Review: “Within These Walls” by Ania Ahlborn

Posted: March 7, 2016 in Novel, Review, Scary Stuff
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“Within These Walls” by Ania Ahlborn

I’m honestly surprised I haven’t heard of Ania Ahlborn before. I got a recommendation from Audible a couple of months ago to try one of her books, and I ended up getting the paperback version after I finished A Storm of Swords. I’m glad I did, because Within These Walls is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read, on par with the likes of Stephen King.

Within These Walls follows Lucas Graham, a true-crime writer whose career has reached its peak and has since spiraled down into the dust. He gets a letter in the mail from Jeffrey Halcomb, an incarcerated cult leader whose followers killed themselves back in the 1980’s, offering to give Graham his previously-unheard story if Graham promises to live in the house that Halcomb’s followers killed themselves in. With his marriage on the rocks and no other options, Graham and his teenage daughter pack up and head out to the house in Washington, where they find that Halcomb’s promises to his followers of eternal life might be more than just talk.

It’s going to be hard to summarize all that I loved about this book, but I will try. First, it’s hard to put down. The story twists and turns, making you guess where Ahlborn is taking her book every moment. I also liked how she could capture the voices of each of her different POV characters. Lucas comes across as both desperate and obsessed, consumed by the promise of Halcomb’s story and what it could do for his life. Flashbacks told through the eyes of Audra Snow, one of Halcomb’s followrs, really break your heart as you see her fall under Halcomb’s spell. But best of all are the chapters told through the eyes of Jeanie, Graham’s teenage daughter. Teenage logic and thought processes are contradictory, ruled by emotional swings, and not always bound by the rules of the real world, and Ahlborn captures that so well with Jeanie. It actually taught me a couple of things about writing for that age group, something I’ll hopefully keep with me in future stories.

But really, the best part is the scares. Every scare is perfectly done, like something out of a horror movie. In fact, this would be a great movie. Why isn’t this a movie yet? From the initial move-in to the house, to the powerful, climactic end, every spooky scare will chill you and make you worry for the characters and for your sleep. It’s just wonderful.

The one problem I had was that I would’ve liked Graham to maybe investigate some of the house’s history as well as Jeffrey Halcomb and his followers. There’s documents in between a few chapters that go over the house’s history, among other things, but I think it would’ve been interesting if Graham had read some of those and had been affected by them. But it’s a small point, so whatever. I still enjoyed the book.

All in all, Within These Walls a 4.8 out of 5. It’s scary, it’s exciting right till the end, and I will definitely be checking out Ahlborn’s work in the future. If you like a good horror novel, this might be the one for you.

Oh by the way, after I finished this book, I watched a movie over dinner called The Veil about a cult with strange, supernatural happenings, which I only found out after I started watching it. And both the book and the movie were probably inspired by Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre, which I read up on this afternoon after I heard the new Outlast horror game was inspired by the happenings at Jonestown. That’s like four Jonestown-related things in one day. I seriously hope that’s a coincidence and not God giving me a sign for what I should do with the rest of my life.

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