HomeReviewsYoung AdultReview: A Lesson In Vengeance

Review: A Lesson In Vengeance

Title: A Lesson In Vengeance
Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Paranormal
Page Count: 369
Published by: Delacorte Press
Date Published: August 3, 2021
You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.


Another reviewer put it perfectly: A Lesson In Vengeance is trying too hard. While the story itself is really interesting and the writing can be fluid and dynamic when the author gets out of her own way, the whole is so overworked with unnecessary “thesaurus writing” and awkward, overdone metaphoric statements. A personal literary pet peeve of mine is using ten dollar words when a two dollar one works just fine … combined with over the top statements such as: “Younger siblings gaze through the looking glass of their potential futures” or “Godwin house is no longer the home of Dickinson and witches but a monstrous chimera designed to maximize residential density” … what are you even trying to convey here? It’s overdone melodrama.

But I think the main complaint I have is that the characters themselves were not believable as teens, or in some cases, even human beings. This story would have been much better situated in a University or Doctoral college setting, as the majority of the students (who are supposedly 15-17 years old) run around drinking old fashioned’s, chain smoking cigarettes, making truffle mushroom ravioli from scratch and discussing their thesis’ (!) “…Mysogyny and characterization of female emotionality in horror literature. It’ll be written through an intellectual history lens: How were these works in conversation with the social norms and mores of their time? How were they influenced by catalytic historical events in literature? And how did they influence literature in turn? As viewed through the gaze of contemporaneous horror writers” … yeah, that’s totally how 15/16/17 year olds talk. Am I saying no sixteen year old can talk like that, or make truffle mushroom ravioli from scratch? Of course not. But really, were you or those around you in grade ten?

However high my expectations, however much I wanted this to succeed, however much this story sits smack dab in one my favourite literary sub genres of Dark Academia and therefore gets an automatic 1 star lead, the okay plot never materialized into a satisfying read rather just screamed loudly like a toddler “notice me, notice me!” 

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