The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Written by: Alix E. Harrow
Reviewed by: Rob Leicht
Even among the mountains of books about portals, doors, and other worlds, The Ten Thousand Doors of January stands as a unique achievement. It is a tale about the stories that exist within stories, the pain of loss, the glory of discovery, and the soul-crushing feeling of not having a place in this world. Alix Harrow has written a novel that is simultaneously haunting and achingly beautiful.
The Ten Thousand Doors follows young January Scaller who at the age of 7 first discovers a Door that seemingly leads to another world. The trappings of fate lead to the portal being destroyed and January spending the next 10 years being molded into the idea of a perfect young woman as envisioned by her ward Mr. Locke. That is until the discovery of a mysterious book reignites her desire to escape and January begins her journey through multiple worlds in search of a sense of belonging. Taking place in the early 20th century, Harrow expertly handles themes of discrimination, race, poverty, and class relations without taking away from the plot.
Harrow’s prose is rich, lyrical, and utterly immersive. In the second half of the book, as the action and tension increase, the lushness of the writing turns grittier and sharper in a masterful change of pace and tone.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January takes the feeling of magic and wonder from the portal fantasies I read as child and reinvents it for adults who have never stopped dreaming about Doors and faraway places. None of the magic and wonder is lost in translation and a lust for adventure is invoked.