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.
I’ve been looking forward to this one since the deal announcement. I mean, a sapphic dark academia with magic around the edges was basically all I needed to know to be incredibly intrigued. Plus, the hype around this book has only continued to build online, so I couldn’t wait to see what I would think of it. Trigger warnings
This book deserves every single drop of praise it has been given and more. It is sharply dark, and something with claws, ones that dig deep enough to draw blood.
I want to start off with the writing, because I am still sitting here in awe. Lee knows how to write. She SERIOUSLY knows how to write. The opening passage is still leaving lingering chills in me. The emotion she is able to evoke through her words is so incredibly strong, and the way she is able to weave words together is downright genius. Just, dang, this book is so incredibly well written and I want to scream that over and over because it truly is that good.
This book is also incredibly smart. It knows what it’s doing, but what it is doing is only revealed in drips and drops, hitting the reader in key points to make the maximum impact. It’s a mystery, it’s a thriller, it’s a ghost story, it’s a story about the effects of mental health, it’s the story of girls obsessed with witches and the occult and the dark path that leads them. It is many, many things, and it is able to weave it’s message throughout the entire book until it hits you smack in the chest as the last line comes about (Oh my gosh, that last line. That last line had me sitting up and my jaw dropping open and just awe rushing over me.).
I feel a bit weird about the characters. It’s not that I didn’t like them, I did, but I didn’t fall in love with them. And I think that’s alright. It doesn’t make my love for the book any less, and I think because I didn’t love them, I loved the book even more. They’re finicky, and hurting, and simply human. And I think that is what makes them even better characters.
I will admit, I was expecting this book to take on more of a magical side than it did. Oh, it is certainly seeped in magic and the occult and witches make their appearance. But it is also firmly rooted in the real world. I can’t say much because of spoilers, I’ll just say I was expecting this book to take a very different route at the ending than it did. The ending that it did do was amazing, and it’s terrifyingly horrifying, I was just expecting something different.
All in all, this book is GOOD. It is everything it promises it will be and more. The writing is beyond spectacular; it’s going to leave you thinking about long after you finish. This book a thorn that pulls blood from the pad of a thumb, and the singe of burning water spilled over flesh. It’s got a magic edge, and it’s got a sharp edge. And I really, really liked it.