I’ve never read Jane Eyre before, but the moment I stumbled across Within These Wicked Walls, I knew I had to read it. This is a YA historical fantasy retelling of the famous novel set in Ethiopia. It’s fascinating, atmospheric and everything that I could hope for. But even I noticed that aside from a name and a fire, there wasn’t very much of Jane Eyre in it.
Within These Wicked Walls follows Andromeda, a debtera – or exorcist – who creates amulets to rid people of the Evil Eye. Her mentor had kicked her out so now she’s on the look for a patron, and Magnus Rochester is the only one who’s offering. His house is cursed and more dangerous than she expected, but as they slowly fall in love, she knows she would do anything to free him.
So, I don’t know much about Jane Eyre or Ethiopian culture, so I can’t really comment on how well either of those things are done. I’ve seen plenty of black readers celebrating this book, so that’s enough to suggest that the cultural rep is good at least. As I said, to me, it didn’t really feel Jane Eyre like and I’ve seen other reviews from people who have read the original say the same. Yet, this is still an interesting tale. It’s just not what you might expect if you’re looking for a retelling.
Andromeda is a very resilient character. She tries to stay optimistic and she tries to love even people who are cruel to her. It’s sweet that she’s managed to keep that side of her, even when living on the streets. Yet, it’s still a little sad too. Her father figure is pretty abusive and there are trigger warnings on the matter, yet she still loves him. I get why. It’s not like we choose to care for those who hurt us, and in the end he does try to be there for her. It just wasn’t enough. I’m not going to get angry that Andi felt that way though, as this mentor was the only person she had for years. She has good memories as well as bad, and sometimes we can’t help but remember the good. Even as we’re still angry about the bad.
The love interest was Magnus. I’ve seen a few people say they weren’t a fan of him and I do get why. He’s a very emotionally volatile character and some of his actions are not great. But what is good is that he does own up to his mistakes. He’s selfish, but that’s just how he was raised. He is trying and he does listen…eventually. He actually reminded me a little of one of my current favourite characters. Loves music, can be rather childish and big with his emotions. Yet under that he’s somewhat broken and sometimes that can cause him to lash out. I was pretty fond of Magnus, even if I didn’t always agree with his actions, and I think that’s why.
The romance wasn’t too special. It definitely had it’s cute moments and some good banter. But I didn’t find myself rooting for them all that hard. I feel like in the time we had with them, we didn’t really see enough growth. Like, they were both clearly willing to make changes, but the romance did feel a little rushed. The closer I got to the end of the book, some of their interactions did start to make me roll my eyes a little. I did appreciate them by the end though.
I think the best part of this book was definitely the atmosphere. This book was creepy and dark. I loved seeing the worldbuilding with the amulets and the Evil Eye, but I definitely did not want to be in that castle. Blackwood did an excellent job with setting and mood in here. Though it wasn’t Jane Eyre, it was definitely gothic in the most delightful way.
If you’re looking for something romantic and creepy this November, you won’t be able to go wrong with this book.
Title: Within These Wicked Walls
Author: Lauren Blackwood
Age Range: Young Adult
Publisher: St Martins Press
Release Date: 23/11/21