The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix Harrow


She accumulated the dust of other worlds on her skin like ten thousand perfumes, and left constellations of wistful men and impossible tales in her wake

In the summer of 1901, at the age of seven, January Scaller found a Door. You know the kind of door–they lead to Faerie, to Valhalla, to Atlantis, to all the places never found on a map. Years later, January has forgotten her brief glimpse of Elsewhere. Her life is quiet and lonely but safe on her guardian’s estate, until one day she stumbles across a strange book. 

* * * *
4 / 5

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book quite like The Ten Thousand Doors of January. It was whimsical, charming, adventurous, strange, and daring. It wasn’t what I expected it to be and I loved it for it.

There was no room, it turned out, for little girls who wandered off the edge of the map and told the truth about the mad, impossible things they found there

I probably didn’t read the synopsis properly before cracking this bad boy open, because I was surprised to find it set in the early 1900s, America. January Scaller is the dark-skinned ward of a business man who employs her often-absent father to go on archaeological digs around the world, stealing artefacts and sending them back home. When she is seven years old, January finds a Door. Capital D. A Door that leads to another world of sea salt and brine and scholars and tattoos. When she is an older teenager she has forgotten this experience; when her world begins to change around her, January finds The Ten Thousand Doors, a scholarly work on the existence of magic and Doors. Perhaps stories are more than that. Perhaps they creep through doors to other worlds. Perhaps you can walk through them.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is about love and self-belief and mystery and finding out who you are and where you belong. It’s about loving people that don’t deserve it. It’s about adventure and pain and sacrifice and having a disappointing father. This book is a stunning debut that threads together all these ideas into something deliciously readable.

She scoured the Earth, wandering and ravenous, looking for doors. And she found them.

I loved January. She is wild and imaginative and eager to please her guardian. She is disappointed in her father, curious, an avid reader. She is angry at a world that views her as a curiosity because she isn’t white, but still comes across as mature rather a petulant child. There’s also a great cast of supporting characters, from the grocer’s boy who is January’s secretive friend, to her female guardian who used to be a vicious hunter in a different, dangerous world.

Something to be cautious about is the storytelling style.  The prose itself is beautiful, lyrical, and descriptive, without being overly flowery and tiresome. January’s story is interspersed with the chapters of The Ten Thousand Doors, which itself tells the tale of a young woman who meets a boy, Yule Ian Scholar, from another world, and spends her adult life chasing stories to the far-flung corners of the world. This sort of style doesn’t work for everyoneand whilst it is well done here, it may put some off!

I’d been powerless my whole life, and the shape of the leopard-women as they leapt into battle was the shape of power written on the world

The Ten Thousand Doors of January was a far better reading experience than I had ever imagined I would get when I started. It is surprising and eloquent and thoughtful in equal measures. 

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

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