by Lauren Blackwood
Publication: October 19, 2021
**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Some books take a few pages for me to settle into and then some books immediately pull me in from the first line. Within These Wicked Walls is very much the latter. Hooked by the descriptive writing, I had to keep reading even though I only intended to take a quick peek at what I was getting myself into. Blackwood’s writing is evocative but the too quickly formed relationships hindered my overall enjoyment of the novel.
Andromeda, or Andi for short, arrives at the Rochester household to rid the house of its curse. Upon her arrival, she can already feel the strength of the manifestations. The house is vastly colder than it should be, and her amulet hums at the immense amount of paranormal activity. Although she learned from one of the most famous debterras and has the necessary experience, Andi has her work cut out for her but is determined to finish it. She also doesn’t have the luxury to give up the job even if she wanted to.
First and foremost, I tend to run away screaming from anything scary, so please understand that my threshold for what is creepy is very low. Blackwood successfully creates an atmospheric read with its gothic tones and just the right amount of creepiness to make my skin crawl, even forcing a few glances behind me from time to time. Thankfully, it was not enough of a deterrent for my curiosity at what might happen next. It also helped immensely that I was reading it during the day. (I know, I know. Total wuss because the book isn’t actually very scary at all. Hahaha…)
While the writing is effective in setting the mood and tone of the novel, the romance was off-putting. It felt more like a product of the book being a retelling rather than organic to the particular story told here. It also happened too quickly for my liking, lacking the development I usually look forward to in books with romances. Andi arrives at the house and suddenly Andi starts feeling things she doesn’t normally feel. Of course, this might also be a product of me being more invested in what Andi is supposed to do at the house, which is far more interesting. On its own, if I could assess the romance separately from the rest of the book, there is a lot to like about it, especially the playful banter. I like Andi’s honesty and how she is more than willing to call Magnus out for his behavior. It’s also part of what draws him to her. However, taking into consideration the whole picture and how the romance suddenly manifests itself, it isn’t exactly welcomed even though I’m a hopeless romantic. It’s difficult to ignore how it interrupts the flow of the book at times. I understand the romance is meant to be a driving force for Andi’s decisions, but I can’t help feeling that something more subtle could have been as or maybe more effective. Another possibility would be to have no romance at all, which may have been preferable. Much more interesting is Andi’s relationship with her mentor. I would have preferred more interaction between them and an exploration of their tumultuous relationship, although I liked what I did get of it, even if somewhat predictable.
Within These Wicked Walls is a good read, well-paced with a protagonist I liked and both mood and tone set well, but is somewhat hindered by a romance that feels all too sudden and even unnecessary (even though I liked it on its own). Pick up the book if you like unique retellings of classics and if gothic tales are a favorite. If you’ve never read Jane Eyre just like I haven’t, although I’ve skimmed a few of the movie adaptations, it won’t detract from enjoying the novel.