BOOK REVIEW | The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

TITLE: The Ten Thousand Doors of January
AUTHOR: Alix E. Harrow
PAGE COUNT: 374 pages
10 September 2019
Fantasy, Historical Fiction & Young Adult

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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a book with a plot and world unlike anything I have read before. After reading the synopsis when it was first released, I knew I needed to get to it. I especially read it during the month of January because of the fitting title.

This book did not disappoint. I really loved the main character, January, and found myself seeing the world through her eyes. The atmosphere of the story held you captivated. Not only did it contain heartache and loneliness, it also contained adventure and discovery, and it had a certain innocence to it.

The only problem I had with it was that it dragged on a bit too long. With very detailed descriptions and a poetic writing style, it does add to the magical atmosphere of the story but I did not find it a quick read. You really have to take your time with it but I think it is all worth it in the end. I still find myself thinking about it from time to time.

For it being a debut novel, it was really well written and I am genuinely looking forward to her next novel, The Once and Future Witches, which will be released in October this year. 

“The will to be polite, to maintain civility and normalcy, is fearfully strong. I wonder sometimes how much evil is permitted to run unchecked simply because it would be rude to interrupt it.” 

“I hope you will find the cracks in the world and wedge them wider, so the light of other suns shines through; I hope you will keep the world unruly, messy, full of strange magics; I hope you will run through every open Door and tell stories when you return.”

“It’s a profoundly strange feeling, to stumble across someone whose desires are shaped so closely to your own, like reaching toward your reflection in a mirror and finding warm flesh under your fingertips. If you should ever be lucky enough to find that magical, fearful symmetry, I hope you’re brave enough to grab it with both hands and not let go.”

“May she wander but always return home, may all her words be written true, may every door lie open before her.” 

“I should have known: destiny is a pretty story we tell ourselves. Lurking beneath it there are only people, and the terrible choices they make.” 

“Those of you who are more than casually familiar with books — those of you who spend your free afternoons in fusty bookshops, who offer furtive, kindly strokes along the spines of familiar titles — understand that page riffling is an essential element in the process of introducing oneself to a new book. It isn’t about reading the words; it’s about reading the smell, which wafts from the pages in a cloud of dust and wood pulp. It might smell expensive and well bound, or it might smell of tissue-thin paper and blurred two-colour prints, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco-smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, or literary weight or unsolved mysteries.” 

“Maybe all powerful men are cowards at heart, because in their hearts they know power is temporary.”

“It is at the moments when the doors open, when things flow between the worlds, that stories happen.” 

“Let that be a lesson to you: If you are too good and too quiet for too long, it will cost you. It will always cost you, in the end.” 

“How fitting, that the most terrifying time in my life should require me to do what I do best: escape into a book.” 

“Worlds were never meant to be prisons, locked and suffocating and safe. Worlds were supposed to be great rambling houses with all the windows thrown open and the wind and summer rain rushing through them, with magic passages in their closets and secret treasure chests in their attics.” 

“Words and their meanings have weight in the world of matter, shaping and reshaping realities through a most ancient alchemy.” 

“Books are Doors and I wanted out.” 

“There is nothing quite like the anger of someone very powerful, who has been thwarted by someone who was supposed to be weak.” 

“…the place you are born isn’t necessarily the place you belong.” 

“The trouble with you people,’ I observed, ‘is that you believe in permanence. An orderly world will remain so; a closed door will remain closed.’ I shook my head, reaching for the door. ‘It’s very … limiting.” 

“I hope to every god you have the guts to do what needs doing. I hope you will find the cracks in the world and wedge them wider, so the light of other suns shines through. I hope you will keep the world unruly, messy, full of strange magics. I hope you will run through every open Door, and tell stories when you return.” 

“You don’t really know how fragile and fleeting your own voice is, until you watch a rich man take it away as easily as signing a bank loan.” 

“I wanted wide-open horizons and worn shoes and strange constellations spinning above me like midnight riddles. I wanted danger and mystery and adventure.” 

“Once we have agreed that true love exists, we may consider its nature. It is not, as many misguided poets would have you believe an event in and of itself; it is not something that happens, but something that simply is and always has been. One does not fall in love; one discovers it.”

“It is fashionable among intellectuals and sophisticates to scoff at true love — to pretend it is nothing but a sweet fairy tale sold to children and young women, to be taken as seriously as magic wands or glass slippers. I feel nothing but pity for these learned persons, because they would not say such foolish things if they had ever experienced love for themselves.” 

“Cats, I have found, seem to exist in more or less the same form in every world; it is my belief that they have been slipping in and out of doors for several thousand years. Anyone familiar with house cats will know this is a particular hobby of theirs.” 

“There’s only one way to run away from your own story, and that’s to sneak into someone else’s. I unwedged the leatherbound book from beneath my mattress and breathed in the ink-and-adventure smell of it. I walked through it into another world.” 

“If you are wondering why other worlds seem so brimful of magic compared to your own dreary Earth, consider how magical this world seems from another perspective. To a world of sea people, your ability to breathe air is stunning; to a world of spear throwers, your machines are demons harnessed to work tirelessly in your service; to a world of glaciers and clouds, summer itself is a miracle.” 

“Most people can’t tell the difference between truthtelling and madness; try it sometime and you’ll see what I mean.”

“The point is that I was scared and hurt and alone sometimes but in the end I won. I’m free. And if that’s the price for being free, I’ll pay it.” 

“Sentences may alter the weather, and poems might tear down walls. Stories may change the world.” 

“True love is not stagnant; it is in fact a door, through which all kinds of miraculous and dangerous things may enter.” 

“I felt like an explorer at the precipice of some new, wild world, armed only with ink and hope.” 

“They always end up alone in the stories—witches, I mean—living in the woods or mountains or locked in towers. I suppose it would take a brave man to love a witch, and most men are cowards.” 

“When one enters a door, one must be brave enough to see the other side.” 

“Sometimes pain is too unavoidable, too necessary to feel.” 

“Hearts aren’t chessboards, and they don’t play by the rules.” 

“Thresholds are dangerous places, neither here nor there, and walking across one is like stepping off the edge of a cliff in the naive faith that you’ll sprout wings halfway down. You can’t hesitate, or doubt. You can’t fear the in-between.” 

“Every story is a love story if you catch it at the right moment.” 

“In my life I’ve learned that the people you love will leave you. They will abandon you, disappoint you, betray you, lock you away, and in the end you will be alone, again and always.” 

“Time, sitting on your breastbone like a black-scaled dragon, minutes clicking like claws across the floor, hours gliding past on sulfurous wings.” 

“I felt like a woman reading a mystery novel with every fourth line missing. There’s really only one thing a person can do when they’re hip-deep in a mystery novel: keep reading.” 

“Now I sat in my room, face swollen and eyes dry, teetering on the edge of a pain so vast I couldn’t see its edges. It would swallow me whole, if I let it.” 

“She became something else entirely, something so radiant and while and fierce that a single world could not contain her, and she was obliged to find others.” 

“It turns out that once you begin, habit and memory keep your body moving in the right directions, like a wound-up clock ticking dutifully through the seconds.” 

“Perhaps I keep writing because I was raised in a world where words have power, where curves and spirals of ink adorn sails and skin, where a sufficiently talented word-worker might reach out and remake her world. Perhaps I cannot believe words are entirely powerless, even here.” 

“I hope you will find the cracks in the world and wedge them wider, so the light of other suns shines through; I hope you will keep the world unruly, messy, full of strange magics; I hope you will run through every open Door and tell stories when you return.”

“That there were Doors hidden in every shadowed place, waiting to be opened. That a woman might shed her childhood skin, snakelike, and fling herself into the seething unknown.” 

“Men like myself cannot see anything beyond our own pain; our eyes are inward-facing, mesmerized by the sight of our own broken hearts.” 

“I wanted to run away and keep running until I fell into some other, better world. And then I remembered the book.”

I’ve been a student and a teacher, a farm-worker and a cashier, an ice-cream-scooper and a 9-to-5 office-dweller. I’ve lived in tents and cars, cramped city apartments and lonely cabins, and spent a summer in a really sweet ’79 VW Vanagon. I have library cards in at least five states.

Now I’m a full-time writer living in with my husband and two semi-feral kids in Berea, Kentucky. It is, I’m very sure, the best of all possible worlds.

My debut novel–a historical fantasy called THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY–will be out in Fall 2019 from Orbit/Redhook. 

My writing is represented by Kate McKean at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

I found so many magical quotes in this book that I just had to share all of them with you but I think I may have added a few too many.

As always, thank you for reading. Until next time!

Keep on reading and never stop telling stories.

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