Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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.

First, let’s pause to admire the sheer gorgeousness of this book cover. There. Now we’ve had our daily dose of beauty.

In The Ten Thousand Doors of January, a young woman learns that the world is not entirely as it appears, and that she herself isn’t quite who she thought she was.

January’s father is employed by the fabulously wealthy Mr. Locke to travel the world and seek out rare and exotic artifacts. Because his journeys take him away for months at a time, January lives in Mr. Locke’s mansion, pampered but isolated, feeling abandoned by her father and unsure of her place in the world.

When a battered book called The Ten Thousand Doors comes into her possession, January begins to learn about Doors — secret portals that bridge the thin connection between worlds. According to the book, Doors are real, and people who know how to look and find can access their pathways. And yet, there are those who would see these doors destroyed, viewing them as dangerous to the world we know.

The more January reads, the more she learns about the secrets of her own life and why she lives as she does. She also begins to learn about her own hidden powers, and realizes that her life with Mr. Locke is built on control and lies. But freedom comes at a steep cost with great danger, and as January struggles to get away, she becomes hunted by very powerful people who want her stopped.

The writing in this book is lovely, capturing the magic of books as well as the beauty of the natural world and the mysteries all around us. For book-lovers, there are special little passages that touch our hearts:

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’s like the author has been spying on me! How did she know that I feel the need to touch the spines of my favorite books when I see them at the library or a bookstore, and maybe whisper a quiet “hello” while I’m there?

The book’s imagery and use of unusual words also delighted me:

Time went strange. The hour-dragons stalked and circled. I heard their belly scales susurrating against the tile in my sleep.

January is a wonderful lead character, brave but not without fear, curious, open-minded, and desperate for both belonging and the truth. She risks herself over and over again to fight for freedom, and remains utterly loyal to the important people in her life. I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that the truth about her family is its own story-within-a-story, and is beautiful as well.

Once we have agree 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.

The only thing that keeps this from being a 5-star read for me is that it really starts off slowly. I had to reach the 25% mark before I truly started to feel invested in January and the other characters. Of course, later I was so involved that I didn’t want to pause even to sleep, so I’m absolutely glad to have stayed with it. Still, I had enough doubts early on that it took me a while to overcome my reluctance and really plunge in.

A final note: As I read the excerpts from The Ten Thousand Doors (the book that January finds), I found myself struggling a bit with the footnotes and missed quite a few. They’re worth reading, but in Kindle format, they weren’t always easy to access and are actually embedded at the end of the book (at least in my copy), and the back and forth was a bit irritating. Small annoyance, but I thought I’d mention it.

I won’t say any more about the plot, but it’s best experienced fresh and without foreknowledge. I highly recommend The Ten Thousand Doors of January. It’s both an enchanting fantasy story and a very human story as well, with memorable characters and filled with emotion and passion. What a lovely read!


The details:

Title: The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Publisher: Redhook
Publication date: September 10, 2019
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Won in a Goodreads giveaway!










Top Ten Tuesday: Cover redesigns — love ’em or hate ’em?

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Cover Redesigns I Loved/Hated — which at first I wasn’t going to do, but then I took another look at my shelves, and found last-minute inspiration! Here are a variety of books that have been redesigned over the years. You be the judge of whether it’s for better or worse!

And because I’m running late, my top 10 list is really a top 5 list this week. Short & sweet!

1. Wuthering Heights: This just makes me laugh. In the heat of Twilight mania, this classic was reissued and blurbed as Bella’s favorite book. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the tweens who picked up a copy expecting vampires!


2. Stephen King books: I was always kind of partial to the cheesy early paperback editions of Stephen King’s books. The more streamlined graphic covers don’t have the same scare factor for me:


3. John Scalzi books: A few early Scalzi novels have been issued with new covers this past year. The new ones are nice, but you just can’t beat the whimsy of the earlier version.

4. Harry Potter: Okay, yes, the original is an absolute classic… but I do think Brian Selznick did a fantastic version with his set too.

5. Outlander: Some of the early covers in the series are so old-time cheesy, they just make me laugh!

How do you feel about cover redesigns? Are there any that you particularly love or hate?

If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!





Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Book Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week.

This week’s theme is Top Ten Favorite Book Covers of Books I’ve Read. I’m a sucker for an eye-catching cover, so my main challenge this week will be in limiting myself to just ten.

To get the full effect, I’m leaving most of the pictures here BIG size. ‘Cuz they’re just too pretty to shrink.

In no particular order:

1) Soulless by Gail Carriger. Proper Victorian lady, crazy-ass parasol, top hat and goggles. Not to mention the tagline at the bottom: “A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves, and Parasols”. I love the screaming pink title as well. Here’s one cover that is visually appealing and at the same time completely conveys the feel of the book.

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)

2) Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler: Book one in the Jane True series introduces us to a small-town girl whose world is about to get blown open as she discovers her secret heritage — as a half-selkie! I love the punky feel of this adorable cover:

Tempest Rising (Jane True, #1)

3) Lamb by Christopher Moore: Specifically, this special edition of Lamb, featuring a leatherette cover, gilt-edging on the pages, and a silk bookmark. Quite Biblical, wouldn’t you say? And totally appropriate for Christopher Moore’s one-of-a-kind view of “The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal”. One of my favorite books ever… especially with this cover.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

4) The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley: This is the book that — for me — completely defies the “don’t judge a book by its cover” rule. As soon as I saw the cover, I fell in love. Had to have it. The fact that I ended up really enjoying the story (timeslip romance, Scotland, Jacobites, etc) is just a plus. This is just gorgeous:

The Winter Sea

5) The Silent Land by Graham Joyce. This book is fantastic, and the starkness of the cover, with its eerie landscape and empty chairlift, is a perfect portrayal of the book’s mood and setting. It’s hard to tell from just a picture, but the book jacket is translucent white, with the black areas showing through from the book itself. Amazing.

The Silent Land

6) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith: The book that started the classics/monster mash-up craze! I know we’re probably all sick of them by now, but P&P&Z was really an original at the time. I love the cover — you could easily walk right by it in a bookstore, assuming it’s just a portrait of a traditional Regency-era young woman… but then the teeth or throat jump out at you and practically force you to do a double-take. So simple. So clever.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

7) The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman: The girl on the cover is just so beautiful, and I love the sepia tones and uncluttered layout. The cover gives the book a classic yet exotic look. Stunning.

The Dovekeepers

8) The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater: I like these books individually, but love them when you put them all side by side. The colors, the changing seasons, the wolves — it all works. Plus, the print inside the books matches the color theme on the jackets, which seemed weird at first, but actually works nicely once you get used to it.

9) The Radleys by Matt Haig: White picket fence… with just a drop or two of blood. Not your average day in the suburbs, that’s for sure.

The Radleys

10) Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll.  This is one odd, twisty book, so hard to describe — but I really love the intricacy of the black and white cover, with just a touch of red for added oomph.

Bones of the Moon

Wait, what? I’m up to ten already? How can that be? As I do on so many top 10 lists, I must give a shout-out to my honorable mention books. I love these covers too, not necessarily any less than the ten above — but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere, right?

My honorable mention — but I really, really love them — book covers are:

  • Under the Dome by Stephen King
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham

SunshineSisters Red (Fairytale Retellings, #1)Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall

Someone stop me!

So what made your top 10 list this week? Do tell!

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