I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
Published by St. Martin's Publishing Group on October 19, 2021
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Diversity & Multicultural, Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy / Historical, Young Adult Fiction / Horror
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"An intricate magic system, a grimly humorous Black heroine, AND a heart-thumping romance? This book leaves nothing wanting." - Jordan Ifueko, New York Times bestselling author of Raybearer
Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. She would be hired, that is, if her mentor hadn’t thrown her out before she could earn her license. Now her only hope of steady work is to find a Patron—a rich, well-connected individual who will vouch for her abilities.
When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rorschach reaches out to hire her, she takes the job without question. Never mind that he’s rude and demanding and eccentric, that the contract comes with a number of outlandish rules... and that almost a dozen debtera had quit before her. If Andromeda wants to earn a living, she has no choice.
But she 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, the reason every debtera before her quit. But leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option because—heaven help her—she’s fallen for him.
Stunningly romantic, Lauren Blackwood's heartstopping debut, Within These Wicked Walls, ushers in an exciting new fantasy voice.
"Fierce, eerie and heartfelt... a romantic and spine-chilling reimagining of a classic. I loved every creepy, swoon-worthy moment of it." - Laura E. Weymouth, author of The Light Between Worlds
If you checked out my post Friday Night Highlights: A Haunted House and an Unlicensed Exorcist, then you know I was reading pretty fast through Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood. It is a debut novel with Jane Eyre vibes set in a haunted mansion in the Ethiopian desert.
If you are here to find out if this book is scary. The answer is yes. Them walls was a bleedin’! Andromeda’s first night in that place had me tensed up like a ball in my bed with my eyes super wide. If it wasn’t the middle of the night (because I’m a mom and that’s when I read) I would’ve been hollering at my e-reader screen for her to get out.
The house is legit under the control of the Evil Eye as the book says. Each room has a different flavor of horror and haunting. Everything is super cold too, despite being in the middle of the desert. The house was big scary. No lies told here.
Jane Eyre Connections
I like retellings because I like to read books that take something familiar and put a new twist on it. I think that Within These Wicked Walls does that. Some readers want a story that really only changes the names of the characters (or doesn’t) and updates the setting and time period a modern and a contemporary one. I think that is kind of boring, but to each their own. I prefer retellings/remaginings that use the original tale as flavor or framework for a new one. Some of the major elements carried over from Jane Eyre are: the isolation, tough heroine, romance with Rochester.
One of my favorite components of the book are the relationships between the main characters. Magnus and Andromeda have a cute banter and budding romance. By the way, that boy is useless and adorable at the same time. He is a spoiled rich kid, but he doesn’t act like it because, you know, he is cursed by the Evil Eye. So that puts some humble in your step.
I also loved the development of the relationship between Jember and Andromeda. I’m glad it became more than what it started as in the beginning. Trigger Warning: Jember is abusive to Andromeda as a child in the name of discipline and survival. His idea of teaching her to be a survivalist is not for kids.
Andromeda has been taught how to survive since she was 5 years old. She has learned that optimism is the key for her coping and surviving. She is a strong heroine, but not afraid to ask for help. Magnus and Jember also have their own methods for survival. Although if you mess with Jember and his survival technique you might not walk away from it.
More Details on the Setting Wanted
I wanted to learn more about the setting. Traditional Ethiopian food and dress are included and I loved it. I just wanted more details on the the environment outside of Magnus’s house. The book has two main settings, one is Magnus’s mansion and the other is desert and the city/town that Andromeda is from. Other than the church and Jember’s place, you really don’t get any sense of being in someplace specific.
HAVE A SIP OF COCOA ☕…
I came for… I’m going to be honest…it was the cover. I love it!
I stayed for…. Andromeda kicking butt as a debtera that doesn’t quit!
Hot Cocoa Moments: That first night in the house had me hooked.
Would I Read it Again: Yes, it was a solid debut novel!
Educator Recommendations: This is a great book to discuss retellings and storytelling with students. You could do a paired read with Jane Eyre or just have them read the synopsis of Jane Eyre before reading Within These Wicked Walls. After reading, a great writing exercise would be for students to choose a book that is commonly taught in schools and write a pitch for a retelling that they would be interested in reading.