ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 384 pages
Published: September 12th, 2019 by Orbit (UK) & September 10th, 2019 by Redhook (US)
Gorgeous and magical; it’s not a stretch to call The Ten Thousand Doors of January a magnificent physical manifestation of a grimoire.
Orbit did it again. The Ten Thousand Doors of January has shot to the top of my TBR since the moment I saw the cover and heard about the premise; I was charmed and can safely say that I don’t think I’ve read many books as beautifully written as this novel. I’ve been saying this over and over again for a while now; when it comes to modern SFF debuts, just read everything that Orbit publishes. SFF books published by Orbit these days has a strong chance to satisfy your reading preferences and this novel amplified that notion. I would also like to give a shout out to Emily Byron, who made sure this book reached me for my review, and Maddie Hall, the one in charge of the design behind the ARC packaging of this book; easily the most beautiful ARC package I’ve ever received.
Picture: My ARC of The Ten Thousand Doors of January
The Ten Thousand Doors of January revolves around January Scaller. January was seven years old when she first found a Door. Years later, January starts forgetting about her brief encounter with that Door, until one day she stumbles upon a book. Reading the book changes everything as she begins to discover the truths and revelations surrounding her worlds, and the Door she found when she was a kid. This is not an action-packed book; if you read this book expecting warfare and intricate battle scenes, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead of filling the pages with action and brutality, Harrow opted for dazzling readers with everlasting stories of wonder brimming with a nostalgic and elegant atmosphere. This is a novel about a book, about stories, and about escapism.
“How fitting, that the most terrifying time in my life should require me to do what I do best: escape into a book.”
I truly believe that escapism, for me, is not only a want but a necessity. Whether this is in the form of video games, movies, or reading; they’re all a form of art that makes our harsh realities saner and more livable. The Ten Thousand Doors of January felt like a letter written by a voracious reader to another reader. From the very first page, I was immediately struck with the notion that this book will resonate a lot with me and each page gradually continued to strongly enhance that early impression. I just can’t help but say that this is a book that must be read by most readers as long that you’re okay with not having battle scenes in your stories.
“He consumed books as if they were as necessary to his health as bread and water, but they were rarely the books he had been assigned.”
Harrow implemented the importance of stories into the plot wonderfully. Family, love, and adventures were also some of the main themes contained in the novel. A book has the power to change a reader’s perception; to be more open-minded and knowledgeable; to experience adventure and transport us to a different world; reading or writing is magic and many of us are capable of it.
“Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, of literary weight or unsolved mysteries. This one smelled unlike any book I’d ever held… It smelled like adventure itself had been harvested in the wild, distilled to a fine wine, and splashed across each page.”
As someone who’s born in January, I found the main character and the meaning behind her name to be a huge plus of the book. This doesn’t mean that you HAVE to be born in January to appreciate it. Names have a power, a meaning, and life of its own; these were discussed within the book and I enjoyed reading them all. Most importantly, January is a heroine that resonated with me. There weren’t a lot of characters, but I found the characterizations splendidly written. Each character has a distinctive personality and attitude that felt genuine and flawed.
“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’ve seen reviews of this book before, you’ll probably notice that the majority of them—whether they loved the book or not overall—agreed that the prose is beautiful; I definitely agree with this statement with all my heart. Seriously, Harrow has a highly-polished prose that totally didn’t feel like a debut effort. The prose was lush, lyrical, enchanting, gorgeous, and immersive. This novel marks the dawn of a new fantasy author with immaculate prose that’s very rare to find in the genre. The contemplative and philosophical nature of the writing made me wish I can tell you all the resplendent phrases I’ve stumbled upon. Words easily translated into imagery; every locale and scene were visualized in my head. I’m in disbelief that this is a debut, the author has such an immense subjugation over the structure of words. I can’t wait for you to find out how spectacularly written this book was.
“Words and their meanings have weight the world of matter, shaping and reshaping realities through a most ancient alchemy. Even my own writings—so damnably powerless—may have just enough power to reach the right person and tell the right truth, and change the nature of things.”
Alluring passages comprising meticulously chosen words were conjured and evident in every page; Harrow exhibited storytelling skill that gives justice to the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is one of the most beautifully-written debuts I’ve ever read; a big contender for the new tale as old as time, and a must-read fantasy book for every reader who loves books and enjoys reading a superb elaboration of stories and escapism. Every story opens a door, and every door opens a story. Once you opened the door behind the cover of this book, you’ll be happily compelled to search every nook and cranny of the story before you’re able to close the door again. An eternal charm lies in January’s adventure, and believe me when I say that you need to get the key to open the magic door called The Ten Thousand Doors of January as soon as possible.
“Let that be a lesson to you: if you are too good and too quiet for too long, it will cost you. It will always cost, in the end.”
Official release date: September 12th, 2019 (UK) and September 10th, 2019 (US)
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.