March of the Sequels: A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig

Jetta is a wanted criminal. The army wants her for treason against the crown, for the sabotage of Hell’s Court temple, and for the murder of General Legarde. They also want her for the power in her blood―the magic that captures wandering spirits to give life to puppets, to rocks, to paper . . . to weapons. They’re willing to trade the elixir that treats Jetta’s madness for the use of her blood. The rebels want her, too, to help them reclaim their country. Jetta may be the one who can tip the scales in this war.
But Jetta fears using her power will make her too much like Le Trépas, the terrifying and tyrannical necromancer who once held all Chakrana under his thumb―and who is Jetta’s biological father. She’s already raised her brother from the dead, after all. And scared off Leo, the only person who saw her as she truly is. With Le Trépas at large and a clash between the army and the rebels becoming inevitable, Jetta will have to decide if saving her country is worth sacrificing her soul. (Taken from Amazon)

There are spoilers for For a Muse of Fire (first in the series) below. You can find my review for that book here.

**Here Be Spoilers**

       Oh man, I loved this book! From the plot-line to the characters, everything was done well. It was a worthy sequel to For a Muse of Fire.

Jetta is a great character. She’s tough without being cold and emotionless. In fact, her emotions are a big part of what makes her so tough. She has an illness that is most definitely bipolar (as confirmed by the author). I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but books that feature mental illness with consideration and respect automatically get extra points from me. This one in particular means a lot, since I also have bipolar. It is a mental illness that is rarely represented in YA, and even more rarely mentioned in the fantasy genre. Heidi Heilig’s choice to not only feature it in a fantasy, but to show both the positive and negative aspects of it is pretty stinking cool. But I digress.

In this book, Jetta has been offered a medication that will help with her illness, in exchange for the use of her blood by the crown. Whoever uses the blood can bind souls to inanimate objects, essentially animating-and controlling-them. The crown wants to use her power as a weapon against the rebels, who Jetta sympathizes with.

The rebels also want to use Jetta. Meanwhile, she’s afraid to use her power at all, worrying that it will make her like her biological father. He’s a monstrous necromancer, and everyone is afraid of what would happen if he- or another like him- came to power.

Of course, there’s also ye random romantic entanglement with Leo, another rebel. I’m not a huge fan of their relationship because it often came across as an unnecessary distraction from the rest of the plot, but I admittedly don’t like most dramatic bookish relationships.

I liked that Heilig didn’t pull punches. I was justifiably concerned about what would happen to some of the characters in the book. I like when an author gives things a sense of urgency, and she does that very well. I raced through this book, enjoying every moment of it.

I feel like this series is very underrated and deserves way more hype. It’s well-written and fast-paced, with memorable characters and an interesting plot. The mental illness representation just pushes it even higher in my esteem. I highly recommend this book.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

March of the Sequels: Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold

For today’s March of the Sequels offering, I have Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold. This is the sequel to The Last Smile in Sunder City, which I loved. You can find my review for book one here. March of the Sequels is spearheaded by the awesome blog, Sue’s Musings.

Fetch Philips has nothing left to believe in. Which is why he’s surprised when the people of Sunder City start to believe in him

Rumour has it that Fetch is only one who can bring magic back into the world. So when a man is murdered in a way that can only be explained as magical, Fetch is brought in on the case. A case which just might unearth things best left buried…

This sequel to The Last Smile in Sunder City follows the adventures of Fetch Phillips – a character destined to be loved by readers of Ben Aaronovitch, Jim Butcher and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. (Taken from Amazon)

Dead Man in a Ditch picks up pretty much right after the end of book one. I expected this series to be rather episodic, to be honest, each book being a case that Fetch Phillips finds himself caught up in. Instead, the series has a continuing storyline, back stories are explored, new characters are introduced, and surprises are revealed.

Sunder City is full of grime, violence, and a fair hint of desperation. So is Fetch Phillips. They make for an excellent match. This city is full of once-magical creatures who are struggling to get by in a post-magic world. One of the many things I loved is how author Luke Arnold explores how it would feel for a being who is mostly magic to be bereft of it. His narrative voice is fantastic. There’s a Sam Spade feel to it, although Fetch has become much more introspective than he was in book one. This evolution of character feels natural and makes perfect sense in the story.

Fetch Phillips’ latest tangle (I’d say “case,” but it gets out of hand much too quickly to qualify as one) involves magic. It shouldn’t: it’s been established that all the magic is gone. However, someone seems to have missed the memo. Fetch finds himself trying to solve a murder and figure out if- and how – the magic is actually returning.

I love how delightfully madcap this book is. Running through it is more of Fetch’s backstory, and some serious character development. We get a closer look at this new, messed up, magic-free world. I’m annoyed at the author: he had me tearing up over the fate of a unicorn.  Grr!  I became so invested in this book, I had to stop myself from rereading it as soon as I finished the last page.

I would say that the tone of this book is more serious than the first book, but not so much that reading it is a downer. Rather, it draws you in. The stakes are higher and the fate of many hinges on decisions made by a small few. It’s kind of messed up, actually. I’m sure Fetch would agree.

This is a fantasy like no other. It’s gritty and dark, but still has an undercurrent of hope running through it. It showcases how wonderfully broad the fantasy genre really is. I loved every moment of it.  If you haven’t started this series yet, you need to make it a priority. Just go ahead and shift it right up to the top of your “to be read” pile. I guarantee you’ll love it too.

The Crossover Paradox by Rob Edwards

For March of the Sequels (a fantastic event created by Sue’s Musings), I’m excited to be reviewing The Crossover Paradox by Rob Edwards, book two in the Justic Academy series.

Return to the Justice Academy, the galaxy’s premier college for superheroes!

Back for his second year, Grey wants nothing more than to spend time with his friends and maybe take a class or two. A normal student life. Instead, Grey’s friends are all distracted by their own problems and somebody is trying to break his nemesis out of jail.

When tragedy strikes the Academy, Grey finds himself stuck between the roles of investigator and prime suspect. Chased across the galaxy and back, Grey must face a dark secret from the Academy’s past. Grey cannot hope to defeat it alone, but cut off from his friends, can he trust an unexpected crossover?

That paradox alone could kill him. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Crossover Paradox will be available for purchase on March 8th. I will do my best to avoid giving spoilers, but it is a sequel, so there is a slight possibility that something will sneak through. You’ve been fairly warned.

I loved The Ascension Machine, book one in the Justic Academy series. You can find my review for book one here. Book two continued on excellently, with new obstacles to overcome and even bigger danger. The Crossover Paradox raised the stakes and never let up on the gas.

The main character, Grey, is a roguish character who is trying to make a clean try after lying to everyone for the majority of the previous year. He is back at the Justic Academy, under his own name (well-not really, but that’s a mystery yet to be solved), ready to put the last year behind him. Unfortunately, someone has other plans. When someone is murdered, it is up to Grey and his group of friends to find the real killer- before Grey takes the fall for a crime he didn’t commit.

The story went in unexpected ways, keeping me invested and highly entertained. I loved seeing how smart Grey was, and the way his unconventional past aids him in the situations he finds himself in. He’s such a great character! For a mostly reformed conman, he has a strong sense of right and wrong which I loved. I’m all about the morally complicated characters, but I really do love a character who is more good than not. He’s an easy character to root for.

The Crossover Paradox introduces a few new characters, but some of the original group see less time. While I missed one of the characters (no names given), there was major setup for a future storyline involving him that I’m both excited and scared for. The rest of the supporting cast, so to speak, continued to elevate the book and take it in new directions. I loved that they were all important throughout the book and each character could offer something unique.

This book is meant for middle grade readers and did a great job of remembering that. While there is some violence and a bit of romance, it avoided going over the top with either. Instead, author Rob Edwards balanced each element of the book and tied it all together wonderfully. At the same time, there was a real sense of danger and no character was “safe”, which added to the enjoyment of the book. The Crossover Paradox is a fantastic continuation of the Justice Academy series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

March of the Sequels: The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

During March we are enjoying March of the Sequels, a monthlong challenge issued by Sue’s Musings. Basically, the challenge is to read (and review, if you’re a reviewer) more sequels.

Filled with political intrigue, violent magic, and malevolent spirits, the mesmerizing second book in Sarah Beth Durst’s Queens of Renthia epic fantasy trilogy that started with the award-winning The Queen of Blood.
Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
And those spirits want to kill you.
It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns.
Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.
Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.
But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.
Sarah Beth Durst established a place of dark wonder in The Queen of Blood, and now the stakes are even higher as the threat to the Queen and her people grows both from within and beyond the borders of Aratay in this riveting second novel of the Queens of Renthia series. (taken from Amazon)

The Reluctant Queen is available now. It is the sequel to The Queen of Blood, so there will be some slight spoilers for book one which I’ll try to keep as minimal as possible. You can find my review for Queen of Blood here.

The Reluctant Queen is an engrossing addition to the Queens of Renthia trilogy. The story continues in a way that I did not expect, but which makes perfect sense. Daleina has some disturbing news: she’s dying. As queen, she alone has the power to command the spirits that inhabit the land, to keep them from destroying everyone in Renthia. Without a queen, the lives of each human are forfeit. Daleina sends her champions (think King Arthur’s knights) to hopefully find and train an heir-because time is running out.

Here’s where things get complicated: Ven, the champion that trained Daleina, does find a candidate- one who is more powerful than anyone he’s ever seen. Naelin, who hides this power, is a mother focused on raising two healthy, happy children. She has no interest in traipsing off to be trained to use her power, and she definitely doesn’t want to become a queen. However, she might not have a choice: other candidates are mysteriously dying and things aren’t necessarily what they seem.

Being a mom myself, I loved Naelin. She knew where her priorities were and she made no bones about it. I felt horrible for her when she realized that the only way to protect her kids was to learn to protect everyone. Naelin’s kids were her whole world, and it was gut-wrenching when they were in danger as a direct result of her power.

This book moved a little more slowly during the first half, but it was never boring. The character development was fantastic. I loved getting to know more about Champion Ven, who grew in leaps and bounds between book one and the end of book two. There was an entirely new facet of his character revealed that added an extra layer of humanity to the plotline.

Sometimes in fantasy books, child characters are either incredibly annoying, or incredibly one dimensional. Neither of those things happened here. The children were fully developed characters, and they definitely contributed to the story.

The second half of the book ramped up until it became a breath-taking confrontation. I honestly didn’t know how things would end up and I loved every nail-biting moment. Once again, author Sarah Beth Durst showed incredible creativity in both her spirits and how they interacted and fought. Add in political intrigue, an epic battle, and some major backstabbing, and it’s safe to say that The Reluctant Queen has become one of my new favorite fantasies. This is a fantastic series for both fantasy veterans, and those who are just dipping their toes into this wonderful genre. I highly recommend it.

Legends & Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes by Travis Baldree

High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Legends and Lattes will be available for purchase on February 22nd.

Legends and Lattes is a delight! Creative and sweet, with just the right amount of danger, I enjoyed every word. The book follows Viv, an orc who leaves behind a life of killing and looting to open a coffee shop. That’s right, an orc running a coffee shop. Not only is it unlikely, but no one in the city of Thune even knows what coffee is. Viv definitely has her work cut out for her! Luckily for her, she has a Scalvert’s Stone, which is supposed to bring success. Unluckily for her, someone knows she has it, and wants it.

The premise is so much fun, but what made it even better for me were the supporting characters. There was a wonderful group of unique misfits who slowly turned Viv’s dream into a reality that was so much more than she expected. From the succubus who really wanted to leave the reputation that comes with her race behind, to the rattkin cook, each character added a unique charm to Legends and Lattes. They showcased Viv’s character growth and added a little something extra. I can’t decide who my favorite character was: Cal the hob or Thimble, the rattkin cook. There was something intensely charming about the cook being a rattkin. I also loved Durias the mysterious gnome. I’m a sucker for sage-like characters and I would love to read another book set in this world, just about him.

The coffee shop itself became another character and I fell in love with it. There was something cozy and calming about the way it was described. I loved the descriptions of the coffee and goodies that could be found there, and I would love to nibble on a thimblet!

The pacing was excellent, the story itself was sweet, and the ending was perfect. Legends and Lattes would be the perfect book to read on a rainy day with a cup of your favorite hot beverage.

Tales of Magic & Destiny: Twelve Tales of Fantasy by Ricardo Victoria, Maria Haskins, Tom Jolly, and More

Take a trip into worlds of fantasy – where magic and destinies are very real and could be very deadly. Twelve writers delve into dungeons, cross battlefields, challenge prophecies and conjure up characters ready to face the gods themselves. Discover 12 new legends of fantasy – and explore these worlds of imagination.

From stories about fierce battles to tales of mysteries and faith (and even one story that seemed reminiscent of A Pilgrim’s Progress!), Tales of Magic & Destiny has something for everyone. I was so impressed by how unique and different each story was from the one before it.

I never know how to review a collection of stories: do I review every single story, or leave some to be discovered by the reader? I think I’ll go for the latter because there’s something special about coming across an unexpected gem.

Tales of Magic and Destiny started out strongly with Stars Above, Shadows Beneath by Maria Haskins. This tale focused on Ny’am, returning to her childhood home as conqueror after being treated poorly growing up. Only her triumphant return seems like anything but. This was a story about forgiveness and faith, with a bit of violence thrown in for good measure. It was well written and set the tone for the rest of the book.

I loved Out of the Dust by Leo Mcbride. There was an immediate lore and entire world hinted at, one which was creative and seemed fraught with peril. I was hooked from the get-go. The story follows Tarras, a reluctant leader trying to keep her people alive in a very unhospitable place. A stranger shows up, one who is seen as incredibly dangerous, to be kept locked up at all costs, followed by a more immediate danger. Tarras is faced with the decision: which danger is worse? I would have loved to see this story continue on for much longer, although the ending was fantastic.

Asherah’s Pilgrimage by Ricardo Victoria was another standout for me. Ostensibly about a character trying to lead her people to a better life, it is in actuality an introspective examination of resilience, strength of character, and doing what’s right even when it’s hard. Oh–and there’s a dragon! I’m a sucker for dragons anyway, and this dragon is snarky and fun.

This is a strong collection of stories, certain to please any fantasy fan. I could see the talent that each author brought to the table. I thoroughly enjoyed Tales of Magic and Destiny.

Book Review from a Middle-School Reader

I recently had my oldest write a book review for The Call of the Wild by Jack London. It made me laugh so hard that I am sharing it here with all of you (with his permission). All the spelling and language have been kept the way he wrote it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

The Call of the Wild by Jack London is a book. It has interesting bits, slightly violent bits, and some bits that I skimmed over.

All jokes aside, The Call of the Wild is one of those books, you know the type, the so-called “classics” that everyone is required to read at least once, and therefore very few people actually read for fun. But to be honest, I actually enjoyed this one! Although, I think the version I was reading was the easy mode version.

Anyways, C.O.T.W., as I apparently like to call it seeing as I just typed it that way, is a book with a theme of, well, the WILD (dun dun dunnn)! Basically, the entire book is about a dog named Buck who, at the start of the story, is your average owned-by-a-wealthy-and-dignified-judge type of a dog. But he is kidnapped (or is it dognapped?) and shipped off to new owners in the far, far north.

He is quickly put to work as a sled dog, but it isn’t all running around pulling things, no. Not only does he develop a deep hatred for Spitz, a rival sled-dog and all-around jerk, but he also has to deal with fights, changing owners, and food shortages.

Eventually he ends up under the ownership of a man named John Thornton, who he develops a great deal of affection for. But while under his care, Buck meets and befriends a timber wolf, who leads him to wonder about his ancestors’ wild nature, and his own wild side.

The last straw comes when John Thornton is killed by the Yeehats, a local tribe of Native Americans. This event causes Buck to fly into a rage, kill several Yeehats, and then abandon humanity altogether to join the wolves as the leader of the pack.

So, there you go! I really enjoyed reading it (especially since I got the easy version). If I had to pick a favorite character, well, there was a dog in the book named Dave, and he pretty much just sat around and didn’t participate in anything when he wasn’t pulling the sled, and I thought that was funny. He also seemed really calm compared to the other dogs, and while Buck and Spitz were fighting like mad, he was just sitting there like, “Yeah, whatever”. So that’s why he was my favorite character.

As for my favorite part, I liked the part where John was betting that Buck could pull a 1,000-pound sled, and everyone else thought he couldn’t, but Buck managed to do it anyway. I liked that part because it was really exciting not knowing if Buck could do it or not and then all of a sudden- BAM! He’s totally doing it! It was kind of like watching a really, really close race and not knowing who wins. I enjoyed it.

The Living Waters (The Weirdwater Confulence #1) by Dan Fitzgerald

When two painted-faced nobles take a guided raft trip on a muddy river, they expect to rough it for a few weeks before returning to their life of sheltered ease, but when mysterious swirls start appearing in the water even their seasoned guides get rattled.


The mystery of the swirls lures them on to seek the mythical wetlands known as the Living Waters. They discover a world beyond their imagining, but stranger still are the worlds they find inside their own minds as they are drawn deep into the troubles of this hidden place. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Living Waters is available for purchase now.

I was a little unsure about what I would experience with The Living Waters. It is described as sword-free fantasy, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Author Dan Fitzgerald defines sword-free fantasy in a fascinating article (found here) and points out that one great thing about fantasy is that it can be “a safe reading space, where peril may be real but wonder predominates”, which is part of what makes The Living Waters so unique.

The book focuses on a trip on a river. Temi and Sylan are two nobles who are there to go on a “roughabout”, which is sort of a pilgrimage that those from their society usually go on prior to marriage. Temi and Sylan are part of a caste system that values extremely pale skin, to the point that they all wear hats and paint to protect their skin from the light of the sun. I found this fascinating because, like most societal expectations, it could be inconvenient. The captain of their ship, Leo, and their protector, Gilea, don’t have these concerns.

Temi and Sylan both have their reasons for going, although I found Sylan’s desire to learn more about the natural world around him to be the more interesting of the two. I loved his curiosity and his appreciation of what he saw, and the book of descriptions about some of the things he sees was such a wonderful way to naturally introduce the reader to a world filled with wonder and beauty.

While there aren’t any sword fights or instances of derring-do, the book was nonetheless fascinating. The relationships were the main focus, although there were still dangers and mysteries to solve, and the way the characters developed both individually and in relation to each other was realistic and engrossing.

The Living Waters was beautiful. It also felt intensely personal, as though the author was showing a little of who he is in his descriptions and his obvious appreciation of nature. The descriptions were amazing, as was the pacing of the book. I felt like I was floating down the river myself. The relationships, the mysterious swirls in the water, and the loveliness of the setting all combined to make The Living Waters a serene and calming read.

Revenge of the Beast by Jack Meggitt-Phillips- The Write Reads Ultimate Tour

Lemony Snicket meets Roald Dahl in this riotously funny, deliciously macabre, and highly illustrated sequel to The Beast and the Bethany in which Bethany and Ebenezer try to turn over a new leaf, only to have someone—or something—thwart them at every turn.

Once upon a very badly behaved time, 511-year-old Ebenezer kept a beast in his attic. He would feed the beast all manner of objects and creatures and in return the beast would vomit him up expensive presents. But then the Bethany arrived.

Now notorious prankster Bethany, along with her new feathery friend Claudette, is determined that she and Ebenezer are going to de-beast their lives and Do Good. But Bethany finds that being a former prankster makes it hard to get taken on for voluntary work. And Ebenezer secretly misses the beast’s vomity gifts. And neither of them are all that sure what “good people” do anyway.

Then there’s Claudette, who’s not been feeling herself recently. Has she eaten something that has disagreed with her?
Genre: MG Fantasy
Length: 288 Pages
Publishing: 30th September 2021
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Beast-2-Bethany/dp/1534478922
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58410828-revenge-of-the-beast

Thank you to Aladdin publishing and The Write Reads on Tour for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Beast and the Bethany: Revenge of the Beast will be available for purchase on March 22nd.

Delightfully wicked, The Beast and the Bethany: Revenge of the Beast had me roaring with laughter (as opposed to the Beast, who was possibly simply roaring for the fun of it), and happily devouring every word.

My favorite duo of not-quite-good-guys is back in this sequel to The Beast and the Bethany, and everything seems to be hunky dory. Or is it? Okay, so neither Bethany nor Ebenezer have any idea how to be do-gooders, there’s a fancy shirt that seems to have a mind of its own, and Claudette the bird is acting oddly…but those are all normal everyday difficulties that people deal with all the time. Right?

The author is back in fine form with this fantastic book, continuing the hijinks that follow Bethany and Ebenezer, while at the same time sneaking in themes of friendship and making good choices (it’s done so slyly that I promise your children won’t notice, parents). At the same time, it is incredibly entertaining. I found myself laughing aloud at parts.

New characters are introduced, and the reader is treated to a more complete look at old ones. While our three main characters are all wonderful, Ebenezer continues to be my favorite. In Revenge of the Beast, a little more is shown about his past and how the Beast came to be involved in his life. Ebenezer struggles with his newfound less-selfish outlook and watching him grow and develop as he deals with change is a joy.

As with book one, Revenge of the Beast would best be enjoyed by older children (and adults!), although it would be a fun read-aloud for younger kids who like a slightly macabre twist to their books. Think Roald Dahl and you’ve got the general idea.

Plan to run away from the Beast, but toward your favorite bookstore to pick this book up! Better yet, go ahead and pre-order it: I guarantee you’ll love it.

About the Author:

Jack Meggitt-Phillips is an author, scriptwriter, and playwright whose work has been performed at The Roundhouse and featured on Radio 4. He is scriptwriter and presenter of The History of Advertising podcast. In his mind, Jack is an enormously talented ballroom dancer, however his enthusiasm far surpasses his actual talent. Jack lives in north London where he spends most of his time drinking peculiar teas and reading P.G. Wodehouse novels.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Felicity Morrow is back at the 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 finish high school. 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 past. 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 now, 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 has 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 to help her research 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 herself. (Taken from Amazon)

Start with a mystery, throw in a dash of the spooky, and add a bit of romance and you’ve got the premise for A Lesson in Vengeance, a fast and entertaining read. This book is available for purchase now.

The book is told from the point of view of Felicity Morrow, a girl just returning to school after witnessing a horrific accident that resulted in a death the year before. Only Felicity knows something that other people don’t: her girlfriend was murdered, and Felicity knows who did it.

While the premise in and of itself isn’t anything new, the execution is very different. Felicity struggles with both feelings of guilt and embarrassment over her mental illness diagnosis. I could relate a little to the second thing. No one should feel embarrassed about having a mental illness, but I did for many years because of the stigma that comes along with it. Author Victoria Lee has a Ph.D. in psychology, which she put to interesting use here. Felicity was a fascinating character, partly because of her struggles, although I really didn’t like her.

In fact, I didn’t like any of the characters. That didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book at all; if anything, it made me more curious about what secrets each of them was hiding and who they really were underneath their shiny exteriors. There are four other characters that Felicity interacts with, each of them a roommate in her dorm, a dorm that is steeped in legends of murder and witchcraft. Felicity is drawn to these legends and to the supposed magic that comes with them. What role magic plays in this story is a discovery I’ll leave to the reader, so as to avoid spoilers.

While A Lesson in Vengeance was good, there were some things about it that I didn’t love. The pacing felt choppy, with more time spent on developing the plot than seemed necessary, and not enough time spent on the climax. I would have loved for the ending to be stretched out a little more, and it left me feeling a little unsatisfied. I also wonder if the very end of the book was a late addition because it really didn’t fit the tone of the story. Then again, I’m the sort of person who likes endings to be a little less…. finished, so maybe I’m not the best judge here.

A Lesson in Vengeance was a fun read, and would be great paired with a cozy blanket, a stormy night, and a favorite warm drink.