“It is at the moments when doors open, when things flow between worlds, that stories happen.”
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In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical 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: 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.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED SEPTEMBER 10, 2019
CW: racism, colonialism, loss of a loved one, smoking, underage drinking, implied animal death, self-harm, gore, gun violence
Back in April, I handed in my senior thesis, and it centered on the relationship between portal fantasy and utopian thought, stretching back to classical antiquity.
And this means that The Ten Thousand Doors of January hit me like a ton of bricks, but in the best of ways. Split into a frame narrative, one following January Scaller in the wake of her father’s disappearance, the other centered on a woman named Adelaide Lee Larson who traveled the world in search of Doors, this book is portal fantasy at its finest. It combines the desire for escape with the possibility of a better life just beyond the next door, and all of it is told in stunning prose. The metaphors in The Ten Thousand Doors of January are a particular strong point, each one working with perfect clarity, sometimes in unusually effective ways.
Taking all this into account, I almost forgot to take notes while I was reading, so forgive me if this review becomes scattered. In my eyes, though, that’s what a good book should do; I want to get so lost in it that it doesn’t occur to me that I have other things to pay attention to. Even when this book got somewhat predictable, I was still completely absorbed in it, because the how of the plot twists were more important than what they were, and the path to a conclusion can still be suspenseful even when the conclusion is obvious.
I will say, though, that it’s possible this won’t be a story for everyone. It has something of literary fiction about it, and as I see it, it’s not YA, even with a young protagonist. The pacing is deliberate and patient, which some folks may not enjoy, even if the payoff is worth it.
But if you like stories about escape and family (especially family that isn’t perfect, family that makes entirely human mistakes), about making sense of your place in the world and discovering things you’d never known existed, then I highly encourage you to give The Ten Thousand Doors of January a try. It struck a chord with me not only because of the research I closed my college career with, but for its themes and for the way its characters seem poised on the edge of some great adventure that we may never get to see (an odd but pleasing conclusion in itself). I hope that once this book releases, it gets the attention it deserves.
If you think The Ten Thousand Doors of January might be for you, then you still have time to place a pre-order or submit a library request. It releases on September 10th, a little over two weeks from now, and it’s well worth that short wait. 💛
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