The Ten Thousand Doors of January

- Alix E. Harrow


In the early 1900s, a young woman searches for her place in the world 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.



When I was seven, I found a door. I suspect I should capitalize that word, so you understand I’m not talking about your garden-or common-variety door that leads reliably to a white-tiled kitchen or a bedroom closet.


Reason and rationality reigned supreme, and there was no room for magic or mystery.

There was no room, it turned out, for little girls who wandered off the edge of the map and told the truth about the mad, impossible things they found there.
If I hadn’t already read and fallen in love with the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, I think I would’ve liked The Ten Thousand Doors of January much more. As it stands, it was hard to place this book among Harrow’s other books and not find it lacking.

There’s a strong emphasis on storytelling and adventure while lacking said storytelling and any adventure. Sure, we get to hear about how far and wide Adelaide and Julian have travelled in search of ‘true love’ and family, but it all happens off-stage. Even Jane (who quickly becomes the most interesting character when she’s actually allowed to become more than a side character) talks a lot about what she’s done but doesn’t do much.
Adelaide Lee was three when her mother succumbed to consumption and depression and faded away entirely, and thereafter she was raised by her grandmother and four aunts.

Thus Adelaide Lee was born of poor luck and poverty and raised by ignorance and solitude. Let this ignoble origin story stand as an invaluable lesson to you that a person’s beginnings do not often herald their endings, for Adelaide Lee did not grow into another pale Larson woman. She became something else entirely, something so radiant and wild and fierce that a single world could not contain her, and she was obliged to find others.
I know there are a lot of working pieces and external factors, but it was hard to root for January or Julian. January is incredibly complacent, shockingly naive, and seems to only value others based on what they can do for her. There’s a lot of talk about what she wishes she had done in moments, but she rarely course corrects or learns from her errors. It seems she goes out of her way to make the same mistakes and endanger others to protect herself. Julian is even harder to like. He’s older and is supposedly this learned scholar, but he still manages to abandon his daughter to search for his wife. It doesn’t have to be an either-or situation, especially once January is older or when Julian learns more about the Society. There are so many opportunities for him to bond with January and to play a more significant role in her life, but he almost always chooses to continue his search and leave her at the mercy of the Society.

I know The Ten Thousand Doors of January is nothing like the Wayward Children series, but talking about doors and parallel/alternate worlds makes it impossible not to compare the two. Where the Wayward Children series is quick and complex, creepy and enthralling, realistic and magical, The Ten Thousand Doors of January is slow, obvious, and often predictable. It seems confused about genre and intent, discarding characters without need or explanation, and most of the time, I was left feeling like something was missing.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of Harrow’s work, so The Ten Thousand Doors of January appears to be a strange outlier. In future, I’ll be much more likely to return to The Once and Future Witches or the Fractured Fables series. Instead of wanting to read more by Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January made me want to return to Maguire’s work.
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-color prints, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco-smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, of literary weight or unsolved mysteries.



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