Within These Wicked Walls

Author: Lauren Blackwood

My rating: 3.2 stars

Exorcising a haunted house with minor Jane Eyre vibes.

Andromeda (Andi) is an unlicensed curse breaker. She creates amulets that fight and cleanse places infested and cursed by the Evil Eye. When she’s hired by a rich reclusive to cleanse his extremely cursed castle, Andi jumps at the opportunity for a patronage, despite the near impossibility of the task.

Within These Wicked Walls: A Novel by [Lauren Blackwood]

This was meant to be a Jane Eyre retelling, but aside from the male protagonist sharing the name Magnus Rochester, this book felt too different and distinct to make such a claim. There were some small familiar moments, especially towards the beginning, but this book quickly veered off the path.

Andi (alternate Jane) is nineteen years old and Rochester is about the same age. There were several awkward first romance moments that’s common in YA books. Magnus had a rough personality, as he had in Jane Eyre, but here it was mixed with youthful awkwardness, shyness, and some other social issues. Sometimes he carried the original Rochester’s tough personality, but at other & more often moments, he switched into a soft socially awkward teen. I found that off-putting. The romance didn’t speak to me at all, and I skimmed through all the painfully awkward moments. There were way too many times where the couple overanalyzed and over enunciated their feelings and it kept putting me off.

While I found the romance to be too awkward, shallow, and very YA, I enjoyed the dark fantasy parts a whole lot more. The castle Andi was hired to cleanse was severely cursed. This manifested in numerous ways the castle tried to kill Andi and its other inhabitants, from dark monsters and flying murderous books to possessed servants. Andi’s complicated relationship with her old mentor was another intriguing subplot. That relationship was significantly more complex and better developed than the insipid romance. Their mentor-mentee relationship comprised of a rough mix of years of hatred and violence and abuse mixed with the mutual concern they felt for each other. It was deep and complex and twisted, and so I loved it.

This was also supposed to have an Ethiopian related cultural setting, but aside from an oblique reference or two towards the beginning, this book could’ve been set anywhere in the world, in any culture. If anything, it felt pretty much the same as any western based fantasy book setting. Yes, there happened to be a desert with sand in it. Wow, that really makes it feel African and Ethiopian, right?

I gave this three stars because it had a mix of great and awful parts. The writing flowed nice and smoothly. I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if Andi and Magnus’ relationship had felt more mature than two teens with an insta love.

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