A Lesson in Vengeance left me envious of Victoria Lee’s writing abilities



The cover art for Victoria Lee’s novel, A Lesson in Vengeance.

In all truthfulness, I’m not sure where to start with this book. While I understand every aspect, I cannot fathom what I read. 

A Lesson in Vengeance enthralled me when a TikTok review of it stumbled across my For You page. The book had not yet been released, but I promptly opened my Goodreads app to add it to my “Want to Read” list. Perversely, when it came out on Aug. 3rd, I already had too many books that I had bought and not read yet.

A Lesson in Vengeance had to wait.

I consider it fate that I found a singular copy at Barnes and Noble. All I had to do was get through Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin before I could start a new book. I unquestionably did not pay much attention to the rest of Blood & Honey; I was eager to get to A Lesson in Vengeance

It was utterly worth it.

Less than one year before the book takes place, Felicity Morrow’s girlfriend died. Many students of Dalloway School become wary of Felicity and do their best to keep away from her since they believe she is a murderer. She becomes an outcast within the walls of Godwin house—where Emily Dickinson lived. The Godwin house is the former home of the Dalloway Five. The Dalloway Five were five girls murdered of what is believed to be witchcraft centuries prior. Felicity’s senior thesis—that she wrote during her first senior year before her girlfriend died—was about them. After the death of Alex Haywood—her girlfriend—she does away with all traces of the Dalloway Five and starts her second senior year. That is, until seventeen-year-old writing phenomenon Ellis Haley arrives at Dalloway in hopes of writing a book about them. She is a so-called method writer—she has to experience something in order to write about it. Felicity, with her extensive knowledge of the Dalloway Five, becomes entangled with Ellis in both an academic and a romantic aspect. 

This book is the definition of dark-academia, sapphic, romance-thriller hybrid.

This book is the definition of a dark-academia, sapphic, and romance-thriller hybrid. 

A Lesson in Vengeance is compelling me to want more books that invoke the same feelings as this one. I want the slow-burn tension that builds up until the very end. I want all the plot twists that I could possibly perceive. Most of all, I want more of Victoria Lee’s writing.

The skill that Lee possesses will forever make me jealous. As an aspiring writer, I already have the plot twist that I plan to create the instant I start typing. I find it unmanageable to write even a few pages without speeding it all up to get to that point, but Lee was able to wait until the last few chapters for the most consequential plot twist of all. 

Other than their patience, Lee’s word choice and overall writing style flowed beautifully within the writing on the pages. The aesthetic of the book was never compromised by their writing. With their writing alone, I want to read their other two books. So much so that I don’t even care what they are about.

As for A Lesson in Vengeance’s characters, I could not be more in love. I love that Felicity is spiritual and tenacious. Felicity may be losing her mind, but it’s understandable considering the circumstances of her last girlfriend. By keeping the book in Felicity’s perspective, there are more plot twists due to her failing memory and making herself believe things that aren’t true. While Felicity was ditzy and falling apart, Ellis was the image of a perfectly organized desk. She was never not put together. At the beginning of the book, she seemed frigid, but as it went on, she started to open up to Felicity—and the reader—more.

In my view, A Lesson in Vengeance is not a book about black-and-white heroes and villains. The options for both are morally gray—they fall somewhere between both. It’s constantly fluctuating and kept me querying who the “bad guy” could be while I read.

A Lesson in Vengeance was full of the exact mystery and excitement that I want from any book that I will ever read in the future.