Part-time historian Alix E. Harrow has written a stunning debut novel with inventive worlds, sumptuous language and impeccably crafted details. Several of Harrow’s characters challenge traditional stereotypes in interesting ways, and January in particular is a refreshingly fierce female protagonist. Harrow paces this action-packed novel beautifully, slowly revealing the truth as the reader races through the pages to discover the ultimate conclusion. Readers seeking a fresh fantasy with an enduring love story need look no further, and they’ll be left wistfully hoping to stumble upon doors of their own.
... spellbinding, lush and captivatingly imaginative ... not just a book, but a true experience, an ode to storytelling and every book lover’s dream ... instantly gripping, with January’s wit, lyrical turns of phrase and sharply written observations about doorways and life immediately drawing you in ... a breathless and compelling pace. While the story moves quickly, it is not action-packed with danger or fighting, but Harrow keeps the plot believably dark by focusing instead on real-world issues of race and privilege ... The premise is, of course, intriguing, but Harrow’s characters are so wholly realized that they barely need the setting or plot to feel real ... even if fantasy isn’t your thing, Harrow’s gift for prose makes this a can’t-miss read. She infuses every word with magic and possibility, as well as a resounding love for storytelling, but what truly stands out is the overwhelming sense of longing --- for adventure, for hope and for acceptance. This is a gorgeous, richly imagined work that reads like one book lover talking to another, and Harrow’s observations about the power of stories is not only poignant, but also heartfelt and empowering. This jewel of a novel reads, at times, like a call to action, and paired with clever musings on doorways and new beginnings, this theme of encouragement leaps off the page ... Enchanting, colorful and powerful, The Ten Thousand Doors of January transcends genre and is sure to make a new fan out of anyone who encounters it.
Metafictional strategies in a novel often serve to distance the reader...However, while The Ten Thousand Doors of January is certainly a book engaged with its bookness and with the whole genre of the portal fantasy (as well as a long history of feminist works in sf)… the underlying tender hopefulness Harrow imbues in January’s story, even in its moments of violence and exclusion, closes the gap of that metafictional remove ... Though the novel features a great deal of conflict, struggle, and trauma, it maintains a quite-purposeful softness toward the potentiality of the world and the work stories can do ... The potential that vibrates off the page is the potential of youth, of a certain form of imagination… but also present are the things elided from those earlier children’s stories, like ethnicity and class ... sits on a threshold of audience given its prose and style, with the appeal of nostalgia to adults who need to remember the power of stories as well as young people who need to remember the heady potentiality of optimism—but then also vice versa, too, for all of us. An argument can be made from a place of tenderness and basic belief that, maybe, the world can be good. Harrow does that, gently, with an attention to real hurts but also a hope for healing them.
... remarkable ... an intriguing assortment of nested tales with different narrators ... Sometimes these voices aren’t quite as differentiated as they might be, but watching these various tales click into place in the context of January’s own increasingly perilous adventures is one of the chief delights of the novel ... As grim and Dickensian as it sometimes gets, Harrow clearly means her tale to be a joyous celebration of the magic of words and stories, and her enthusiasm is undeniably infectious ... a beautiful beginning, and unlike any other fantasy I’ve read in some years.
Harrow dazzles with this historical fiction-fantasy hybrid ... The Ten Thousand Doors of January is both whimsical and smart, using engaging writing and a unique plot to touch on serious topics. Harrow’s debut reads like a love letter to the art of storytelling itself, and readers will be eager for more from her.
Similes and vivid imagery adorn nearly every page like glittering garlands. While some stereotypes are present, such as the depiction of East African women as pantherlike, the book has a diverse cast of characters and a strong woman lead. This portal fantasy doesn’t shy away from racism, classism, and sexism, which helps it succeed as an interesting story.
Harrow imbues her debut, set primarily in early-20th-century Vermont, as well as in an alternative world called the City of Nin, with genealogical mystery ... Harrow weaves in commentary on race: Julian is black and January’s mother is white, and, in a clever inversion, in one of the worlds January visits, everyone is black and racism is nonexistent. Harrow’s novel will hold strong appeal to readers who enjoy portal fantasies featuring adventuresome women.