Title: The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Release Date: September 10th, 2019
*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes in this review are subject to change in the final copy.
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.
Then she finds 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 turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
“Worlds were never meant to be prisons, locked and suffocating and safe. Worlds were supposed to be great rambling houses with all the windows thrown open and the wind and summer rain rushing though them, with magic passages in their closets and secret treasure chests in their attics.”
This book is a gorgeously written, slow-moving fantasy novel with magic in every word. The unique premise yielded one of the most original stories I’ve ever read.
Overview: January Scaller is a young girl living as a ward of the wealthy and powerful Mr. Locke, while her biological father travels the world in search of rare artifacts for Mr. Locke’s collection. Though she is spirited and adventurous, she tames her behavior to fit into the good girl mold that is expected of a young lady in the early 20th century. But when a mysterious book comes into January’s possession, she begins to learn more about herself, her family, the doors between worlds, and the people who wish to close them forever.
The Writing: I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is some of the best writing I have ever seen in my entire life. The prose is phenomenal, as if the author went through every sentence with a fine-toothed comb and made them as beautiful and polished as possible. The descriptions, the analogies… every word is lush, enchanting, and immersive. I also love how the author emphasizes the letters themselves, giving meaning to the shape of language.
“When I was seven, I found a Door. There – look how tall and proud the word stands on the page now, the belly of that D like a black archway leading into white nothing. When you see that word, I imagine a little prickle of familiarity makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”
The Plot: This a very quiet, slow-moving fantasy novel. There is little action in this book, but it will make your heart pound in other ways. A great deal of the plot is made up of stories that seamlessly blend into the narrative. There are no epic battles or sword fights, but the story is dazzling and elegant in its own soft way.
➽ January: A mixed-race girl who was raised in a world of wealth and privilege that she never quite fits into. She tries her best to mold herself into the good girl that she is expected to be, only to discover that she is living in a different kind of prison. After discovering a Door to another world at a young age but keeping the knowledge locked inside for years, January embraces her own magic, growing into someone brave and adventurous and not afraid to stand up to anyone who gets in her way.
➽ Julian: January’s nearly-absent father, who isn’t perfect but loves his daughter and wants nothing more than to reunite his family.
➽ Mr. Locke: A man of high standing who has taken January under his wing while sending Julian on expeditions to find rare artifacts to add to Locke’s endless collection. He is apart of a mysterious group called the Society, who January begins to suspect might have a darker purpose than simply collecting rare artifacts.
➽ Jane: A brave, Amazonian woman who is sent to protect January and eventually grows to deeply care for her.
➽ Samuel: A spirited, adventurous childhood friend of January’s who harbors feelings for her.
➽ Sindbad (Bad): A fiercely loyal dog who is gifted to January as a puppy and never leaves her side.
The Ending: The end of this book packs an emotional punch. It’s joyous, hopeful, and heartbreaking, and ties the story together in a perfect little bow. I may or may not have cried like a baby.
“It’s a profoundly strange feeling, to stumble across someone whose desires are shaped so closely to your own, like reaching toward your reflection in a mirror and finding warm flesh under your fingertips. If you should ever be lucky enough to find that magical, fearful symmetry, I hope you’re brave enough to grab it with both hands and not let go.”
If you’re looking for a fast-paced story or an epic fantasy, this book may disappoint you. But if you’re in the mood for a quiet portal fantasy with a literary feel, there’s a good chance you will love this book. I would recommend it to fans of The Night Circus and The Bear and the Nightingale.