The Ten Thousand Doors of January
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Published: September 12th, 2019 by Orbit (UK) & September 10th, 2019 by Redhook (US)
“…there are ten thousand stories about ten thousand Doors, and we know them as well as we know our names. They lead to Faerie, to Valhalla, Atlantis and Lemuria, Heaven and Hell, to all the directions a compass could never take you, to elsewhere.”
I have been watching my cats lazing about in the warm, reposeful afternoon sun. Languid stretches and lazy yawns and leisurely rolls. Complete comfort and contentment. The sheer bliss of surrendering to the moment evident in their eyes. Melting, mellow happiness. Felicity.
That is the feeling that came over me upon finishing this book, and I basked in every second of its warmth. Lyrical. Stunning. Beautiful. Spellbinding. Richly imagined. Eloquent. Wistful. A riotous swirl of adjectives, all apt and all applicable. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is an emphatically stunning debut by Alix E. Harrow, delivering a tale that speaks to one of humanity’s oldest fantasies – visiting another world.
It is the summer of 1901, and seven-year-old January Scaller is the ward of the mysterious Mr.Locke – almost billionaire and collector of artefacts. She has been his ward since she was a baby, with her father working as one of Mr Locke’s field agents; securing treasures for his collection. Mr Locke has taken January with him on a trip to Kentucky, and she has snuck away to explore when she finds an old blue door in a lonely, overgrown field, opens the door, and steps through into another world. Years pass, and memory turns to myth as January grows up. Then one fateful day, she discovers a very unusual book that will lead to her rediscovery of Doors, changing her life in ways she cannot imagine.
The era that Miss Scaller grows up in is fraught with prejudice and racism, the world being the playground of wealthy aristocrats wielding power over their subjects. Being of mixed race, January knows very well that she is, for the most part, tolerated due to her white, aristocratic benefactor, but it is made clear to her that temerarious behaviour is unacceptable.
“You are going to mind your place and be a good girl.”
January, desperately needing to please and feel worthy obliges. Years pass while the shackles of the restrictions placed upon her chafe, but it is not until she hears dire news that events are set into motion which will free her from those restrictions and set her on a journey of discovery and truth.
“Do you want to leave?”
I swallowed, tucking my fear away for some future time when I would be strong enough to look directly at it. “Yes,” I answered, and in answering realized it was true. I wanted wide-open horizons and worn shoes and strange constellations spinning above me like midnight riddles. I wanted danger and mystery and adventure.
It would be easy for me to go on about how the relationships between the characters are the main driving points of the story and January at the heart of it. Compelling and authentic with a fantastic character arc, you can’t help but empathise with this wonderful heroine, but I don’t feel you even need to know that. Not to mention how the supporting cast of characters are similarly entrancing, or how the story completely immerses you and reinforces that sense of escapism that we always long for…
And do not get me started on the writing.
I can count on one hand the number of books I have read that I would call achingly beautiful, but this story is assured of its place among that august collection. Thrumming with poetic and evocative prose and enchanting turns of phrase, it delivers a smorgasbord of literary delights. Alix E. Harrow has gifted us with a feast for the soul, brimming with sensory pleasure and thoughtful commentary, whilst delivering one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever read. This book is more than just a story though. It’s a story about stories. A book within a book. A door filled with worlds and a world filled with doors. It’s a love letter and a song and a testament to the power of words. It’s an adventure to elsewhere.
I leave it to you to discover for yourself.
“Listen, not every story is made for telling. Sometimes just by telling a story you’re stealing it, stealing a little of the mystery away from it.”
You can purchase a copy of the book here, with free shipping worldwide!