The 10,000 Doors of January by Alix E Harrow

A beautifully written and lovingly crafted adventure about the strength of love, the importance of stories, and the timeless power of words.
The 10,000 Doors of January book cover

Book of the Year 2019 (see all)

It is a rare thing to relate to a book’s character in such a way that similar situations evoke empathy across your lives. Enough parallels can be drawn to feel almost as if the book is catered specifically toward you in some existential way. I have not read much portal fantasy, but I have always felt a feeling of smothered repression through my youth that has tamped down my will to explore. Instead, my portals to elsewhere revealed themselves in books and stories at an early age, and they’ve been with me ever since. Alix Harrow captures this feeling of finding oneself through the stories we share in her stunning and unforgettable debut novel The 10,000 Doors of January. It is a beautifully written and lovingly crafted adventure about the strength of love, the importance of stories, and the timeless power of words.

I’ll be brief with the plot synopsis; the less you know ahead of time, the better. The book is set at the turn of the 20th century. January Scaller is young ward to an unfathomably rich benefactor; her father travels the world working for him. As January approaches the end of her youth, she thinks about her early carefree days and wonders if she’ll ever reclaim that feeling of freedom and wanderlust. And then a book comes into her life that might change everything.

Harrow’s gift of prose is immediately apparent within the first few pages of the story. The writing is accessible and wise, thoughtful and humorous. Stories within stories allow for opportunities to dance around different character voices and the cast feels genuine and lifelike after only a short time of knowing them.

Trigger warning: towards the end of the story, there is a promise that January makes to a long-time companion in a letter. “So will I,” it ends, and you, too will sob uncontrollably while repeating that phrase to yourself over a tissue box.

At the risk of sounding redundant, this is a remarkable novel that I plan to revisit again. This is a rare fantasy book that I can recommend with confidence to my friends and family who don’t normally read the genre. Read this book before the inevitable Hollywood film is made. It deserves to be fully experienced from within.

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This book is as beautiful as they say. I have added it into my collection. I could not put it down. It so amazingly came to life with each word. I completely escaped into this story. I felt as if I was that small child walking through the Wardrobe into Narnia once more. From the first page the story just pulled me in. It is a must read!

10/10 from 2 reviews

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