Perhaps one cannot walk through a door and back out again without changing the world.
This was a book within a book, worlds within a world, dream come true. I was enchanted and mesmerised from the very beginning. My heart is full of hope and possibilities, and my imagination is so happy and fulfilled, yet because you can never have enough magical portals in your life, I’m left yearning for more.
I want to tell you everything about this book but don’t want to ruin it for you so I’ll only tell you this:
January Scaller finds a Door when she’s seven but, because she’s so eager to please, she focuses her attention on becoming the “good girl” she’s expected to be.
I spent the years after the blue Door doing what most willful, temerarious girls must do: becoming less so.
Years later, the memory of that Door resurfaces when she finds a life changing book.
It smelled like adventure itself had been harvested in the wild, distilled to a fine wine, and splashed across each page.
I believed in the worlds behind these Doors without hesitation. Perhaps some of my belief can be explained away by the fact that I’ve casually sought my own door since first reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and more fervently since Every Heart a Doorway but it’s really because this book was just that good!
Whenever I read a book that mentions another book I always investigate further. Does that book exist in my world? Do I need to add it to my ever expanding to be read list? If it doesn’t exist in my world, will the author ever write it? I was thrilled that the primary book January reads in this book actually exists and its chapters are included within this book! This is one of my dreams come true! Of course, the book within the book had references to other books, which don’t exist (yet – I checked), but I was so excited to be reading an actual book within a book and it was perfect!
The Ten Thousand Doors of January explores the power of words, the nature of power and the price of freedom. January experiences abandonment and loss, and I ached for her as she longed for acceptance and belonging. I empathised with the feeling of being pressured to conform to others’ expectations of you even when they diminish you and the courage it takes to live beyond your labels, learning to follow your own truth.
January’s Doors take her to places, physically and internally, that compelled me to want to follow in her footsteps. This book took a lot longer than I had planned to read due to illness, but each time I picked it up I was immersed in January’s story again within a paragraph.
I learned of Alix E. Harrow’s brilliance when I read A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies during my (ongoing) 2019 Hugo Awards readathon. I reviewed it here. My love of this short story resulted in my unceremoniously moving The Ten Thousand Doors of January to the top of my reading queue.
I highlighted so many passages as I read this book; there were so many beautiful sentences I know I’ll need to revisit. January is a bookworm, so a kindred spirit of mine, and often spoke of books and reading in ways that felt like she was reaching into my own soul:
There’s only one way to run away from your own story, and that’s to sneak into someone else’s.
Some of the sentences I highlighted tell you nothing of the story but said plenty to me about the talent of its author. This is someone who can transform the ordinary into something memorable.
His hair clung to his skull in a white scimitar, as if the heat of his working mind had burned it away from the top of his head.
She shrugged again; I began to see them as practical gestures, designed to shed the weight of resentment threatening to settle on her shoulders.
While I greedily want a sequel I mostly hope there isn’t one. This book ends so perfectly that I want the exquisite agony of needing more to linger. I knew there was something special about this author when I read and reread A Witch’s Guide to Escape but after going through the Doors with January I’m certain of it. I don’t care what Alix writes about next; I’ll be reading it no matter what.
Content warnings include racism, xenophobia, assault on beloved dog and actions that could be described as self harm, except the intention is different than what I would consider true self harm behaviour.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group (UK), for the opportunity to fall in love with this book early. I want everyone to read it!
Once Upon a Blurb
In the early 1900’s, 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.