Beyond its entrancing cover, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow is a wonder of a novel.
January Scaller considers herself an in-between girl. The ward of a wealthy treasure-seeker, she’s often shepherded around the world on business in frilly lace and good manners while her father, under the treasure-seeker’s employ, hunts invaluable and rare artifacts for the man’s growing collection. It’s on one of these journeys with Mr. Locke that January discovers a door in the middle of a field that opens onto sand white spirals. and smells of the sea. Despite her insistence of its existence, her claims of this other world, a world she feels an inexplicable pull toward, are dismissed by her guardian and deemed nonsense, a cruelty that causes her world to fracture and her vibrant imaginative spirit to dim.
It isn’t until she finds a book in an old chest that her father brought back for Mr. Locke that she learns about the Ten Thousand Doors, in a tome that tells of a bright young woman who also discovered myriad doors across the world and set herself to exploring the worlds beyond. When her father goes missing and is presumed dead January starts to wonder if there is a connection between the door she saw as a child and the alleged fictional doors she’s encountering in this book.
What follows is a gorgeous and nearly mythical tale of magic and portals and true love. The effortless way that Alix E. Harrow weaves the narrative together, creating a meta-experience that was truly delightful as a reader and writer, was brilliant. I became so entranced with the doors and January’s story, and the story that she was reading about. The way that January clung to the stories was similar to the way every reader and writer clings to stories; although for January, it became a bit more about survival in a literal sense.
There is so much to love about this book that to list it all would take so much of your time reading this review, and I would hate for you to miss out on the chance to get this book immediately. But Alix E. Harrow does a superb job of commenting on everything from feeling other (not only does her memory of the door she encountered as a child set her apart from others but her mixed race and prying questions about her pedigree cause that), to feeling lost and alone with nothing but books to guide you. January’s circle consists of the patron who supports her father, an unruly dog, a local boy, and the woman, Jane, who her father hired to care for her in his absence. We too become attached to these characters and their journeys just as we are to January.
The care that Alix E. Harrow shows for her characters and story is on full display with every gorgeous bit of prose, the type that hits you in the heart and stomach for its beauty and truth. I would love to take a highlighter or marker to my book and annotate it with all the stunning lines and dialogue but I’m too much of a book snob to do so; therefore, I’ll have to settle for continuously paging through. Any random bit will showcase Alix E. Harrow’s talent for storytelling, a captivating blend of whimsy and realism (unfortunately, the tones of xenophobia and racism seem to be timely whenever you choose to read).
I’m truly excited for more readers to encounter the brilliance of the novel and to be as awed by it as I was. I think it will rocket to the top of many favorite lists and hopefully will be considered for “Best of” lists of the year, as it certainly ranks that way for me. I am truly jealous of everyone who gets to pick this novel up for the first time. It’s a perfect read for book lovers. I can’t wait for what Alix E. Harrow writes next.