In the early 1900s, a young woman searches for her place in the world after finding a mysterious book in this captivating debut. 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. Then she finds a strange book that tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure, and danger.
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.