The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – review

Published by Orbit

Publication date – 10 September 2019

Source – review copy


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.

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.

January Scaller has never felt like she belonged. She knows little of her background and little of the world outside of the home of her guardian, Mr Locke. The highlights of her year are when her father, Julian, visits her. He spends his days travelling the world, looking for treasures for Mr Locke. Then one day she discovers a book, one that hints at other worlds, adventures and love. Little does January realise that finding this book will unlock the doors to her future.

January had often found herself lost in her own world. Mixed race, she is brought out at parties to stare at, then left to her own devices. She has one friend, the local shop keeper’s son, though she can rarely play with him. She has retreated into imaginary situations, seeking comfort in imaginary friends. When she is seven she finds a strange door that opens into another world. She is called back by Mr Locke before she can go any further but takes with her a strange coin she sees by the doorway. That door is brought back to her years later when she reads about another door and a similar strange land. As January reads she discovers that the characters in the book are real and much closer to her than she realised. January discovers that she has the power to write herself into another world. Soon she will find out just how much danger that power places her in.

January is not alone in her adventures and as the story develops we see arch villains, romantic possibilities and adventure as January sets off to find her father who has disappeared.

The chapters detailing January’s tale are interspersed with extracts from the book she has discovered. As the story progresses the reader sees, sooner than January, how those two stories with collide.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is an ode to the art of story-telling. It is fantastical trip of the imagination. The symbolism is clear to see, stories allow the reader to travel, to learn, to discover.

There are some lovely turns of phrase and it is clear that the author loves the art of the written word, given the book is an ode to storytelling.

Books open doors to new worlds. Books can set you free. This book celebrates those doors.


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