I received an advance audiobook copy from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Dark Academia Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: Standalone
Ten years ago, four students lost their lives in the infamous North Tower murders at the elite Carvell College of Arts, forcing Carvell to close its doors.
Now Carvell is reopening, and fearless student Lottie is determined to find out what really happened. But when her roommate, Alice, stumbles upon a sinister soul-splitting ritual hidden in Carvell’s haunted library, the North Tower claims another victim.
Can Lottie uncover the truth before the North Tower strikes again? Can Alice reverse the ritual before her monstrous alter ego consumes her? And can they stop flirting for literally fifteen seconds in order to do this?
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
This 1990s, Northumberland-set dark academia has supernatural elements of possession and soul splitting in a sapphic Jekyll and Hyde-esque novel all about the power of female anger – and the men trying to repress and profit from it.
It is a deliciously creepy book. While there is certainly supernatural things happening, the question of exactly how much and how far it will go haunts the book. The supernatural also has some body-horror like elements, which I find particularly creepy (it’s definitely much less than other books, such as JUNIPER AND THORN, but there’s a little bit of it!)
The setting matches this very well – the north English countryside with it crags and cold and forests. I LOVED seeing the UK setting, and in a beautiful part of the country that’s often overlooked for London. The autumn and winter timeframe plays well into the atmosphere too – it can get very cold up there and the loss of light across the book reflects the increasing danger.
As a dark academia, set in a university, it is full of literature and philosophy references. Lottie is takes English Literature courses (including Gothic Literature and its impact on readers) while Alice studies philosophy. I love academic references in books, and dark academia is the natural place for it – and it’s done so accessibly. If, like me, you’ve never studied either of those topics, the book never once makes you feel dumb or on the outside of “getting it.” And all the discussion of gothic literature fits in so well with the Jekyll and Hyde-esque nature of the story (though it is certainly not a simple retelling!)
I loved Alice and Lottie! There’s a great contrast between the ever-angry Alice, seething against injustices and also minor frustrations of life, while Lottie is ever cheerful. The book explores how both paths are valuable and necessary – and neither are wrong, if handled thoughtfully and not allowed to run away (as both can be damaging to the self if taken too far.)
And of course, there’s their slow-build and slow-burn relationship. I particularly liked the discussion of Lottie’s asexuality – and the demi/grey-nuance of it. The fact that she is attracted physically now does not invalidate that she never was before.
I am looking forward to Laura Steven’s next book!
Read my reviews of other books by Laura Steven: