Friday, February 23, 2024

Bleed on the Page with S.T. Gibson’s An Education in Malice

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S.T. Gibson’s An Education in Malice continues her run of beautifully transforming classic vampire literature. This novel goes a step further than A Dowry of Blood—taking Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla into the 1960’s. Reading the original work is not required, but there are many easter eggs if you know what to look for. Reading A Dowry of Blood is also not required. If you have, you can look forward to seeing a familiar face. Otherwise, just be ready for a blood-soaked, poetry-filled, sapphic love story.

Laura and Carmilla are both students in an exclusive poetry workshop taught by De Lafontaine. Their professor is mercurial, strict, and treats the boundary between teacher and student as a dotted line. She also has a favorite: Carmilla. That is, until Laura starts stealing some of her attention. This begins a rivalry between the two students. A rivalry that, much like Carmilla’s relationship with De Lafontaine, is ripe with sexual tension.

An Education in Malice cover
An Education in Malice cover

This book goes far past tension. It is explicit. Spicy, if you want to be colloquial about it. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll enjoy where this book goes. If you’re hesitant, check the list here. S.T. Gibson is also active on instagram if you want to do more research on what to expect. Similar to her writing style in general, these scenes are not crass. They don’t feel out of place or shoehorned in. Like the poetry this book focuses on, they are explorations of love, sensation, and life. And yes, okay, they’re hot. 

An Education in Malice also follows in the tradition of dark academia. It has an elite class, a charismatic teacher, academic rivalry. There’s the pursuit of hidden knowledge; under cover of night. There’s even a dedicated area of study. The Secret History has Greek, If We Were Villains has Shakespeare, and An Education in Malice has poetry. And like its predecessors, it made me want to suddenly dive in. To me, even more than the vibes, that is what I look for in dark academia. I want to feel that pull, that passion.

And of course, what greater pull and passion is there than the one between a vampire and the pulse of a blood-filled vein? Only, perhaps, the complicated relationship between the vampire and their sire. That knife cuts both ways. Much like professor and student, there is a responsibility on the sire to guide their creation into the world. Similarly, there is a trust and fealty from the new vampire to their maker. Dark academic vampires just make sense. An Education in Malice delights in exploring and exploiting these power dynamics.

There is also an element to vampirism that speaks to those on the fringes. During one particularly memorable scene, the reader and our budding couple are introduced to vampire society. Here they can do what they want, with who they want. It doesn’t matter that they are both women. They can be themselves. And it is a revelation. Not only do these characters get to explore, they are encouraged. They are seen and accepted. It’s a fantasy—even without the blood. 

An Education in Malice releases February 13, 2023 from Redhook. A Dowry of Blood is already available if you want to sink your teeth in before then. I talk a little more about it here.

Photo courtesy of publisher.

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