The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Publication date: 12 September 2019
Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
I rarely have difficulty reviewing book, regardless of how much I love or dislike it. However, The Ten Thousand Doors of January has me stumped and speechless! I’m not sure that I’ll be able to capture how fantastic this debut novel is, but I’ll do my best.
EVERY STORY OPENS A DOOR
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place.
But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
I think what makes this book stand out, and why it is ultimately so difficult for me to review, is the feeling it gave me. Do me a favour and take a minute to think of your favourite book as a child – the one you used to curl up with under the duvet with a flashlight in hand, the one that you read over and over until your mum had to tape it back together for you. That feeling that you get when you think about that favourite book and the memories associated with it is exactly what I felt the entire time I read The Ten Thousand Doors of January. Harrow manages to create a story that feels so unique and fresh while reminding the reader of exactly why books are an amazing escape. Simply put, it’s a book that captures the wonder of stories and magic of words.
There are two sort of storylines that we follow in this book, and both centre on January. First is her own story –she’s reflecting back on her life from the day she discovered a doorway to a new world at the age of seven. This takes place in our own world, but not in our modern time – January lives in early 20th century America. Much of her experience is tied up in the society of the time. January is a mixed-race woman who is the ward of her father’s employer. Being the ward of Mr. Locke puts her in an unusual position – she has the privileges that wealth and social standing give, however she’s not only a girl but a girl with dark skin. The loneliness of her life drives many of her actions and reactions in the story. Our second storyline is in the book that we read alongside January, The Ten Thousand Doors. The author’s voice is just fantastic and adds another level to the fantasy narrative, particularly as they are not from our own world but a world beyond one of the doorways January discovers. The way these two stories blend thorugh January’s experience is just fantastic and so cleverly done.
January is such a wonderful character, not only because she’s so well-written and has a strong voice, but because I truly I think most readers will be able to relate to her in some way. She feels like a character ripped from my favourite childhood tales of adventurous girls, however she still feels like someone I’ve never read about before. I don’t want to say too much here because her character arc is one of the best things about this book, but I really appreciated her personality, her experiences, and the story that she has to tell.
I suspect that The Ten Thousand Doors of January will be on many people’s Best Books of 2019 lists, mine included. A spectacular novel that is a love letter to the written word, The Ten Thousand Doors of January will sweep you away on a fantastic adventure – it is sheer perfection and every book lover must give it a try.
CW: racism, animal harm (message me about this one for more)
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