Portal fantasy is probably my favourite type of fantasy and I don’t read it often. Hypocrite much? I know. The Narnia books were my introductory novels to this genre and…well we all know how obsessed I am with that series. I just love stories that go beyond this world and yet keep that connection alive. They are literal stories of escape from this world, just like books are the metaphoric escape from our real lives. I am sure if someone were to pop-psycho analyse me then I would fully understand this inner wanderlust and desire to leave this world for something different, but I’m not sure I want to know those answers yet.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Pub Date: Sept 10, 2019
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.
Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.
*Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the review copy!*
I didn’t know exactly what to expect going into this book, but I didn’t actually think I would love it this much. I was absolutely enchanted from the very first page and all of it has to do with Harrow’s writing style! First we have to talk about the narrative voice. I don’t know what the technical term is, but it is when the narrator directly addresses the reader as the story goes on. It’s as if we are sitting side by side and actually being told this story over some cookies and drinks. It is a personal, intimate kind of story telling that I absolutely love.
The actually writing style itself was incredibly whimsical. It’s a flowery, purple prose that has its wild, metaphoric phrases that still surrender you completely under the book’s enchantment. I LOVED IT! The study of the actual physical shape of words and letters was so interesting. I think I may have made it sound too ~scientific~, but I promise you it was delightful! It’s a careful and, again, intimate kind of story telling that just hits you in the feels. Other than that, I think the story flowed wonderfully, it’s not hard to follow along and every turn of the page just gets more and more interesting.
Now we have to talk about these characters because they are incredible! The first shout-out goes to my girl January, who is one of the most realistic characters I’ve ever read. She was a lonely girl, with a big imagination constantly being told to reform, conform and endure a society that didn’t exactly know what to make of her. As much as she loved the fact she was being taken care of, she couldn’t help but hate the suffocation. As much as she hated the way she was left behind, she couldn’t help but love the people who left. She lived a life full of mysteries and curiosities that never gave her the right answers. And while she was incredibly curious herself, she had to find a way to let that adventurous side of her free after years of being told to keep it down. She was naive, but also intelligent. She was sheltered, but courageous enough to face the horrors of her life. She was angry and she learned to harness it to get out of trouble. I loved everything about her if you can’t tell.
Honourable mentions go to Jane, who was seriously fierce and angry! I think that she deserved a lot more than what she got and I felt so angry for her! Shout out to Samuel for being incredibly sweet with a total white knight complex that made me want to melt. To a certain pair of characters whose story made me SOB—I just wanna say #couplegoals…but also maybe not XD
The magic of the doors was marvellous. I loved the history behind it, I loved that we got to explore how these portals are constructed and destroyed. How they bring out the best and the worst of people. With magical doors comes increasingly new and magical lands! The way in which Harrow imagined these other nations with totally different cultural practices and ways of life. I mean…I can barely survive on my own in this world, and there was definitely one world in this book I would not survive in…but I would love to see books based solely in these other worlds.
The book has an incredible conversation about colonialism. There was almost an anti-museum rhetoric to this book. It’s not denying the importance of understanding a people and its culture, but this book is arguing that a culture is not a collectible. An artifact is not something that can be taken from its home and charted across the seas to be locked up and stared at. It is stripping that object of its real purpose, to serve the people it was created for. The book tackles the deeply problematic private collections of stuffy rich people who bought up–stole–precious cultural items (see the British, Spanish, French and basically all other European colonizers) for their own selfish wants. It’s important that we understand how deeply problematic our modern museums are. They are full of items that are labeled as belonging to “collectors” but they don’t. Those pieces belong to people and nations that still exist, that are not extinct and of the past, but increasingly labeled as history long gone.
The plot itself is charming yet wildly fun too. It is more contemplative than action-y although I will say that there is a fair share of blood that is shed and there may or may not be a vampire character? It’s not really a spoiler, but a treat to intrigue you with. I was never bored and I always wanted to keep going! There is also a story within a story being told and let me tell you that inner story is one that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time! Plus since its a story within a story, you are technically getting two books for the price of one!
The ending…how do I even explain the ending. It was beautiful. I had tears in my eyes from the feels that just overtook me in the moment. Not only are the final words so preciously gorgeous and ripped my soul apart, they explain the reason why this book is told the way it is and it makes so much more sense AND OH MY GOSH IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL I WANTED TO CRYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!
Nothing. It was amazing.
Overall, I enjoyed this book so much! It was heartfelt, charming, suspenseful and absolutely magical. It is a perfect book for readers like me who are constantly being struck by wanderlust, but don’t have the guts to get out there just yet! It’s also perfect for general fantasy readers, historical fiction lovers and people who just love books about books!
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Recommend: YES! Open the doors this book has to offer!
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Do you like portal fantasy? What are some of your favourites? If you could open the door to another world, would you go in?