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.
A fucking masterpiece. “The gothic dark academia gays need therapy” is my new favorite sub-genre and I’m just blown away with how good this book was. The lush haunted atmosphere of Dalloway, a compelling, horridly unreliable narrator in Felicity, and her compelling yet unsettling budding relationship with young author and fellow Godwin Housemate Ellis paints this stunning masterpiece of a novel. It definitely helps that I read this in my first week of moving to an Ivy for graduate school.
Felicity Morrow is returning to her elite, all-girls boarding school, returning from a year off after, rumors say, killing her girlfriend Alex. Haunted by the ghost of her past actions, and the potentially very real ghost of her girlfriend, she finds herself drawn ever closer to the orbit of writer Ellis Haley. The narrative writing in this story is just so excellently done. Felicity herself has layers upon layers of trauma, guilt, and grief that make her an absolutely fascinating 1st person character to read from. Ever word she says, especially when they have to do with the night of Alex’s death, has to be taken with a whole pound of salt. Yet every observation of Ellis, of the events happening around her, and even of the girls she shares a house with, makes you question just how much is real, how much is her own perception?
Ellis Haley was a marvel of a character because it’s very apparent from the get-go that damn this is one suspicious character. And yet she holds herself with such poise and such confidence (especially in Felicity’s eyes) that it similarly makes it difficult to determine how much of her character is the genuine her, and how much of it is an act for Felicity. How many words coming out of her mouth are lies? How many of the coincidental actions were, in fact coincidental. Following these two girls and their absolutely toxic yet very entertaining relationship was just such a delight to read.
One of A Lesson in Vengeance‘s strong points is its gorgeous prose. The aesthetics of Old Money in the Upper Colonies paired with the rich, ancient history of old academic buildings brings the dark academia aspect of this book to life. Granted I would listen to this audiobook while walking around campus, but the dark academia vibe just paints such a complete picture in your mind while reading this. Likewise, the casual horror of the Godwin Five murders, the supposedly witchy spells and items that Felicity surrounds herself with, and the increasingly unsettling feeling of Felicity’s own mental state bring the gothic aspect to life. If either are an appeal, absolutely read this book.
Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. “The gothic Dark Academia gays need therapy” is an lovely budding genre and A Lesson in Vengeance is a fantastic contribution to it. Witchy vibes with unsettling narratives and murder mysteries. I loved this.
r/Fantasy 2021-22 Bingo Squares:
- 1st Person POV
- Gothic Fantasy
- Mystery Plot
- Published in 2021
- Forest Setting