review: the ten thousand doors of january by alix e. harrow
Synopsis: 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.
Started off 2021 with a stunner! Ten Thousand Doors of January centers on January Scaller, a girl who stumbles upon a Door to another world and begins a journey. January is a fantastic protagonist – interesting, smart, and courageous, but in a realistic and relatable way. She’s stubborn, and often makes stupid mistakes, but ultimately grows into her own sense of self in a very satisfying way.
The rest of the characters that populate this world are nuanced and fascinating as well, from January’s wealthy caretaker Mr. Locke, to the companion sent by her father, Jane, to her childhood friend and all around cute boy, Samuel. Last but CERTAINLY not least, the bestest boy ever, her dog Sinbad, is a super sweet loyal companion who bites racists. We love to see it.
The writing style is sort of flowery and breaks the third wall often:
“Companions. See the curve of that C like a pair of outstretched arms? It implied the sort of friends who might slay dragons or go on hopeless quests or swear blood oaths at midnight.”
I quite enjoyed this writing style, though it won’t be for everyone. Harrow does a great job at painting the various settings in a gorgeous way, and I could see them all clearly: the large Locke House where January grows up, the salt-spray smell of the first world she crosses over into, and the vast plains of the farm where we meet another traveler were all vibrant.
It was interesting to read a story that is full of so much possibility, set in a time period where women of color like January and Jane are often constricted by society and the men around them. The portions of the book where January is held back by her “role” in society were the most upsetting. The mythology of the Doors revolves around the idea that Doors allow the passage of ideas and change to go from world to world, and certain characters in the novel would rather keep to the status quo (to no one’s surprise, these are old white men). I loved the idea that the inspirations, inventions, and revolutions in various worlds were born of other worlds.
“The will to be polite, to maintain civility and normalcy, is fearfully strong. I wonder sometimes how much evil is permitted to run unchecked simply because it would be rude to interrupt it.”
I loved this book so much. It gave me a lot of hope and wonder; highly recommend.