Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood – ARC Review!

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.

I received a copy for the book from the publisher for review and can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Being a huge Jane Eyre fan I was really excited to pick this one up and, although it’s definitely a loose retelling of the original, I was still engrossed in the story and loved the addition of Ethiopian mythology. Andromeda is a debtera, an exorcist who cleanses people and objects of the evil eye. Desperate for a job she accepts the cleansing of a haunted house, something much bigger than she has ever dealt with. When she arrives she quickly realises she is in well over her head, not only with the amount of manifestations the house holds, but also with the sometimes charming, sometimes surly resident Magnus Rochester. The more time Andromeda spends at the house, the deeper she realises the evil eye has a grasp on the boy that is slowly worming his way into her heart. She will have to rely on every bit of her training, and go back to the one person she vowed never to return if she is to make it out of the house alive.

Andromeda was such a fantastic characters, she’s headstrong, handy in a fight and more than a match for Magnus’s strange charms. At the start of the book she is absolutely determined to rid the house of the evil eye, earn her patronage and become a debtera, the only thing she’s ever been good at. But the more time she spends at the house, and with Magnus the more her priorities change, and with it bits of her personality too. If I had one issue with this book it’s that in the second half Andromeda kind of went against parts of her core personality, whereas before she was headstrong and took no shit from Magnus she seemed to constantly strive for his attention, always comparing herself to the other people in her life and thus seeing herself as lesser. This definitely annoyed me as I loved the banter between the two of them, and felt that the romance could have been added without making Andromeda change her personality to ‘fit a mould.’

Fans of Jane Eyre should be warned this is an incredibly loose retelling of the original story, the only real connections are the young girl going to live in the ‘haunted’ house and falling in love with the master, that and his name being Rochester. Other than that the story is wholly unique, and I have to say that I loved the addition of Ethiopian mythology and magic. The magic system was well developed and incredibly easy to follow, it was also creepy af and ensured that I only read this book during daylight hours. I loved reading about all the different manifestations and really enjoyed the scenes where we saw Andromeda using her debtera skills to banish them using charms she creates to fit the specific evil.

Blackwood doesn’t fail to completely draw you into the story, with her well placed plot twists, and enveloping writing style, I never once struggled to place myself in the book alongside the characters, feeling the chill of the haunted house, and the terror when Andromeda came across certain manifestations. There were one or two plot twists that I felt could have been used more effectively, I felt they were pretty big plot points but the author just seemed to brush over them like we should have already known, but the majority were incredibly effective in adding to the fast pace of the plot as well as the overall creepiness.

With this being called a Jane Eyre retelling I was expecting the romance arc and while there were certain bits of it I loved, namely the banter between the two and Andromeda calling him out on his behaviour, I do think it went a little fast. Andromeda talks about her lack of human contact, how she dislikes touch having never been hugged etc, and I would have liked a little more development between the two of them before the romance kicked it. I also felt like it seriously overshadowed the plot in the second half, and would have liked a little more time spent on the magic and haunting of the house. As well there was a second romance arc thrown in towards the end that just completely threw me, added nothing to the plot, and just made zero sense.

Overall I really enjoyed Within These Wicked Walls. It’s fast paced and incredibly creepy, and I loved the addition of Ethiopian mythology. An easy 4/5 stars with just a few things that let it down for me.

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