- The Ten Thousand Doors of January.
- Alix E. Harrow.
- 384 pages.
- Fantasy / Fiction / Myth / Fairy Tales / Coming-of-Age.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
EVERY STORY OPENS A DOOR
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.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Alix E. Harrow, thank you. Thank you for writing this book and for allowing me to escape. My words don’t do your book or how much I loved it justice but they are all I have.
January Scaller is the ward of the wealthy Mr Cornelius Locke. At the turn of the century, in 1901, when she is seven-years-old January finds a Door on a trip to Kentucky. A blue Door, just rotted frame and timber but it calls to her, calls to her sense of adventure, like a force has inexplicably drawn her to that very location and, for a brief moment she is transported to a new world. She quickly returns back through the doorway when she hears Mr Locke calling for her. Mr Locke puts her tale about the magic doorway down to folly, to her imagination running wild and doesn’t believe her. Telling her it is nonsense, that it is just a door and that her flights of fancy need to stop, that she needs to forget about the Door, grow up and that she needs to start behaving appropriately, as befits the ward of someone who is rich and wealthy. That January must no longer see the world in bright and vibrant colour but in the dull and mundane of washed-out grey and enforced maturity.
But, January has a silver coin that she brought back with her. A coin that she keeps hidden, that proves to her that she wasn’t imagining it and that, for a moment, a brief moment in time she did cross-over, did set foot in and journey to another world.
Mr Locke is a member of the New England Archaeology Society and collects artefacts and rare antiquities. January’s mother died when she was very young, leaving her husband, January’s father heartbroken and bereft and little January without a Mum to look after her. January’s father works for Mr Locke, travelling the world looking for, locating, tracking down and acquiring artefacts, relics and valuable treasures for his vast collection. As such, her father is largely absent from her life and often spends months away at any one time with only the occasional postcard sent to January from whatever far-off, far-flung country he is currently in. Mr Locke is a guardian, a surrogate father to January in place of her own who she loves and misses dearly but who just isn’t there for her and Mr Locke is.
January is mixed-race, someone in-between and treated as an artefact herself, an oddity and a curio to be admired and is more akin to part of Mr Locke’s collection rather than a person. Due to her colour, she is tolerated only because of Mr Locke and she suffers extreme prejudice at the hands of others. She is seen as less. She is treated as an object and expected to keep quiet, to obey the rules and to look the part at Society gatherings instead of actually living. She isn’t free, living in Locke House, a vast estate in Vermont. She has everything that a young girl could want and that money could buy except for the things that truly matter, her family and the freedom to be herself and to explore. For January, Locke House, its myriad corridors and dusty rooms is a gilded cage and a lonely existence.
When Mr Locke tells her to start behaving it turns the once adventurous, feisty and wilful January into someone who is docile, meek and timid. Her spark, the flame goes out of her and she obeys without question. Her Dreams of adventure die, fading away to be forgotten and consigned to the yesterdays of her childhood. Mr Locke takes this from her, taming the wildness, changing who she is and making her part of his collection, a living doll. Buried deep in the recess of her memory, swallowed by the abyss, January even forgets about the blue Door and the coin that she has, the coin that she brought back with her from another world and the coin that proves that there is more out there waiting to be discovered.
Then, a decade later, at the age of seventeen and after years spent being Mr Locke’s good girl, January finds a book, a weathered and worn leather-bound book called ‘The Ten Thousand Doors‘ and everything changes.
On his latest expedition for Mr Locke, the news comes that after months without a word that January’s father has been reported as missing and presumed dead. The discovery of the book allows January to escape from the tragic news about her father. Letting her find comfort, find solace and escape within the pages, within the words and as she reads, as she delves deeper into the story found in The Ten Thousand Doors. The story of the life of Adelaide Lee Larson who searches for the truth about Doors and finds that each fable, folklore, myth and legend can be traced back to a hidden doorway where, either someone, something or a magical artefact from another world has come through it rekindles the flame and reignites the spark in January for adventure. Not just adventure but to break free of her cage and to search for her father in the belief that he is still alive and to find out about her mother. To unravel the mystery and find out the truth about doorways, Doors, portals and the lives of those who appear in the mysterious leather-bound book. Revelations abound and there seems to be a connection between the lives of those in the book and January’s own, in the book that smells of adventure, of freedom, of the sea, of faraway places, of the great beyond, of new horizons, of new worlds and of endless possibilities and that calls to January.
Doors lead to adventure, to escape, to new worlds waiting to be explored and, so to do books. The story in The Ten Thousand Doors of January unfolds through both January’s point of view and from the in-world book ‘The Ten Thousand Doors’. It is a story to savour that spans worlds but it is also an intimate story for January (and her family) too. It transcends any single genre and is a coming-of-age story, a fantastical adventure, a love story, a story of belonging, a story about finding who you are and a love letter to books and their majesty all rolled into one. Apart from that, the less said about the story the better, open the book, take that first step, cross-over the threshold from cover to page and discover the story for yourself.
I loved reading the two parts that form the whole of The Ten Thousand Doors of January. The in-world book of ‘The Ten Thousand Doors‘ and the narration by January and I found both to be compelling. January faces a lot of adversity on her journey, it is a hard road to discover the truth and there are, of course, villains to the tale with their own motivations and they are suitably sinister. For January, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention those who aid her, who she can call a friend in the book. Namely, Jane who is sent to be her companion and to protect her by her largely absent father and, who has her own story to tell. Samuel, the local grocer’s son and Sindbad/Bad her loyal dog. I had so much love for Bad as January’s faithful friend, he is absolutely fantastic and the best of good boys.
The writing in The Ten Thousand Doors of January cascades like rain, drifts in dreams and carries you on the tides with decadent descriptions as it ebbs and flows across the pages. It is elegant, evocative, gorgeous, moving, lilting, lyrical, lush, vivid, poetic, profound and it is all woven together into an artistic painting by Harrow allowing you to fall into her breathtakingly beautiful story.
Everyone in their life, at some time or another has wanted to, has yearned to escape, to run away from the mundane monotony of daily reality, from betrayal, from hurt, from loss and/or from pain. Maybe it is not even running away from someone or something. But, instead, it is running towards, towards adventure, towards believing that there is something more, towards believing that there is someone out there for you, towards hoping to find a better place, towards new beginnings and towards a feeling and a place where you belong.
Words have power, names have power and stories have power. We use books to escape, to transport us, to live lives that aren’t possible, to follow in the footsteps of others, to see through eyes that aren’t ours and they have an impact on us. Sometimes, it is a fleeting impact, the characters and the story are forgotten about in a few hours or, a few days. While at other times, the impact lasts, the characters and the story linger, they remain with you for a long time, for years, you carry them forward and what you have read echoes with you on a deeper and more profound level. The Ten Thousand Doors of January is one such book, a book that echoes with the reader, a book that deserves to be remembered and a book that makes you remember why you fell in love with reading.
When you are a child your imagination is unfettered, unrestrained by age and maturity. Your wings haven’t been clipped by obligation, sorrow or by struggles and you can take flight, soaring high on the belief that anything is possible, that magic is real and allow your imagination to run wild. There is a warming feeling of nostalgia to The Ten Thousand Doors of January and its emotional, magical and spellbinding story as it takes you back in time to your younger self, reminds you of this belief and helps to nourish your soul.
Purchase The Ten Thousand Doors of January.
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