“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.”
The story is so lyrically delightful I fell in love with the writing style from page one. I just love it when stories make you want to fall in love with words all over again. It even introduced a few new words I can add to my vocabulary like *checks smudged writing on palm* muffins? That can’t be right.
Book: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
My rating: 5/5 stars
Awards: Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2020), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2019), etc.
Mini description: portal fantasy
The Ten Thousand Doors of January opens with a humble introduction to the power of Doors and their influence upon the world. Or shall I say worlds? At first, the story started off at a meandering pace, but right around the part where I started to wonder whether or not Doors were a metaphor for stories or maybe some magical realism element, the narrative really picked up and started to clarify my questions.
The world building is simply stellar. As it should be. It’s one of the key focuses of the book after all. From the various cultures of Earth to the islands of the Written, I find myself wanting to travel again.
Then there was the element of in-betweenness, which has dual meaning in a book like this. The first one, January’s bi-racial heritage, is introduced early on, but the other element, which is slighty spoiler-ish, crept up on me. I thought it was beautifully done.
The characters themselves were incredibly complex. I particularly liked Yule Ian the scholar, Adelaide the explorer, and of course January and her dog Sinbad “Bad”, who wants to bite everybody. Finally, a pet that isn’t nothing but friendly. Though none of my dogs have ever wanted to cuddle like Bad does, they’ve always leaned toward protection rather than trustworthiness.
Last but not least, the themes were stellar. Ten Thousand Doors addresses complex elements like absent family members, discrimination because of one’s skin color, and having the courage to stand up for one’s self.
“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.”
That’s not to say the book doesn’t have its lighthearted parts. It’s just intense at times.
In all, I gave The Ten Thousand Doors of January 5/5 stars for stellar narrative, world building, and themes. I’d recommend the book to anybody who likes young adult fantasy, particularly portal fantasy. I know publishing likes to compare books, and I’ll add more recommendations below, but this one was refreshingly original for me.
Let’s chat! Has The Ten Thousand Doors of January made it to your TBR list yet? Have you read it? What’s your favorite portal fantasy?