The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Series: stand alone Rating: 4/5
Date of Publishing: September 10th 2019 Genre: fantasy, portal fantasy
Publisher: Orbit Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Number of pages: 375 Author’s website: https://alixeharrow.wixsite.com/author

Quote of the Book

“Those of you who are more than casually familiar with books – those of you who spend your free afternoons in fusty bookshops, who offer furtive, kindly strokes along the spines of familiar titles – understand that page riffling is an essential element in the process of introducing oneself to a new book. It isn’t about reading the words; it’s about reading the smell, which wafts from the pages in a cloud of dust and wood pulp. It might smell expensive and well bound, or it might smell of tissue-thin paper and blurred two-color prints, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco-smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, of literary weight or unsolved mysteries.”

Blurb

In the summer of 1901, at the age of seven, January Scaller found a Door. You know the kind of door–they lead to Faerie, to Valhalla, to Atlantis, to all the places never found on a map.

Years later, January has forgotten her brief glimpse of Elsewhere. Her life is quiet and lonely but safe on her guardian’s estate, until one day she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds in its pages, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure, and danger. A book that might lead her back to the half-remembered door of her childhood.

But, as January gets answers to questions she never imagined, shadows creep closer. There are truths about the world that should never be revealed.

Personal notes

I’ve got an ARC in exchange of an honest review. Thanks to Orbit and Nazia for sending a beautiful copy my way!

 

Song of the Book

I was pretty sure I had to pick a Poets of the Fall song for this book, because I love their poetical lyrics and atmospheric songs. I think it fits perfectly with the style of The Ten Thousand Doors. Stay seemed to be the best match.

Review

I’ve been utterly hyped to for MONTHS to be able to read The Ten Thousand Doors of January, even before the reviews started to pop up. There was something in the blurb that got to me. Also the beautiful cover, though, to be honest I’m not one for flowery designs. Then finally my time had come and I could finally sit down and give all of my attention to January and her Doors. I can say the hype is real, and while I absolutely enjoyed reading it, somehow it failed to completely enchant me. I’m not quite sure why yet, but I’m hoping to figure it out by the end I finish writing this review.

The story is set in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, in the relative calm between two storms – that is the rebellions of nations for freedom and the first World War (I wish historical background played a significant role in the story). January lives a sheltered life – as much as a young coloured woman can live such a life – in Locke House, under the wings of a wealthy man. With her mother dead and her father being away all the time to do Locke’s bidding by uncovering treasures and interesting artefacts, she is a pretty lonely child. She drives her nursemaids crazy, her best friend is the son of the owner of the grocery shop – and later Sindbad or Bad, the huge dog – and loves books.

“It smelled like adventre itself had been harvested in the wild, distilled to a fine wine, and splashed across each page.”

On the surface she has everything – nice clothes, a roof above her head, a huge house to roam freely in which is filled with artefacts from all over the world like a museum, she has education and she travelled to a lot of places thanks to Mr. Locke’s business trips. But in reality she doesn’t have much besides the postcards sent by his absent father, Bad and the few gifts she finds in a box. She isn’t a slave, but she isn’t part of the society either, no matter what pretty clothes Locke dresses her in. He mostly dismisses her, but shows her around whenever he helds a party as one of his collectibles.

Things start to change when one day January finds a book in her box. A book about ten thousand doors. It tells the story of two starcrossed lovers and January is fascinated by it. Also, the presence of Jane, sent by January’s father to take care of her. They soon become friends and they find companionship in each other. But of course things start to go downhill from there. January has to learn how to stand up to herself and for others, how to come over hardships, what happened to her parents and what the Doors had to do with it.

“Doors, he told her, are change, and change is a dangerous necessity. Doors are revolutions and upheavals, uncertainties and mysteries, axis points around which entire worlds can be turned. They are the beginnings and endings of every true story, the passages between that lead to adventures and madness and – here he smiled – even love. Without doors the worlds would grow stagnant, calcified, storyless.”

At first it took me some time to adjust to the story within the story – when January started to read the book – becuase it felt a bit disjointed I guess, parly thanks to it being written in different POVs. January writes her own story in first person, while we learn about Yule Ian and Ade’s story in third person. About half way into the book we get a revelation, and it got me a bit worried if there will be enough room for a bit more build up to keep up the interest until the end. Fortunately there was still enough things going on for that, but I was left feeling a bit underwhelmed. It’s maybe because most plotlines were pretty predictable in general. Sure, there were a few small surprises here and there – Locke’s history for example – but nothing that left me thinking “Now, I didn’t see that coming.”

Many reviews praised the prose of Alix E. Harrow, and there I have to agree, she really does have a pretty prose and some great ideas. I liked the different worlds, and I’m a bit sad we didn’t get more of them. The focus was more on the characters rather than worldbuilding, however, I still found myself not caring about them too much. Sure, I was rooting for them to find each other or the answers they seeked, but didn’t feel as involved as I would have liked. I think the balance was a bit off between the love story, the Doors and January’s journey.

“Once we have agreed that true love exists, we may consider its nature. It is not, as many misguided poets would have you believe, an event in and of itself; it is not something that happens, but something that simply is and always has been. One does not fall in love; one discovers it.”

Even though I didn’t fell in love as much with The Ten Thousand Doors, I still recommend it for those who are looking for a heartwarming story about love, about never giving up and taking your life into your own hands. Harrow’s debut novel is absolutely worths the attention and I’m pretty sure she’ll be opening many Doors in the literary world in the coming years.

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