Reviews

A Lesson in Vengeance, by Victoria Lee

venusss's review

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5.0

Sapphic Dark Academia anddddd this comes out on my birthday? Added so fast.

hungryandhappy's review

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medium-paced

4.5

caseythereader's review

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dark emotional mysterious sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

Thanks to Delacorte Press for the free advance copy of this book.

- Lesbian. Dark. Academia. Need I say more?
- Okay okay, I'll say a little more. I loved falling into the history and mythology of Dalloway with Felicity. A LESSON IN VENGEANCE had me second guessing myself, mistrusting everyone, and watching helplessly as the train jumped the tracks.
- I have some minor quibbles with the pacing, but when things get going, they REALLY get going. There are a couple points where new information is dropped and my jaw dropped along with it. 

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maryamorevnas's review

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3.0

Thank you to the publishers and Edelweiss and Netgalley for the ARC.

Definitely have to say this sits at a fairly round 3 star rating for me.

A Lesson in Vengeance follows Felicity Morrow, a wealthy senior at a prestigious boarding school rumored for its links to a conspiracy regarding murder and supposed witchcraft centuries past, as she returns to school after a long break due to her mental illness regarding the prior death of her girlfriend. It introduces a new figure in Felicity’s life: Ellis Haley, prodigy successful writer who has decided to write about the school’s legacy of witchcraft.
The story continues as Ellis, the ringleader, ropes Felicity, still vulnerable and unstable, into her research for her upcoming book regarding the witches and their murders by recreating a coven within their dormitory. The members of the coven meet in secrecy and do crime-related tasks, all because Ellis is a “method writer” and wants to get into the mindset of the events and disprove the theory of witchcraft. And Felicity cannot help but be pulled in and seduced by Ellis’ magnetism even as they dive deeper and deeper into the mindset of killers and trying to recreate the perfect crime.

As for my thoughts to the novel:

If you follow me on Twitter, perhaps you already saw this, and I feel like I should include it even though it’s 100% on me and not on the book itself.
For reasons unknown, I thought this was an adult novel. I thought it took place at a college, like TSH or something. It definitely does not. They are teenagers in a glorified high school. And I can’t help but be mad at myself for not realizing until I was reading because, quite honestly, I wouldn’t have bothered reading if I had known it was a young adult novel since I prefer adult. But again, that’s 100% me, and I’m trying not to let that affect my review.
However, I will say that since the characters were so independent and at a boarding school that pretty much served as a college, I feel like it would’ve just made more sense for them to be aged up slightly (+2 years maybe) and be at a college instead, since they mostly acted like adults anyway. It seems unrealistic that a group of teenagers would act like this, but perhaps that’s just me.

Continuing on!

While I didn’t hate this book, I didn’t think it was great, either. It sat pretty middle of the road for me. I was intrigued but not gripped, not convinced, just wanting more.

I feel like this book, with all its hints towards the characters, was just too heavy-handed and obvious. This felt like it leaned towards mystery/thriller but it just lacked the THRILL because it wasn’t subtle AT ALL. I did catch myself rolling my eyes a couple times and I didn’t feel very immersed because of how skeptical I was. I think if the author had been more delicate/subtle, it would have added so much more depth and nuance and would have been so much better in general.

The twist towards the end you could see from a mile away, except for a few details, and I think, character-wise, it really didn’t ever explain WHY. Like it didn’t make sense to me because there didn’t seem to be a reason behind it. Or the reason that was given was not explored or backed up.

The resolution was fitting, I suppose, however I found myself dissatisfied. I was just like “okay” about it, and the same with the epilogue. It didn’t make me feel anything, though, and I like to feel things at the end of books. I guess this was just a miss for me.

For trigger earnings off the top of my head: I will say that this novel dives deep into mental illness and trauma, death of a friend/lover, animal death, murder. I’m not too good with noticing trigger warnings because I’m not bothered by much, so I think the author has posted a list on their website.

This novel is also wlw which is part of the reason I read it and I think that in itself was done well. Felicity was a self-labeled, in text, lesbian. Ellis was wlw but not sure of label. Ellis had two moms and a nonbinary sibling who used they/them pronouns. All of the LGBT rep felt organic and natural and that was enjoyable to read.

As for POC rep, there was one major side character who was Black, and another major side character who was Indian (based off her name and description).

So if you want to read a young adult sapphic dark academia book, then read this! You might like it more than I did but it did fall a pretty flat for me.

craftshley's review

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dark emotional mysterious sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

 
Felicity is returning to Dalloway School for a second chance at her senior year. After her best friend and girlfriend, Alex, dies in mysterious circumstances, Felicity blames herself. The story unravels and so does the darkness that surrounds Alex’s death. With the arrival of Ellis Haley, famous young author, Felicity begins to question everything she knows about Alex’s death and even her own sanity. She feels like she’s being haunted by her own past as well as the past of the school, the famous Godwin murders that happened on the grounds of Felicity’s own dormitory. She’s drawn to darkness, to magic and death, finding omens and signs of haunting everywhere she goes. She is drawn to Ellis and Ellis is drawn to her. This attraction becomes all the more sinister as the story moves on.

The characters are high on the list of why this book is so good. They are human and change so much over the course of the book, Felicity in particular. They are incredibly unreliable and new twists and turns are introduced with every chapter. Sometimes, I wasn’t too sure what was happening, if Felicity was dreaming or otherwise impaired in such a way that what she was seeing or experiencing. I had to keep reading to figure out what the heck was going on. Did Felicity kill Alex? Is Ellis messing with Felicity, making her see things that aren’t there? The characters are very snobby, forgoing technology for the most part, even phones and computers, which comes up as a plot device later. 

On this end of it all, after finishing the book, I’m not entirely sure what happened to Alex. The inclusion of Felicity’s various memories as regarding what happened to Alex changes over time. There are new memories and expanded memories included over time, throwaway recollections with little reaction from Felicity about their significance. I was thrown by her lack of reaction several times but maybe that’s the mental illness coming through. I also wish there had been more horror, more magic. Felicity uses tarot cards and magical protections, and the girls of Godwin House form a coven of sorts. Felicity sees ghosts and feels the presence of ‘other’ everywhere she goes. The horror is more factual than I expected, less creepy than anticipated. I was hoping the haunting would have been played up. I needed more creep factor, another visit with an ouija board, more communication from beyond the veil. I expected Samhain to be a big event but it passed in the space of a page. There’s going against expectations and then there’s ignoring great opportunities to further plot.

I also expected more from Ellis. She was researching the Dalloway Five so she could recreate their deaths and write them into her new book. Her obsession with the murders made her motivations obvious almost from the start and it kind of ruined the vibe early on.

In retrospect, I’m wondering why this book was set in modern times. With many of the central characters eschewing technology, I didn’t see much point in it being set when it was. The girls of Godwin House are far too mature at times, with how they speak, how they interact with each other, their likes and dislikes. The other girls of Dalloway seem to act more their age, as we see in the snapshots of a few parties that happen on campus. The setting is appropriately dark and mysterious, the campus dark and creepy. There is little school and class attending to be seen, school taking the back burner in favor of Felicity’s obsessions, but the vibes of a boarding school are still there. It feels more college-like than a high school. 

Elements are shared with Kate Brian’s Private series, as well as Pretty Little Liars and the Sweep series by Cate Tiernan. I would have liked the book more if the witchy vibes had been played up a little more, if there had been a little more horror or creep factor. The slow burn romance and intriguing characters in the form of Ellis and Felicity saved the story for me, as did the mystery surrounding Alex’s death. 

 

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sheafandink's review

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dark emotional mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

melaniereadsbooks's review against another edition

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challenging dark mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.75

Thank you to Delacorte Press and Netgalley for an e-arc of this book!

When Felicity comes back to Dalloway School after a stay in a mental hospital following her girlfriend's death, she is meant to focus on her studies and stay away from witchcraft. But Ellis Haley is in her dorm, and all of the girls are drawn to her, including Felicity.  Ellis decides to teach Felicity that witchcraft isn't real by...making them dabble in witchcraft. All the while, Felicity is sure she is being haunted by her ex-girlfriend's ghost...or at least by the ghost of the founders of Dalloway school.

This book! Oh my goodness it was amazing. So so dark and mysterious and everything I wanted it to be.  Felicity is such an unreliable narrator and that makes it so you never truly know what will be revealed. I was on the edge of my seat through the whole thing and couldn't wait to see what happened next. I couldn't believe how this story ended, but I loved every minute I spent reading it!

Pub date: August 3, 2021


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literaryl3sbian's review

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2.0

(2.5, rounded down because I'm typing on my keyboard very aggressively)

This book was... most certainly a book? I found myself bored out of mind until the 75% mark, and even then the strongest emotion I felt was annoyance. The author was trying too hard to be edgy and it just came off as wildly pretentious in the absolute worst way possible.

My other major grievance with this book was the way mental health was handled, which is to say it wasn't handled well in the slightest. I let it slide when it came to the inaccurate portrayal of mental hospitals (and trust me, I know what mental hospitals are like) but then when it came to how antidepressants were talked about I almost stopped reading all together. The main character had this whole mentality that antidepressants were ruining her and that she could simply stop taking them altogether because she 'felt better'. If you're feeling better, that means your medicine is working. Not that you no longer need them...

Also can we talk about how tokenized the transgender and black side characters were? Their only purpose was to make the main character feel 'woke'. And to make sure the readers know that she's an ally, because she uses the correct pronouns and recognizes systemic racism is bad.

This book was the definition of corny and had the same energy as a rollercoaster that only goes like 5 feet off the ground (like the ones toddlers ride while their parents take picture of them crying).

ribbsreads's review

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1.0

dnf at 40%

alanabray0223's review

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5.0

Oh, I have so many things to say about this book! First off, Lee's writing is so beautifully atmospheric that I often found myself looking over my shoulder and turning on extra lights while reading. Her characters are complex and oftentimes unreliable (which is my favorite!), as well as deeply relatable. I consider myself a true thriller fan, and overall I have to say that the plot of this book is novel and fresh. I couldn't put this book down and ultimately I was so invested in what was happening in the story that I gobbled it up in 2 days. I am SO excited to read more from this author!

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an eARC!