Throw that sanity out the door and listen to my words carefully: you need this book in your life. A lesson in vengeance by Victoria Lee was my most anticipated release of the entirety of 2021 and therefore had to be very good to still top my expectations. And you know what? Victoria Lee said I’ll take the challenge and they succeeded! This dark academia psychological YA thriller that could crossover into horror is full of history, witchcraft, writers, sapphics, and, of course, mysteries and murder!
It’s still surreal to me that I got to read this book ahead of its publication, but I’m excited to be able to persuade you into preordering this amazing book! I loved every thrilling second of reading this and can wholeheartedly say I’ve never read anything like this before. It’s the book I dreamed of reading one day, and now it’s almost here! Shall we just take a walk so I can tell you even more about it?
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. This review is completely spoiler-free.
A lesson in vengeance by Victoria Lee
Publisher: Delacorte press
Release date: August 3rd, 2021
Genre: psychological YA thriller (horror crossover)
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
For fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House comes a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.
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.
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 analyse this book for ages.
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…
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 below).
I have nothing but love and appreciation for A lesson in vengeance.
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.
Characters: 5 out of 5 stars!
Writing: 5 out of 5 stars!
Vibes: 5 out of 5 stars!
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars!
Enjoyment: 5 out of 5 stars!
OVERALL: 5 out of 5 stars!