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“Love is sacrifice, Professor. Whether it’s you on the butcher’s table or not, someone always bleeds.”

An Education in Malice In An Education in Malice, S.T Gibson takes the sapphic undertones in Carmilla and cranks them up to eleven to deliver another lush, intoxicating, haunting, and dangerously seductive queer take on a vampire classic to sink your teeth into.

An Education in Malice returns us to the darkly alluring world of A Dowry of Blood, albeit hundreds of years later. Set at a secluded Christian girls school deep in the hills of Massachusetts, this story tells the tale of the academic rivals Laura and Carmilla. Fighting for the attention and love of their demanding yet matronly poetry professor, they soon find themselves begrudgingly growing closer as they become entangled in a toxic and sinister game of deadly politics, strange hungers, and bloodthirsty obsession.

Now, An Education in Malice has left me in a bit of a pickle. On the one hand, I absolutely devoured it (or maybe it devoured me?). Gibson’s lyrical and mesmerising prose had me in a trance, and I just adored the lush, sensual, and seductive atmosphere. The hauntingly gothic settings, the sapphic yearning, the dangerous sexual tension, the insatiable vampiric lust, the heightened toxic emotions, and the steamy passion (hello dom kink!); the intensity of this story simply cannot be overstated. The vibes are vibing, and they vibe so good!

Yet on the other hand, this story falls completely apart the second I turn my critical brain on. The character work is quite shallow (especially for the side characters), the rivals-to-lovers romance develops way too quickly, and the dark academia/school elements mostly feel like some nice atmospheric window dressing and a cheap trick to amplify the air of intrigue, pretentiousness and toxicity present in the story. On top of that, there is also an attempt at a murder mystery plot line which just completely lacks any suspense, resulting in a rather anticlimactic ending to the story.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to the fact that An Education in Malice just tried to do a bit too much. I personally think this would have worked superbly as a ‘no plot, just vibes’ book, just like A Dowry of Blood was. The inner turmoil and tense interpersonal drama between these characters could have carried the story so well, so I truly feel like there wasn’t any need for an external source of tension.

But with all that said, there is simply no denying that I had a blast reading An Education in Malice. Somehow, Gibson managed to make me turn that critical brain off, allowing me to just enjoy the story for what it was. I honestly loved the messiness of it all, and there are also some hard-hitting themes of obsession, codependency, gaslighting, abuse, and toxic relationships that gave this story some much-needed depth. So often when themes like these are tackled, it’s men who get painted in a bad light, but I appreciated how this story showcased how women can be just as predatory, toxic, and dangerous when power dynamics are imbalanced and consent gets messy.

In the end, I think it is just going to depend on your expectations and reading tastes whether you are going to enjoy An Education in Malice. To me, this story honestly feels like an unapologetically messy and surprisingly steamy sapphic romantasy disguised behind some delectable literary prose and an utterly intoxicating gothic atmosphere. And you know what, my trashy queer heart was not mad about it!

Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown Book Group UK for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. An Education in Malice is scheduled for release on February 13, 2024. 

An Education in Malice

An Education in Malice

An Education in Malice

An Education in Malice

An Education in Malice

An Education in Malice

An Education in Malice

An Education in Malice

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

2 Comments

  • Kristin says:

    “An unapologetically messy and surprisingly steamy sapphic romantasy disguised behind some delectable literary prose and an utterly intoxicating gothic atmosphere” That’s exactly what I want from this!! Amazing review as always!

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