In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.
Thanks to Hachette Audio, Libro.fm, the author, and the narrator for an advance listening copy of The Ten Thousand Doors of January in exchange for an honest review. Receiving an ALC of the book did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January is the perfect portal fantasy novel for those that just want to escape reality. It is a mystical tale written for those who not only love books, but want to live in the worlds they portray. Harrow has written a remarkable debut full of gorgeous prose, expansive storytelling, and stars a captivating heroine.
I remember being genuinely interested in this novel when the cover, done by the amazing Lisa Marie Pompilio, was revealed on Orbit’s website. It is astoundingly gorgeous and had me clamoring to read the full synopsis and author blurbs. Being a cover snob, it is easy to be let down by stunning book covers and blurbs by authors in the same genre/published by the same house, but Harrow allows the cover to be the first door unlocked into this enchanting tale. And when I say that this was an absolutely delight to read (yeah, I know I listened to it), here’s a little taste:
“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-colour prints, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco-smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, or 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. ”
It is easy to see why so many of my co-bloggers are gushing over this book, and why Harrow won a Hugo in 2018 for her short story A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies. There are only so many authors out there whose writing allows the words to pour off the page like a fine wine, allowing you to taste and savor each and every note until the next imminent sip.
TTTDoJ is a book that needs to be read at a slower pace. It is one that you can lose yourself in for hours at a time, transported to a magical world and away from the complications and chaos of reality. January does this very thing, faced with racism, classism, ageism (all the ism’s) as a young girl whose only wish is to escape and be with her father on his adventures. While she lives in the lavishness that her “master” has bestowed, it is almost as if she is under lock and key with a consistent eye on her activities.
Harrow’s debut has similarities to Lewis’s Narnia and McGuire’s Wayward Children but stands wholly on its own as a classic addition to the fantasy genre. I can only imagine how much her stock is going to go up after it releases on September 10th and you better bet it’ll hit the big screen before too long.
Also, if you are a fan of audiobooks and haven’t heard any by January LaVoy (perfect name for this book, obviously), I highly recommend giving this one a shot. My first by her was The Chain by Adrian McKinty and it shot her way up my narrator rankings. She has a fantastic voice and her pacing is what Cousin Eddie would define as “real nice”.