Published: September 10, 2019
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
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.
Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.
Hands down, The Ten Thousand Doors of January has been one of the most anticipated debut fantasy novels of 2019 and for good reason. It’s a beautiful portal fantasy set in the early 20th century that has certainly lived up to the hype – lovely both inside and out.
January Scaller doesn’t quite fit in anywhere in society – people are unsure of her race, her place in society, and even her guardian can’t seem to figure out what to do with a child. Her father is abroad more often than not searching out unique treasures for his employer (and January’s guardian) Mr. Locke while January is left in the manor that’s full of treasure and devoid of human companionship. January and her father grow more distant throughout the years as he misses birthday and holidays and eventually the postcards stop and he’s assumed dead. January, aware of the portals that exist and having come into possession of a certain book telling the story of a boy from another world named Yule Ian Scholar and a Missouri girl named Ade, she doesn’t believe he’s dead. A series of events leads her to flee Mr. Locke with her dog with the idea of finding out whether or not her father was dead and possibly foiling a plot to destroy the doors between worlds.
This was such an interesting book, though it only had a bare touch of adventure. January herself is fairly reserved, after having molded herself to appear a proper lady to appease Mr. Locke. She just sort of exists and shows up to society events, though when her father sends a striking warrior woman named Jane to be her companion she begins to show a little more of the sprightliness she showed as a child. It was delightful to see her grow and embrace her hidden bravery as she faced struggles both mundane and otherwise. I do wish that we got to explore more of the doors more thoroughly as most were the merest intriguing description of icy worlds, jungle worlds etc.
Overall, The Ten Thousand Doors of January was a magical (though not overly so) story that I certainly enjoyed, though not as vehemently as the majority of the reviews I’ve read thus far. It was interesting, though not particularly thrilling up until the latter third of the book and then things got quite intense rather suddenly. I feel that this book is only a step above magical realism in terms of the fantastical elements included. So much of it is mundane (not in a bad way) and the magic is not as in your face as in many other fantasy books. Yes, there are doors to other worlds, but those who enter and exit aren’t all that fantastical – at least during the time the story is set. There are mentions of magical artifacts that were brought through to be used by those in January’s world and how people of the doorways can have interesting powers but it’s still pretty low key. This isn’t a smash em bash em fantasy where flames and lightning are being hurled, but one where people can be swayed by someone’s willpower and words can be shaped into new meanings. This was a lovely book with a bit of romance, a bit of adventure, and also ended up being somewhat of a coming of age tale as well.