Review: Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

What the heart desires, the house destroys…

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.

Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

Title: Within These Wicked Walls | Author: Lauren Blackwood | Publisher: Wednesday Books | Pub Date: 19/10/2021 | Pages: 336 | ISBN13: 978-1250787101 | Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy/Horror | Language: English | Source: NetGalley | Starred Review

Within These Wicked Walls Review

I love Jane Eyre, so the idea of an African retelling appealed to me. Of course, when a book’s billed as a retelling, you expect some of the core elements of the original to be present, so it’s no surprise Within These Wicked Walls features a young woman who’s essentially orphaned and destitute who takes on an impossible job working for an eccentric rich man. And it’s no surprise they fall in love.

For my part, I found the concept of the debterra and the spooky elements to be incredibly compelling. The magic system was intriguing and there were enough twists and turns along the way to keep me engaged. I tore through this book and enjoyed it all. There was plenty of evocative description throughout, that made you feel the grit of sand in your clothes and see the shadows and blood throughout the cursed house. 

I’m sure some readers might not enjoy the speed at which the romance develops. Desperate times prompt strong feelings, but that may not be enough for some people to embrace the idea of the protagonists as a genuine couple. 

One thing that really appealed to me was how the author handled the conflict between Andromeda and her female rival. To avoid spoilers, all I’ll say is that it was a refreshing twist and shows you don’t have to take conflict in predictable directions to add tension to a story. 

There’s a healthy dose of horror here mixed with paranormal fantasy and romance, and the characters are developed in a compelling way. They aren’t cutouts and distinguish themselves from others with their choices and convictions. 

Blackwood isn’t afraid to delve into some tough topics and the relationship between Andromeda and her adoptive father, Jember, is as compelling as her relationship with Magnus. It’s also worth noting that Andromeda’s at an age when it’s common to question your parents, and she’s assessing the beliefs she’s been raised with while coping with a near-impossible task. The conflict between her and Jember adds depth to her character and shows Blackwood’s skill building different types of relationships and character interactions. 

There’s a lot here to like and people who love gothic horror with romance will want to check this one out. 

This review first appeared at Sci Fi & Scary

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