriate. If you can’t handle bad reviews, don’t look at them. It’s not the reviewers responsibility to cater to the feelings of the author. These are all my thoughts for now, I urge you to think critically about the depictions of certain groups within the book. White authors need to do better.

  5. 5 out of 5

    theresa

    A Lesson in Vengeance is a twisty, atmospheric tale, full of mystery and memory. Victoria Lee has expertly crafted a gothic thriller with twists of literary fiction and horror that is sure to have readers on the edge of their seat. What strikes me most about A Lesson in Vengeance is the atmosphere. It’s vivid and disquieting, full of the occult and a sinister sense of foreboding. Lee has effortlessly combined atmospheric writing with an intense, academic setting to create a dark academia novel fo A Lesson in Vengeance is a twisty, atmospheric tale, full of mystery and memory. Victoria Lee has expertly crafted a gothic thriller with twists of literary fiction and horror that is sure to have readers on the edge of their seat. What strikes me most about A Lesson in Vengeance is the atmosphere. It’s vivid and disquieting, full of the occult and a sinister sense of foreboding. Lee has effortlessly combined atmospheric writing with an intense, academic setting to create a dark academia novel for the ages. With elbow patches, thesis topics and poetry readings in the woods at 3am, this novel has taken the cornerstones of dark academia and ran with them. The writing is beautiful and lends itself perfectly to the unsettling, haunting nature of the story. Felicity Morrow was such an interesting character to read from and I thoroughly enjoyed her perspective. Her character also fulfils something I adore reading: unreliable narrators. In the case of A Lesson in Vengeance, this worked perfectly to maximise the spookiness and unsettling nature of the story. The reader is often left uncertain of what’s real and what’s not, as Felicity’s own mind works against her. I also adored her character arc and development throughout the novel, resulting in a really satisfying, if unexpected, ending. The novel’s intensity, of both characters and plot, served to keep me glued to my kindle until I finished it. Although this is definitely a slow burn, it was effortlessly engaging right from the first page, only growing more and more addicting as the story progressed. The side characters were all interesting and I enjoyed Felicity’s interactions with them but Ellis stole the show. The build up of their relationship and the sheer intensity of everything they did was phenomenal and I never knew where Lee would take me next. The background of the Dalloway Five and the way it was so cleverly woven with the present had me spellbound. A Lesson in Vengeance is dark and mysterious, equal parts intense and haunting. It is a tale to read if you want to have your mind thoroughly blown through clever writing and characters. I cannot recommend this book enough if you fancy some lesbianism alongside your dark academia and murder mysteries. I also talk about books here: youtube | instagram | twitter *eARC received in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley*

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    Frankly inject this book into my veins, absolutely one of my lifetime favourites for it gave me the chills that came when reading a book and loving it incandescently, 10/10 will go feral talking about it. 'Dark academia' has become a marketing buzzword over the last few years, and honestly I do believe that it's often liberally applied to books that don't necessarily fulfil the criteria (sorry). Dark academia is more than dusty libraries and elite institutions and blazers and books, and although Frankly inject this book into my veins, absolutely one of my lifetime favourites for it gave me the chills that came when reading a book and loving it incandescently, 10/10 will go feral talking about it. 'Dark academia' has become a marketing buzzword over the last few years, and honestly I do believe that it's often liberally applied to books that don't necessarily fulfil the criteria (sorry). Dark academia is more than dusty libraries and elite institutions and blazers and books, and although that forms part of DA, it is only the surface layer. A Lesson in Vengeance is the only book I've read for a while that fully embodies the fundamentals of what makes dark academia dark academia. There's the underlying sense of obsession around people and ideologies, for instance, so clear within ALIV (often missing in other novels called dark academia), and the subliminal homoerotic content evident within dark academia 'staple' novels (i.e. The Secret History, progenitor of it all) is brought to the forefront here and highlighted in the form of a sapphic relationship and two lesbian main characters. And do not get me started on the unreliable narrator - which though isn't a factor exclusive to dark academia, it adds another level of complexity to the fact that you're not supposed to really trust dark academia protagonists. And how can I not mention the fact that Ellis Haley is clearly influenced by Donna Tartt? Those sharp suits, the short black hair, the silver-grey eyes, that charming southern accent? A Pulitzer-winning author? The only thing missing is a pug. I didn't know I needed a love interest based upon Donna Tartt, but evidently I did. Tartt fans will find many references to Tartt and her works in ALIV, and this is something I found rather satisfying. Victoria Lee understands the dark academia genre, and for that, they have my heart. My only issue? I would've loved for it to be twice as long, just so I could sink deeper and deeper into this enthralling novel. Lee's prose here is so sophisticated and delicious to read. (Also, another sex scene beside the one already included, which I imagine will surprise some people - my excuse for wanting more is that these scenes highlight the complexity of Felicity & Ellis' crooked dynamic excellently.) > 5 stars rep: lesbian heroine, lesbian love interest, sapphic relationships, non-binary side character, Black side character.

  7. 5 out of 5

    may ➹

    obligatory reminder that Victoria Lee is giving the gays what we deserve with this sapphic dark academia book releasing next year!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    There’s something sinister residing in Godwin House. Or someone. Felicity Morrow has returned to her old haunt as well. After leaving Dalloway School abruptly a year before, her reentry is much more subdued than grand now that Alex is no longer by her side. Nevertheless she’s back, still grieving this enormous loss and racked with guilt. But Felicity isn’t the biggest news on campus. Not with the author prodigy Ellis Haley enrolling at Dalloway and moving into Godwin House alongside her. The girls There’s something sinister residing in Godwin House. Or someone. Felicity Morrow has returned to her old haunt as well. After leaving Dalloway School abruptly a year before, her reentry is much more subdued than grand now that Alex is no longer by her side. Nevertheless she’s back, still grieving this enormous loss and racked with guilt. But Felicity isn’t the biggest news on campus. Not with the author prodigy Ellis Haley enrolling at Dalloway and moving into Godwin House alongside her. The girls have barely begun to settle in and Ellis is already making waves in their social circles, while Felicity is simply trying not to create any ripples. But Ellis’s new book promises to be on the infamous Dalloway Five, young women accused of being witches centuries ago only to each die under mysterious circumstances. And after learning Felicity’s senior thesis is also about these women, what else can Felicity say when Ellis asks for her help researching their school’s veiled history? This book was a wicked delight. I can’t remember when I’ve last been this contentedly fraught while reading. The characters are as equally compelling as they are vicious, their motives always murky. As current relationships are constructed and past ones dissected, it’s hard to know what information you can trust. Are we being gaslit? Is this response protectiveness or possessiveness? Are these characters in a toxic relationship or have they finally found the person who understands them more than anyone? The lack of immediate answers to these questions kept me reading by keeping me paranoid. I saw someone recently ask on Twitter what makes something “gothic” and a lot of authors and lit majors weighed in to confirm what I’ve long suspected. It’s mostly about “the vibes”. There’s broader themes like a commentary on life and death and recurring tropes such as things in decay, old creepy houses, hauntings, etc. But it’s a lot of moodiness and trying to capture certain emotions instead of any specific plot or character requirements. I think that’s why so much of the genre is set in the past, because it’s hard to effectively pull off a haunted midcentury modern condo decorated with a chevron rug and ‘inspirational’ wall art. Which makes Victoria Lee’s ability to pull off a contemporary gothic novel all the more impressive. The location plays a big role in this, and setting it at an elite girl’s boarding school north of New York City was a clever way to achieve the desired aesthetic without going back in time. This school is probably the most ‘fantasy’ part of the book, just because of how unabashedly ambitious and intellectual the curriculum is. If I’m being honest, the students resemble grad students more than high schoolers, but that’s part of the ~vibe~. If you can’t get onboard with a smattering of academic snobbery, then you’re not going to enjoy the full experience. And in this vein, I think this book has been mis-shelved by the users of this site. I would call A Lesson in Vengeance a lot of other things before I would categorize it as a fantasy. It’s dark and twisting, full of suspense and gothic aesthetics. There’s plenty of hints at the supernatural, though without ever really committing to it. Yes, the characters spend a good amount of time talking about witches and magic and ghosts, but I wouldn’t go into it expecting a full-blown YA fantasy world unfurling around you, because that’s not what this is. So what is A Lesson in Vengeance, then? It’s a dark academia that holds you in a vice-grip until you reach the end. It’s beautifully written and a deep-dive into the occult. There’s candid and at times uncomfortable depictions of mental illness, but still honest to the experiences of the author. Lee writes a nuance in the portrayal of trauma that I don’t typically see offered to female characters in the same way it’s granted to their male counterparts. The exploration of these grayer shades of morality provides depth beyond the more conspicuous aspects of the story. Menacing and haunting, with a suffocating amount of tension, A Lesson in Vengeance delivers twist after twist like a knife in the gut. And yet you still come crawling back for more. **For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction)

    I created a full video review of this book, which you can view here. A quick summary of the review: I enjoyed the reading experience of this one but did find it somewhat lacking - the main point I kept being caught on is that the dark academia vibes felt largely for aesthetics rather than having any kind of atmosphere or tension, which I found highly ironic as there is a conversation about the characters in this book only doing witchy things for the aesthetic. The ending also made this one unbeli I created a full video review of this book, which you can view here. A quick summary of the review: I enjoyed the reading experience of this one but did find it somewhat lacking - the main point I kept being caught on is that the dark academia vibes felt largely for aesthetics rather than having any kind of atmosphere or tension, which I found highly ironic as there is a conversation about the characters in this book only doing witchy things for the aesthetic. The ending also made this one unbelievable to me, but otherwise it was a fun read and I always enjoy dark academia/witchy vibes, whether for aesthetic or not.

  10. 5 out of 5

    mina reads™️

    Did you say sapphic dark academia???? SIGN ME UP UPDATE WE HAVE A COVER I REPEAT WE HAVE A COVER

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lacey

    Update 3: So NetGalley decided to be very homophobic and not approve (or even deny) me for this book. AKA the book of my dreams, but it’s fine I guess because since it’s been published I now have a copy. I am scared to read this because I don’t want to be disappointed, as this is my most anticipated read ever, but we won’t talk about that. I AM SO EXCITED I CAN’T HANDLE IT. — UPDATE 2: THE ARC HAS BEEN REQUESTED. *HYPERVENTILATING* — UPDATE: THIS IS NOT A DRILL I JUST SAW AN ARC OF THIS *SCREAMING* I Update 3: So NetGalley decided to be very homophobic and not approve (or even deny) me for this book. AKA the book of my dreams, but it’s fine I guess because since it’s been published I now have a copy. I am scared to read this because I don’t want to be disappointed, as this is my most anticipated read ever, but we won’t talk about that. I AM SO EXCITED I CAN’T HANDLE IT. — UPDATE 2: THE ARC HAS BEEN REQUESTED. *HYPERVENTILATING* — UPDATE: THIS IS NOT A DRILL I JUST SAW AN ARC OF THIS *SCREAMING* I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL I NEED IT SO BADLY. I AM GOING TO BE ATTEMPTING TO RAISE MY FEEDBACK RATIO FOR THIS BOOK, WISH ME LUCK. — This is everything I've ever wanted. -Dark academia -Sapphic -Boarding school -Witchcraft -Mysterious deaths -A writer -A gorgeous cover I need it. Now. credit

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joharis

    YouTube Tiktok Twitter 1.5...maybe a 2 on a good day Who would've thought that a YA dark academia about pretentious rich white girls that drink, smoke and pretend to be in a gothic novel would be so tedious to get through? If you read books just because of their ~vibes~ then this might be for you but I personally had to resort to a 2.20 text to speech narrator to get through this book. This book has a very slow start, the author excels at setting up the atmosphere of the story and making the reader YouTube Tiktok Twitter 1.5...maybe a 2 on a good day Who would've thought that a YA dark academia about pretentious rich white girls that drink, smoke and pretend to be in a gothic novel would be so tedious to get through? If you read books just because of their ~vibes~ then this might be for you but I personally had to resort to a 2.20 text to speech narrator to get through this book. This book has a very slow start, the author excels at setting up the atmosphere of the story and making the reader feel like they're right alongside the characters. You get to learn about all the toxic situations that the main character has going on for her and how absolutely messy her life is. During the first half of the book we get to see her trying to stay on the right path but going down a spiral of bad decisions thanks to new girl at school, a write whom she's absolutely infatuated with. I was told the book picks up later on and what people mean by that is that some actual plot starts happening around the 70% which is already too late for the book to truly be something worth reading. The characters were all unlikable and they felt so shallow. Yes we got told all their likes and dislikes and their traumas but also... It feels so empty and fake. I didn't truly care what happened to any of them and if they had all died the story would have still not made an impact on me whatsoever. Of course the 2 girls are the only ones that had any build up to their characters so just imagine if their characters were shallow, the background characters were just names on a page. The relationship was also so... Stale and dissapointing without a hint of excitement. The ending was... An ending, I didn't care.

  13. 5 out of 5

    birdie

    Throw that sanity out the door (you will lose it while reading this one either way) and listen to me carefully: you need this book in your life. — Find this review, among others, on my blog! r a t i n g - o v e r v i e w : characters: 5/5! writing: 5/5! vibes: 5/5! plot: 5/5! enjoyment: 5/5! OVERALL: 5/5! representation: lesbian main characters, sapphic relationship, Indian-American, nonbinary and black side characters. trigger/content warnings: death, violence, manipulation and emotional abuse, child ne Throw that sanity out the door (you will lose it while reading this one either way) and listen to me carefully: you need this book in your life. — Find this review, among others, on my blog! r a t i n g - o v e r v i e w : characters: 5/5! writing: 5/5! vibes: 5/5! plot: 5/5! enjoyment: 5/5! OVERALL: 5/5! representation: lesbian main characters, sapphic relationship, Indian-American, nonbinary and black side characters. trigger/content warnings: death, violence, manipulation and emotional abuse, child neglect (past/offscreen), mental health issues (specifically psychotic depression), substance abuse, suicide references (no actual suicide), references to racist history. Whatever you and I expected from this book…it’s entirely different. While I think the synopsis for this book is amazing, I don’t think it would be possible to capture this story in a few paragraphs. The reason? There’s so much it has to it, from the underlying psychology to the representation and from the vibes to the twists. As you can probably tell, I am in awe of how Victoria Lee wove this story together! It exceeded all my expectations. When I started this book, though, I feared it wouldn’t be as dark and vibey as I had wished. Turns out I just need to trust Victoria Lee because they wrote this book as if you are descending into the darkness. With every page you turn, it gets a bit more mysterious, a bit darker, a bit more complicated and therefore intriguing. It didn’t take long before I was completely drowning in those vibes I wanted. But it’s not all vibes! The characters were a really strong point of this novel because of their complexity and how realistic they felt. Just like the story, there’s so much to the characters and they are just right. Well, not morally (they are far from morally correct, just saying), but right as in realistically. It just makes sense. Their actions, their choices, their everything. I just love it when authors do psychology right. I could analyze this book for ages. "I feel like she creates and unravels me in the same moment, a sentence she writes and and erases and rewrites, a product of her want and imagination. I feel like she invented me." The thing is, this novel is written through Felicity’s point of view in first person and when I started this book, I questioned that choice. Wouldn’t third person add more to the intrigue of the story? No, Birdie, just trust Victoria Lee. They’re a masterful storyteller, don’t ever doubt them. A lesson in vengeance is written in deep POV, if you’d ask me. You don’t just have Felicity as your point of view character, you are in her head. Literally stuck there. Everything you see in the story is through her eyes. Everything she experiences, you experience with her. I felt every single emotion she felt so vividly which was…a lot at times. Somewhere along reading this, you can feel how Felicity loses herself, so so did I. This book deals with psychotic depression in an amazing way, and I can say that from experience. As someone who’d been in a psychotic depression around the age of fourteen, I can honestly say I’ve never felt myself so seen. Victoria Lee captured this experience perfectly, and I just need to share their words here: “[For the readers] who have never seen themselves represented in fiction as complex, nuanced people rather than as caricatured villains. For the girls who are tired of being called “crazy.” (from Victoria Lee's Goodreads). I love them so much… "She saw the black and twisted heart of me. She took my hand and guided me into that darkness. She opened the door, and truth entered, and nothing can undo that now." Now, you’re probably wondering: Birdie, what did you think of the plot? I loved it so much, there was some really good foreshadowing, and I would love to talk about all of it, but the thing is: this is a spoiler free review. And everything I could say about this includes something I would rather have you find out yourself, so go preorder??? Like…right now??? This book was filled with complexity, from its characters to its storyline. It was an absolutely thrilling experience to see everything unravel in front of my eyes, especially since Victoria Lee’s writing really lets you live in the character’s head which makes this reading experience so intense! This is the first time EVER a book I rate gets a 5 out of 5 for every single category (see rating overview). Conclusion: I have nothing but love and appreciation for A lesson in vengeance. b o o k - o v e r v i e w : One-sentence pitch: After a year away, Felicity Morrow returns to her boarding school Dalloway and befriends teen-author Ellis Haley, who’s working on a novel about Dalloway’s history with witchcraft — the very thing Felicity suspects killed her girlfriend the last time she was there. One-sentence review: This book stole my heart and my sanity all at once. Definitely read it if: you want more (dark) sapphic thrillers, or if you like books with lots of underlying psychology and things to analyse. Maybe skip it if: you don’t like the genre or if you think you’d be triggered by the psychotic depression representation. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review! This did not affect my opinions in any way. All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in the final publication. blog | twitter | instagram | tiktok | wishlist

  14. 4 out of 5

    E.

    This is sapphic dark academia and I need it NOW 😭😭😭 Also, it has official art already!! This is sapphic dark academia and I need it NOW 😭😭😭 Also, it has official art already!!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fadwa (Word Wonders)

    Way back when the premise of this book was announced, I said that if anyone could get me on board with Dark Academia, it's Victoria Lee. And shocker, I was right. Eventhough it has a slow start, once I got into the story A LESSON OF VENGEANCE kept me on the edge of my seat. One thing I LOVE in books is unreliable narrators, and this book has just that. At no point, was I sure of what was real and what was the narrator's interpretation of events and that is the key element that sucked me into the Way back when the premise of this book was announced, I said that if anyone could get me on board with Dark Academia, it's Victoria Lee. And shocker, I was right. Eventhough it has a slow start, once I got into the story A LESSON OF VENGEANCE kept me on the edge of my seat. One thing I LOVE in books is unreliable narrators, and this book has just that. At no point, was I sure of what was real and what was the narrator's interpretation of events and that is the key element that sucked me into the book. PICK A LESSON IN VENGEANCE UP WHEN IT COMES OUT!!!!!!

  16. 5 out of 5

    h o l l i s

    I think this would've worked so much better if, like one of the comp titles, this had been an adult (or at least new adult) novel. I think so much of what I struggled with, or found hard to believe, could have been easier to swallow if this had been aged up. That said, I really enjoyed the first half of the story. We open up with our main character returning to this elite/exclusive/preppy highschool, almost like a pre-college collegiate style school, after time away in recovery from her girlfrien I think this would've worked so much better if, like one of the comp titles, this had been an adult (or at least new adult) novel. I think so much of what I struggled with, or found hard to believe, could have been easier to swallow if this had been aged up. That said, I really enjoyed the first half of the story. We open up with our main character returning to this elite/exclusive/preppy highschool, almost like a pre-college collegiate style school, after time away in recovery from her girlfriend's death. She soon finds being back on campus is damaging to her ability to discern reality from the belief that she's being haunted; not by her girlfriend (or not only..) but by the ghosts of girls long dead who are built into the history, the mythology, of the school. Felicity sees things, feels things, and it makes the reader question her reliability as a narrator; is she delusional, is her grief causing her prior obsession with withcraft, with the dead girls, making her see things that aren't there or are these manifestations actually real? .. grief would tie itself to the small things, that I'd be living my life as normal and then a bit of music or the cut of a girl's smile would remind me of her and it would all flood back in. Felicity's journey, her obsession, her grief, her hauntings, they were all compelling. Where I started to side-eye things was with.. well, almost everything else. Certain characters, with certain influences and motivations, and how transparent it all seemed. And also, my biggest problem really, was just.. why? Maybe there wasn't supposed to be a why. Maybe I just didn't get it. There was one big exception to the transparent bit, though. Something I definitely didn't see coming. And I loved it? I don't think many will. Infact, I think the ending in general will be polarizing. You've been warned! I was definitely a bit hesitant going into this, no matter how pumped I was over the concept, because I had a rough go with Lee's debut series. This? I loved the writing, I loved the dip in and out of spooky paranormal horror, the uncertainty of it all. I started this late at night and I won't say it scared me but oh did it do a good job with the eerie vibes. This might not have been a solid win but parts of it worked so so well for me. I'm definitely looking forward to more from this author, especially if they write more in this darker vein, but I think Lee would absolutely excel at an adult story. I hope one day it happens. 3.5 stars ** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. ** --- This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.

  17. 4 out of 5

    dipper

    wow that took me forever to get through and i really wish i dnfed. this was so bad it was so boring. the author was trying sooo hard to make this dark academia and pretentious and it did not work. the story would have been more interesting if it was adult genre, and the characters were unlikable but not in the fun way. the concept is so good but the execution failed in every way

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katie Colson

    ⭐️3.5⭐️ I have no idea what my thoughts are. I don’t think I was paying enough attention cause I swear I was so confused. I didn’t read the summary before beginning and usually that makes the experience more fun. But in this case it caused a lot of confusion. I thought this was about witches. Um…kinda. But also not at all. Haha. There are parts I really liked cause it’s so messed up. I was not anticipating that. The characters are messy and seemingly psychotic tbh. Which was fun. But maybe I was mi ⭐️3.5⭐️ I have no idea what my thoughts are. I don’t think I was paying enough attention cause I swear I was so confused. I didn’t read the summary before beginning and usually that makes the experience more fun. But in this case it caused a lot of confusion. I thought this was about witches. Um…kinda. But also not at all. Haha. There are parts I really liked cause it’s so messed up. I was not anticipating that. The characters are messy and seemingly psychotic tbh. Which was fun. But maybe I was misinterpreting. I love sapphic dark academia though. So that elevated the story for sure. This is one I’ll have to reread in the future to get a better grip on my feelings.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)

    SAPPHIC. DARK. ACADEMIA. need i say more??

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tes - paperbackbones

    I've already read this incredible story & I cannot wait until it's out in the world! 🖤 I've already read this incredible story & I cannot wait until it's out in the world! 🖤

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ashlee » libraryinthecountry

    Dark academia, sapphic, witchy, and so good.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ava Reid

    I was lucky enough to read an early copy of this, and (unsurprisingly, since I adored Lee's FEVERWAKE series) it blew me away. This is a contemporary thriller, with very light speculative elements, where FEVERWAKE is of course sci-fi, but this shares with FEVERWAKE Lee's tight, deft plotting, intimate and nuanced characterizations, and devastatingly beautiful - yet still propulsive - writing. There are shades of THE SECRET HISTORY here, but ALIV is more than that: it's a disturbing yet sympathet I was lucky enough to read an early copy of this, and (unsurprisingly, since I adored Lee's FEVERWAKE series) it blew me away. This is a contemporary thriller, with very light speculative elements, where FEVERWAKE is of course sci-fi, but this shares with FEVERWAKE Lee's tight, deft plotting, intimate and nuanced characterizations, and devastatingly beautiful - yet still propulsive - writing. There are shades of THE SECRET HISTORY here, but ALIV is more than that: it's a disturbing yet sympathetic portrait of a traumatized, mentally ill girl, a razor-toothed romance, and a story of the ghosts we cannot exorcise. It's deeply intellectual, yet very accessible - Lee's prose cuts to the bone. It's a thriller, yes, but it's also a rumination on trauma, psychopathy, class privilege, gender, sexuality, and morality. I would say, ultimately, it's a book about being possessed: whether it's Felicity haunted by ghosts both real and imagined or Ellis driven to extreme lengths by her desire to produce art. It possessed me as a reader, too. By the time the book heads into the third act, I was flipping the pages frantically, carried to its twisty, pulse-racing conclusion. A smart, layered, thought-provoking thriller about female desire and the intimacy of violence.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maisha Farzana

    =》DNF Boring. Boring. Boring. Felt like a Sapphic and dark "Harry Potter" retelling. But a disappointing one. The writing made it harder for me to read. Absolutely nothing was happening, the writing was poor, the characters were weird....can't deal with all these. So, goodbye. ~ Was Buddy reading with Maliha. Sorry friend for ditching you. 😅😅. This book just didn't work for me. ~ ......................................................................... Dedication :- For coffee-stained girls in l =》DNF Boring. Boring. Boring. Felt like a Sapphic and dark "Harry Potter" retelling. But a disappointing one. The writing made it harder for me to read. Absolutely nothing was happening, the writing was poor, the characters were weird....can't deal with all these. So, goodbye. ~ Was Buddy reading with Maliha. Sorry friend for ditching you. 😅😅. This book just didn't work for me. ~ ......................................................................... Dedication :- For coffee-stained girls in libraries. Clearly, this book is for me. A coffee lover who's addicted to reading. So, I hope this book turns out to be good. Let's see. ~ Buddy reading with Maliha ~

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joan He

    Victoria has a PhD in villains per their twitter bio and it SHOWS

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maëlys

    i'm absolutely obsessed with the atmosphere & aesthetics of this book ♡ slightly less in love with the last 30ish % than i was with the rest of the story tho. rtc! Youtube ☆ Twitter Buddy read with Melanie ♡ i'm absolutely obsessed with the atmosphere & aesthetics of this book ♡ slightly less in love with the last 30ish % than i was with the rest of the story tho. rtc! Youtube ☆ Twitter Buddy read with Melanie ♡

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eliza ☽

    The words "sapphic dark academia" just activated my final form. I am unstoppable now that I know this book exists in the world and I will read it one day. The words "sapphic dark academia" just activated my final form. I am unstoppable now that I know this book exists in the world and I will read it one day.

  27. 4 out of 5

    bie

    “For Felicity. I did it all for you.” you didn't do enough, sis. maybe the twitter girlies were right and i cannot actually understand a very deep book. maybe not... there are so many things i didn't like about this book, i don't even know where to start. the last two chapters are the only ones i actually liked so it's only fair i give this two stars. 2 stars for 2 chapters, i might be a bit generous. it got me at first, it made me think it will be smarter than me... and oh, how i wish that wa “For Felicity. I did it all for you.” you didn't do enough, sis. maybe the twitter girlies were right and i cannot actually understand a very deep book. maybe not... there are so many things i didn't like about this book, i don't even know where to start. the last two chapters are the only ones i actually liked so it's only fair i give this two stars. 2 stars for 2 chapters, i might be a bit generous. it got me at first, it made me think it will be smarter than me... and oh, how i wish that was the case... listen. all i want is a f/f book where they aren't absolutely cruel and toxic towards each other, i don't think that's too much to ask. okay, that's a lie – i also want a dark academia book that doesn't take advantage of mental illness and doesn't twist it in the darkest of ways without then focusing or at least talking about the healing journey. i feel like we were supposed to feel bad for felicity when she realised what was actually happening, but all i could think was duh, finally. a lesson in vengeance is not smarter than the reader, it's just more pretentious for the sake of being. i still don't understand why was it set in present day when they all insisted on acting like it was the 1880s. there was literally no point in that... also, why is this YA? why are they in highschool? not a single person – not ONE of them – drank water throughout this entire novel. all they did was pretend they liked whiskey and gin and whatever other alcoholic beverage there is (idk, i drink apple juice in my free time) and strong, black coffee. fuck off... the characters are so... shallow? even felicity and ellis (who are the main characters...) they're both so boring, so predictable and they shouldn't be! they should be smart and complex and make unexpected moves and be one step ahead of the reader. they're not. maybe this was a metaphor (i doubt it), but ellis feels just as fake to the reader as the persona she presents at school. i don't remember where i saw this, it might have been another review, but someone said how the side characters are just names. i couldn't tell you more than one (1) fact about them, and even then i couldn't really say for sure to whom is that fact attached. the ending was so dumb too? well, dumb is a mean word, but it was so rushed and So boring. that's not how you're supposed to end this kind of book. i read all those pages just for... that? the confrontation scene felt just like the "big" battle from twilight, you know the one. and it wasn't even unexpected, is the thing. i wouldn't necessarily call it predictable since it was a 50/50 chance of things ending the way they did, but it was still... i can't think of any words other than disappointing and boring. also, to the person who said ellis is a donna tartt self-insert... i hate you and you ruined my life. /j the trigger warnings can be found here.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nashita (Hiatus)

    A LESBIAN DARK ACADEMIA? A MURDER MYSTERY? WONDERFUL CHARACTERS AND A WITCHY CULT? Where were you all my life this book was so good. I am in love with this!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jen Ryland

    I was excited to read A Lesson in Vengeance, a book with all the elements I typically like, including a boarding school setting, witchcraft, feminist themes, and an f/f frenemy romance. I loved the overall atmosphere of the Dalloway School but think this story might have worked better in a college setting as the characters seemed older to me. They thought cell phones were boring and preferred to discuss feminist literature while drinking old fashioneds. There was a secret society of witchcraft b I was excited to read A Lesson in Vengeance, a book with all the elements I typically like, including a boarding school setting, witchcraft, feminist themes, and an f/f frenemy romance. I loved the overall atmosphere of the Dalloway School but think this story might have worked better in a college setting as the characters seemed older to me. They thought cell phones were boring and preferred to discuss feminist literature while drinking old fashioneds. There was a secret society of witchcraft but (as discussed below) this wasn't paranormal book. All the witchiness was just part of the history of Dalloway. While I waited for the plot to get going, I spent a lot of time trying to decide what lane this book intended to be in. Dark Academia? Paranormal? Psychological thriller? Romantic suspense? It kind of swerved around. Characters: a great but disappointingly underused ensemble cast. Ultimately the book was all about Felicity and Ellis. Plot: WHAT was even happening? There was more atmosphere )han plot. For most of the book, it was unclear to me if Felicity, the book's main character, was mentally ill, dabbling in the dark arts, cursed, suffering from grief and/or PTSD, a murderer, being gaslit, being stalked, or some or all of the above. I'm fine with unreliable narrators but thought the uncertainty went on too long. I am ALWAYS on high alert in a book when (view spoiler)[ a body is missing and I thought Alex might have faked her death to gaslight Felicity. Nope. (hide spoiler)] Feminist spins on tropes need to be much more of a thing! I was very happy that the book (and its characters) make interesting points about both witchcraft accusations and mental illness diagnoses being used through history to control and label women. As for the witchcraft, it seemed at first that the two main characters were a kind of a Scully and Mulder, with one of them thinking witchcraft is a societal construct to control women with the other believing that witchcraft is real. THEN at the 80% point the plot finally kicked in and the book abruptly abandoned the witchcraft/paranormal stuff and veered sharply into the psychological thriller lane. At the very end of the book, more was revealed, but perhaps because all those reveals came in the last few chapters, I also had a LOT of spoiler-y questions: (view spoiler)[ I think if the Ellis-Felicity cat and mouse game had been revealed sooner, this would have worked better for me and led to greater character development. I didn't understand that was what I was reading until the VERY end of the story. 1) I never really understood Ellis or her motivations at all. Do we know how Ellis knew that Felicity killed Alex? 2) In the end, did witchcraft have anything at all to do with the story, or was it just a red herring? Felicity says that she thinks witchcraft is a pathologization of female anger, but it turns out she is is (ironically) an angry woman who killed two other women. 3) Motivations: Alex's death seemed like a tragic accident. In her book, Ellis calls Felicity a psychopath. But why is Felicity so guilty over Alex/the breakdown/the stay in the psychiatric hospital? 4) Is Felicity going to murder her new girlfriend next (maybe she is a psychopath idk but then also: why didn't Felicity take Ellis's manuscript and burn it??) 5) Motivations part 2: Ellis. If Ellis killed Clara to have an experience she could write about, is Ellis really the psychopath? 6) What does Avocet mean? If you can help me out, please use comments but hide any spoilers! (hide spoiler)] Overall, I enjoyed the individual elements of this one but it was much too murky for me. Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review!

  30. 4 out of 5

    ash | novelly rooted

    measuring the progression of time by book release dates is such a moOD

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