You know that feeling when you read a book that is just so totally, completely and utterly perfect, and you can’t stand knowing that it’s going to finish? That’s how I felt Sunday morning. I woke up at 8am to take my scheduled medication, and picked my book up almost with a sigh, knowing I’d be taking in the last of The Ten Thousand Doors of January. I refer to it as “book grief”, and it’s one of those blessing in disguise emotions; desperate sadness but magic having read such a book.
I’ll be honest in saying that I bought Ten Thousand Doors several months ago, and by the time I actually got around to reading it, I had utterly forgotten what it was about. But then, the synopsis was rather vague as it was. My son asked me when he saw me reading it the first day, “What’s it about?”, and I had to say that honestly I didn’t know. I was glad I didn’t, actually, as it made each page I turned that bit more engaging. Whilst it might have been the cover that first caught my attention, it was every word within this beautifully magical book that kept it.
The female lead, January, weaves such a beautiful tale through her strange and special childhood, talking about the museum-like house she grows up in, surrounded by the exhibits that become her comforts. At the same time, right from the start we are fed tiny bits of magic that leave you questioning and needing more answers. There are little clues to keep you wondering, and the description work is simply stunning. Throughout the book, she describes individual letters at points in such emotive language that you feel a connection to letters. It’s a special thing to be able to do, to draw your attention and love to a single letter.
Alix E. Harrow has written a stunning debut novel in The Ten Thousand Doors of January, to the point that I’m finding this quite a hard review to write, because I just want to write READ THIS BOOK, IT’S AMAZING! multiple times. I love writing book reviews, and I was so looking forward to writing about this one, but it’s so beautiful that I’m really just lost for words.
As the story progresses, January grows up, and certain things start to happen that she has no control over, or understanding of. She grows tired of having to be a ‘good girl’, and wants to break free of the control she slowly starts to feel is held over her. At this point, things start to spiral into twists and turns that could not have been predicted; and oh how you wish for a happy ending for everyone involved! From January herself to even the minor characters that we encounter along the way, you just want everything to end up with the happiness they so deserve.
One of the serious issues that Ten Thousand Doors touches on is racism. January is described as having light red skin, and is ushered into segregated seating on trains, along with talking several times about the look she is familiar with from white women, looking at her as a strange creature rather than a human being. Using such a magical book to keep roots in a serious issue is a brilliant way to get people to remember there is a world outside of fiction. Not that I’m implying that readers are oblivious, not in the slightest. But making the most of any opportunities is how we get people to think outside of the box, and if we can find the empathy to understand racism in a fantasy book, we can do it in the work around us.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January really is one of the most unique books I have ever read. There is beauty and magic in so many layers. Endless thought and imagination has gone into creating this work of literary art, and I am genuinely sad my adventures with January and the other characters are over. I hope this review encourages you to take those adventures too. You won’t regret it.