The Ten Thousand Doors of January…
About the Book:
This breathtakingly beautiful debut is a love letter to the written word and the power of stories to open doors to other worlds.
ACCORDING TO JANUARY SCALLER, THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY TO RUN AWAY FROM YOUR OWN STORY, AND THAT’S TO SNEAK INTO SOMEONE ELSE’S . . .
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 artefacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place.
But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across 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 reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
‘You see, doors are many things: fissures and cracks, ways between, mysteries and borders. But more than anything else, doors are change. When things slip through them, no matter how small or brief, change trails them like porpoises following a ship’s wake.’
Fantasy is not a genre that you see pop up here with any regularity. It’s not that I don’t like it, but more that I need to limit it to small doses. I kind of like watching fantasy movies more than reading fantasy novels. I find it very easy, when I’m reading, to get lost in the worlds and go from knowing what’s going on to not knowing in the space of a few pages. Magical realism is a bit more to my taste, that blend of fantasy with the real world, which is what subgenre I feel The Ten Thousand Doors of January fits into.
‘This was the true violence Mr. Locke had done to me. You don’t really know how fragile and fleeting your own voice is until you watch a rich man take it away as easily as signing a bank loan.’
There’s a lot to like about this novel. It’s cleverly done, and with its ‘story within a story’ aspect, a treat for all those who believe in the power of stories to change lives. However, as much as I liked the concept of the novel, I found it difficult to engage with. It wasn’t until the last 100 pages that I felt invested in the story. Prior to this, it all just seemed like backstory and setting the stage, and at times, I felt quite bogged down by it all, as though I were reading and reading, but not particularly getting anywhere.
‘But you were exactly what we’d been striving so hard to prevent, you see, exactly what we’d sworn ourselves against: a random, foreign element, with the potential to instigate all sorts of trouble and disruption, which ought to be stamped out.’
There were some interesting characters, most particularly January herself, whose personal journey was the one part of the novel that really held me captive. But character wise, I had a few questions. The appearance of a vampire had me cringing (are we not yet done with vampires?) but it also left me confused. If the point of the Society was to keep all those deemed as ‘other’ from passing into the world, why on earth would they let such a creature be part of their group? I wasn’t overly taken with January’s mother either, but I’ve never been keen on characters that are ‘cursed with wanderlust’. It usually translates to being selfish and causing their loved ones harm. But I did find Locke to be an interesting character, just unfortunately under-developed. Instead of all of the waffling on about the academia of doors, I’d have preferred some more on his backstory. But that likely wouldn’t have worked with either of the two first-person narratives.
‘Worlds were never meant to be prisons, locked and suffocating and safe. Worlds were supposed to be great rambling houses with all the windows thrown open and the wind and summer rain rushing through them, with magic passages in their closets and secret treasure chests in their attics. Locke and his Society had spent a century rushing madly around that house, boarding up windows and locking doors.’
It probably seems like I really didn’t gel with this one, and to be truthful, I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it at all. It was okay, but nowhere near as amazing as the publicity reviews had led me to believe. The historical fiction aspect was a winner in terms of recreating the era, and the concept behind the magical aspect was creatively clever. Fans of magical realism and other worlds style of fantasy should expect to enjoy this one immensely.
Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of The Ten Thousand Doors of January for review.
About the Author:
Alix E. Harrow is an ex-historian with lots of opinions and excessive library fines, currently living in Kentucky with her husband and their semi-feral children. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is her debut novel. Find her on Twitter at @AlixEHarrow.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Published by Orbit
Released September 2019