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Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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

Series: Stand-alone

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

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The Exiled

The Exiled

The Exiled by David Barbaree

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

 

According to Suetonius, Emperor Nero committed suicide on hearing the troop of cavalry who were coming to arrest him arrive at the villa in which he was hiding: ‘Hark to the sound I hear! It is the hooves of galloping horses‘.

Their orders: take him alive.

But it was too late.

A letter, which had arrived moments before the soldiers, informed Nero that he had been declared a public enemy by the Senate and was to be punished in the ‘ancient style’ (stripped naked, head thrust into a wooden fork, flogged to death with sticks). And so, to avoid that dire fate, Nero:

‘with the help of his secretary Epaphroditus, […] stabbed himself in the throat and was already half-dead when a cavalry officer entered […] he died, with eyes glazed and bulging from their sockets, a sight which horrified everybody present’ (Suetonius, Nero, 49).

Now that’s all well and good, perhaps true or perhaps not, but either way David Barbaree is having none of it. His Nero is taken that day, and tortured, but remains alive…

It’s an idea with a long tradition, with men proclaiming themselves ‘Nero’ almost from the moment of the emperor’s death in 68 CE. A rather problematic issue for the new dynasty, as you might imagine. And it’s precisely this that forms the basis of the book. Here, the rise of a False Nero complicates an already dangerous civil war in Parthia, the deadly threads of these plots weaving through the highest echelons of Roman politics.

This is a world of prophesy, conspiracy, and secrets. Danger abounds. But they don’t know what we know, that the real Nero lives… and still has moves to make. Let the games begin.

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A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book electronically via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

“I knew, once, a woman diamond bright and two men I will not forget. I played a part in a story in a fierce, wild, windblown time. I do have that. I always will. I am here and it is mine, for as near to always as we are allowed.”

This is only the second book I’ve read from Guy Gavriel Kay, but I feel secure in stating that I’ve never come across another author who has his way with words. There’s something about his prose that is both breathtakingly lovely and oddly jarring. In A Brightness Long Ago, Kay paints with his words, writing something that is lush and poignant and real enough to touch. This novel is somewhere between historical fiction and low fantasy, and Kay straddles that divide with great finesse.

“Perhaps it is true of every life, that times from our youth remain with us, even when the people are gone, even if many, many events have played out between where we are and what we are remembering.”

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The Troupe

The Troupe

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“What I’m going to do up here, kid, is tell you a story. Like all stories, it’s an attempt to make sense of something larger than itself. And, like most stories, it fails, to a certain degree. It’s a gloss, a rendition, so it’s not exact. But it’ll do.”

I’m going to see Paranormal Cirque this weekend and am insanely excited. In anticipation, I picked up The Troupe. While not about a circus, it is about a vaudevillian troupe, which is similar in feel. And though not exactly in the horror genre, I know from experience with his Divine Cities trilogy that Robert Jackson Bennett often weaves horror elements into his novels, and he does so deftly. I’m so incredibly glad I picked up this book. Because as excited as I am about seeing Paranormal Cirque, I already know that The Troupe will stay with me longer than any performance could. It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful story, and I read the last sixty or so pages through a haze of tears.

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Daisy Jones and the Six

Daisy Jones and the Six

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t think this book was going to work for me. I read the first 40 or so pages and just couldn’t get past the awkward formatting. Which made me incredibly sad, because music means the world to me and I was raised on classic rock. Before I wrote it off, I decided to give the audiobook a try. I’m so glad I did, because it’s now among my favorite audiobooks I’ve ever experienced. Because it definitely was an experience. It blows my mind that Daisy Jones isn’t a real icon of the Seventies, that The Six isn’t a real band whose back catalogue I can dig into now that I’ve gotten to know them. How Reid was able to create characters and a band dynamic that felt so real blows my mind. This is a book that was meant to be heard, with an amazingly talented and talented vocal cast.

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A Hero Born (Legends of the Condors Heroes, #1)

A Hero Born (Legends of the Condors Heroes, #1)

ARC provided by the publisher—St. Martin’s Press—in exchange for an honest review.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A Hero Born is the start to Jin Yong’s highly praised classic series but a lot of the promising quality of the book seems to get lost in translation.

I’m genuinely sad with my ratings for this one, but I have to be honest that I have mixed feelings towards this novel. When I was around 5 years old, I used to watch The Legends of the Condor Heroes a lot with my parents. When I missed an episode, my parents would tell me the story in detail; teaching me the meaning behind the actions of each character. This series, even though I’ve never read it until now, has a spot of nostalgia for me. That being said, it’s been more than 20 years and I honestly remember extremely little about it. What I do remember is that the story eventually grew significantly larger in scope and complexity than the coming-of-age tale we have in A Hero Born. I’ll divide this review strictly into what worked and what didn’t; let’s start with the parts that worked first.

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Fall of Kings (Troy, #3)

Fall of Kings (Troy, #3)

Troy: Fall of Kings (Troy, #3)Troy: Fall of Kings by David Gemmell and Stella Gemell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The end of the Trojan War is here, did Gemmell delivered a satisfying conclusion in his final work?

The answer to that be mostly yes, and a few sections of no. I’m honestly quite conflicted about Fall of Kings. This is the last book in the Troy trilogy by David Gemmell, it’s also his final work before he passed away that ended up being finished by his wife, Stella Gemmell. Because this is his final work, there’s a part of me that really want to give this book a full 5 stars but I can’t due to a few problems I had with it. I’ll divide this review into two simple parts: parts that worked first and then parts that didn’t.

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Shield of Thunder (Troy, #2)

Shield of Thunder (Troy, #2)

Shield of Thunder (Troy, #2)Shield of Thunder by David Gemmell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great read but might’ve worked better if I’m not binge reading it.

Shield of Thunder is the second book in the Troy trilogy by David Gemmell and in the case of this book, I think I’ll start my review with the parts I didn’t like. Binge reading this book immediately after the first book was quite an odd experience. Not only the book starts with the characters sailing to Troy again just like the first half of the first book, after all the time I’ve spent reading Helikaon and the other characters that I’m starting to get familiar with, the first of of the book—with the exception of Odysseus—had the narrative centered on two new main characters, Kalliades and Banokles. It took me quite a while to get used to Kalliades and Banokles and part one of the book honestly almost made me put the book to my DNF pile. I was honestly super bored with the first 120 pages and the sudden changes in the main characters reminded me a lot of The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett. Plus, there was also a non-explained time skip in which pivotal events have occurred off-screen.

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Lord of the Silver Bow (Troy, #1)

Lord of the Silver Bow (Troy, #1)

Lord of the Silver Bow (Troy, #1)Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Lord of the Silver Bow is my first foray into David Gemmell’s work and I must admit, it was a golden read.

David Gemmell has been an inspiration for many modern fantasy authors these days, there’s even an annual Fantasy award named after him that has been established since 2009. It’s quite crazy that it took me this long to finally get to reading Gemmell’s book, especially after hearing from many authors whose books I’ve read and loved mention that Gemmell is one of their main inspiration.

“Be lucky, Xander, and be brave. You will find that bravery and luck are often bedfellows.”

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Lancelot

Lancelot

Lancelot by Giles Kristian

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I firmly believed that I would never experience another Arthurian novel as magnificent as Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles trilogy. I was wrong.

I’ll start my review by saying thank you to Robin Carter from Parmenion Books for recommending this book to me. Without him, I wouldn’t have known about this book at all. Seriously, other than his one-time recommendation, I literally never heard of or saw anything about this book anywhere else, and that’s seriously a sin because this is a brilliant book. If you’re into Arthurian Tale or historical fiction, this is a must-read.

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