“There’s only one way to run away from your own story, and that’s to sneak into someone else’s.” (pg. 92)
This quote from The Ten Thousand Doors of January really sums up this book for me: a beautiful escape. I’ll preface with the fact that I am not a fantasy reader. I do not ever choose a fantasy story over a thriller or a romance. I like to stay in this world, but after reading The Ten Thousand Doors of January, I discovered how much I have been missing from other worlds. Alix E. Harrow created pure magic with her debut novel.
I received an advanced copy of this book from my Young Adult Book of the Month Club box. However, after doing some research on the book I have learned that Harrow did not write this book as a YA novel. She is very clear that this book was written for an adult reader. Having learned that fact, I will clarify that there are still no explicit content or graphic scenes. There are no racy sexual scenes, so I believe that is why this was available as a YA BOTM selection. The story itself is very well developed and the world building is refined; I felt very immersed in the story and the world Harrow described.
In the early 1900’s, January is a young woman who has grown up in the house of rare artifact collector Mr. Locke, her caretaker, while her father hunts for treasure on Mr. Locke’s behalf. She is timid and lonely, without any friends of her own except for the local grocer’s son. One day she finds an old leather-bound book that she believes has been left by Mr. Locke for January to find. January’s new book tells stories of other worlds apart from her own, and she quickly realizes how she wants to go anywhere else besides the confines of the Locke House. Because Mr. Locke treats her as one of his artifacts, he is not ready to let her leave so quickly. This is a marvelous coming-of-age story split between worlds.
Let’s talk about narrators again because this is my favorite part to discuss about a book I’ve read. I love to see how authors take creative licensing to create the narrator and what unique point of views they might design. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is no exception to this. Harrow wrote a book inside a book, both with different narrators. The main storyline is narrated by January. Her voice is first person and very timid at first, becoming stronger as the story progresses. The second book is narrated by a mystery character, who you find out later in the book. The second book reads more rigid, almost like a research study, but loosens up along the way. This is not meant to dissuade you from reading because chapters alternate, so that you do not get lost in the more rigorous writing.
Harrow’s world building is alluring because of her descriptive writing. She can use a simile or metaphor to illustrate anything, and it is a breath of fresh air from dialogue heavy writing. Sometimes fantasy writers fail to build a world that the reader can place herself in and believe in; Harrow is not like this. I could imagine everything she created, even the most whimsical concepts.
“True love is not stagnant; it is in fact a door, through which all kinds of miraculous and dangerous things may enter.” (pg. 171). There is some romance in this story, but the romance is not overwhelming. The story is more about family and companionship, elements I enjoy reading about. The romance is written more poetically than graphically.
This book quickly became my favorite book that I’ve read this year. I never grew bored or felt that the reading was tedious. I did not want this book to end. Now I am on the hunt for more light fantasy stories rooted in history. Harrow was able to weave historical references throughout her story that helped in really experiencing the time and setting, but the fantasy concepts still felt timeless.
I really hope that everyone has a chance to read this book when it comes out on September 10, 2019. You can order The Ten Thousand Doors of January on Amazon, and please let me know if you do so we can discuss when you are done reading. If you have any recommendations of fantasy books, especially in the young adult category, please comment below. I am looking to expand into reading more fantasy.