“The Ten Thousand Doors Of January,” by Alix E. Harrow, was another novel that intrigued me by its gorgeous cover. I knew little about the book’s contents, but my favorite indie bookstore, Old Town Books in Alexandria, Virginia, was hosting a “Ten Thousand Doors” meet-up so I purchased the Kindle version in hopes of partaking. (Turns out, it was an in-person assembly without a virtual option, so I did not attend. This was more or less an effort to see how book clubs were run, aside from my own; A pandemic-friendly attempt at research.)
With an anticipated deadline at my heels though, I dove into the novel- or should I say- wandered through a door of incredible wonders, one that left me breathless until the very last line. I felt like Alice, tumbling down a rabbit hole of sorts, although January’s tunnel felt a tad more dangerous with much more at stake.
January Scaller grew up in a large house with fine embellishments and extremely rare, valuable antiques and artifacts of a different time. She lived with her caretaker, the wealthy Cornelius Locke, who was also her father’s employer: Julian was an avid collector and traveled on most days of each year, leaving January alone. Things never felt quite right, despite her comfortability: She felt different, not like any other human she met at Locke’s society parties or guided travels, and she often felt tinges of abandonment, a sense of longing for something else out there.
January did, however, possess a lively imagination, and it served her well inside the walls of her large yet lackluster abode. One day, she came across a magic journal, hidden among the relics that her father left behind. There, January learned that she possessed some magic herself.
The book takes its readers on a journey through many doors: We tumble out of them, we stumble into them, we tiptoe and run alongside January, Jane, Samuel, and Bad as secrets of the past are discovered, the present is understood, and the future is restored.
Final Score: 4.1 “Ten Thousand Doors” is enchanting, the most beautiful tribute to the way that stories transport and transform. It encompassed adventure, love, longing, mystery, and dramatics- At the book’s end, I was left to appreciate all that Alix E. Harrow crafted, marveling at the fact that this was a debut novel.
In addition to its dynamic plot structure, its well-crafted characters, I was floored by the writer’s ability to use a stream of consciousness to celebrate the written word. Letters of the alphabet were examined, praised or humbled. Glorious, whimsical sentences were constructed to ensure that each paragraph popped off the page with extreme vibrancy. As a writer and avid reader, I was consistency in awe with such thoughtful prose.
“When I was seven, I found a door. I suspect I should capitalize that word, so you understand I’m not talking about your garden- or common variety door that leads reliably to a white-tiled kitchen or bedroom closet. When I was seven, I found a Door. There- look have tall and proud the words stands on the page now, the belly of that D like a black archway leading into white nothing.” –“The Ten- Thousand Doors Of January
BEST FOR: Literary lovers will especially appreciate this book: It’s 385 pages of lyrical bliss. I am not well-versed in fantasy novels but I think that it was something fresh, paying tribute to those who use stories to escape and be found, all at once.
“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.” –“The Ten- Thousand Doors Of January
To you, fellow reader: “The Ten Thousand Doors Of January” is a nod to you.
NOT GOOD FOR: Those who don’t enjoy fantastical novels. The content is quite dreamy, requires an imagination much like January’s. And the writer creates beautiful sentences, but her style is a bit quirky. Although this book is highly rated on Goodreads, some single- or double-star raters mentioned that the writing was just too flowery, the “portal travel” synopsis took too long to unfold and then dragged, due to its intricate depictions. For me, though, I enjoyed the unique style and reading the book on a Kindle allowed me to highlight sentences that really dazzled me. (I think at one point I clapped at a line, so exquisitely written.) I still may buy the book for the cover: The artwork, like the novel, is a display of ornate elegance and is certainly one that belongs on bookshelves, everywhere.
IF THIS BOOK/ AUTHOR WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STEREOTYPE: January would be the Class Historian, since she has the ability to move back and forth through time as she pleases.
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