Book Review: A LESSON IN VENGEANCE by Victoria Lee

Title in white on blurred purple image of books and skulls
Genre: Dark Academia (Contemporary Fantasy?)
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: standalone


Book cover for A LESSON IN VENGEANCE: title in white on purple with graphics of books and other academic objects

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.

Felicity was once drawn to the dark legacy of witchcraft. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; but it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget it.

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.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


The thing I like about Dark Academia books is that they toy the line between what is real and what is imagined due to obsession. You never know exactly where that line is, how much is in the mind of the character thanks to (frankly) unhealthy amounts of time focused on one idea.

That very much happens in A LESSON IN VENGEANCE. You are constantly being made to question whether there’s really magic/the occult, whether there’s a non-supernatural reason for it to really happen, or whether it’s just in Felicity’s head. Her doctor, teachers and mother think it’s the later, and her classmates are a mix of in her head and rationality. But Felicity is firmly of the occult opinion, which balances it all out so you’re never quite sure which it is.

Until the end, that is, when you’re given an explanation. However, I felt there was still space for another option to be true – and you can pick which one you prefer. That flexibility really fit the overall feel of the book.

Part of that comes from hearing multiple versions of the same event – all from Felicity. It sets her up as an unreliable narrator, not because she’s deliberately holding things back (a la a thriller where it will eventually be revealed that the MC did it, because information was held back), but because she has been through trauma and blocked and altered memories.

The uncertainty set up also allows a great space in which to explore mental illness. Felicity has been hospitalised before and, alongside her studies and everything that’s happening, she has to deal with the reactions (and prejudices) of those around her to her history. Plus there’s an exploration of her relationship with medication, and it was nice to see that without judgement of taking or not taking it, just finding out what worked for her.

In all, it was a highly enjoyable read and makes trying to get around to some of the other dark academia books on my list a higher priority.

Read my reviews of other books by Victoria Lee:


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