The Ten Thousand Doors of January
by Alix E. Harrow
“I hope you will find the cracks in the world and wedge them wider, so the light of other suns shines through; I hope you will keep the world unruly, messy, full of strange magics; I hope you will run through every open Door and tell stories when you return.”
Published Sept. 10, 2019 by Redhook
Genre: historical fantasy
Date finished: Jan. 21, 2020
Content warnings: child abuse, manipulation, racism, animal harm, self harm
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.
My thoughts (spoiler free)
Have you ever read a book that you wanted to be real so badly that it hurt?
The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a gorgeous book, both inside and out, that contains so much magic and wonder and beauty that it is practically its own doorway to a magical world like the ones within its pages. Reading it feels like stepping into something familiar and half-remembered, yet brand new at the same time.
When you pick up this book (I’m assuming it’s when and not if, because I don’t understand how this book can exist in the world without everyone reading it), you will meet January Scaller, a young woman at the beginning of the twentieth century who knows all too well what loneliness feels like. Raised mostly by the wealthy Mr. Locke while her father travels the world in search of treasures to add to his benefactor’s collection, January sole companions are her books, a woman named Jane, and a very good dog named Bad.
Then she finds a book that, as she reads, shows her that the world is much wider and stranger than she had ever dared hope.
“How fitting, that the most terrifying time in my life should require me to do what I do best: escape into a book.”
In this book, we essentially get a story within a story, the two weaving together to gradually create a larger tapestry that is stunning to behold. As the threads start to connect, you can’t help but be amazed by the detail and intricacy that went into crafting every part of this book, from its overall worldbuilding to the placement of every single word.
And truly, every word in this book shines. I can’t stress enough how beautiful the writing is; it’s one of those books that both inspires me and makes me want to quit writing because I’ll never compare. Within the first pages, I was hooked. I didn’t want to stop until I had drunk it all in.
January, our primary narrator, is absolutely a highlight of this book. As a dark-skinned girl raised among rich white people, she’s learned to keep her mouth shut and her head down, even though she’s bursting with curiosity and a desire for adventure. When adventure finally comes along, it isn’t exactly what she expected, but watching her growth from a meek, passive character into someone strong and capable is absolutely beautiful.
“Let that be a lesson to you: If you are too good and too quiet for too long, it will cost you. It will always cost you, in the end.”
The Ten Thousand Doors of January is truly storytelling at its finest. You know those stories that are so incredibly well crafted that every beat feels simultaneously unexpected yet entirely earned and satisfying? The type that makes you feel exactly what the author is going for to the highest possible degree? Yeah, this was one of those. I went through every possible emotion in the span of 374 pages, and by the end I was in tears, both because I didn’t want it to end and because the ending was perfect.
Anyone who’s ever wished they could step through a doorway into a magical world will find something to love in this book. It’s a book that understands that longing. It celebrates these kinds of stories and the people who cling to them, because doors are change, and stories change the world. Doorways – whether they’re actual doors to other worlds or simply a book that you hold in your hand – are an opportunity for every person to leave their mark on the world, for better or for worse. And doors aren’t meant to be closed.
This book is about courage, magic, resilience, family, and most of all, doorways – both literal and metaphorical. Lyrical, captivating, and bursting with magic, it’s the kind of book that will stamp itself onto your heart and won’t let you forget about it. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Anyways, if you want me, I’m just going to be traveling the world in search of magical doors.
“Perhaps one cannot walk through a door and back out again without changing the world.”