The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

the ten thousand doors of january

“A riot of impossible dreams”

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a quirky, imaginative amalgamation of worlds and make believe that makes you appreciate reality in a whole new light. January Scaller never knew her mother, and barely sees her father as he travels the world searching for unique collectables for his employer, Cornelius Locke. Meanwhile January is taken under the wing of Mr Locke, exploring the hallways of his grand mansion filled to the brim with exquisite artefacts from around the world. Or worlds, I should say.

January always wants to escape and explore, and one day she stumbles upon a door. A door in the middle of a field, leading to somewhere not familiar; it smells like cedar and sunlight. But Mr Locke tells her to stop believing in childish fantasies, because such things aren’t possible.

Sulking through the treasure troves of Locke House, January discovers a book titled ‘The Ten Thousand Doors’, which turns out to be more than just a story. Before long January’s life becomes a fairytale adventure, a journey through doors and worlds and possibilities beyond comprehension.

“It was like an earthquake that didn’t disturb a single blade of grass, an eclipse that didn’t cast a single shadow, a vast but invisible change.”

“It smelled like adventure itself had been harvested in the wild, distilled to a fine wine, and splashed across each page.”

“I wanted wide-open horizons and worn shoes and strange constellations spinning above me like midnight riddles.”

One of the most alluring things about this novel is the writing. It’s beautifully poetic, and the way it describes doors as portals to embracing difference and diversity earns its place in the literary fiction category. But it’s more than that; it ignites the magic of words and stories.

“Doors introduce change. And from change come all things: revolution, resistance, empowerment, upheaval, invention, collapse, reformation—all the most vital components of human history, in short.”

“Doors are revolutions and upheavals, uncertainties and mysteries, axis points around which entire worlds can be turned. They are the beginnings and endings of every true story, the passages between that lead to adventures.”

“Without doors the worlds would grow stagnant, calcified, storyless.”

“The trouble with you people,” I observed, “is that you believe in permanence. An orderly world will remain so; a closed door will stay closed.” I shook my head, reaching for the door. “It’s very … limiting.”

The plot itself felt a little disjointed at times; occasionally new ideas are woven into the story out of nowhere with no ongoing significance (think random mentions of vampires and powers to control the mind).

When I first read the blurb of this book I expected January to be discovering doors within Locke House itself, but that’s not the case at all. In actual fact the doors and the worlds on the other side are much more wild and significant. They are the beginnings of beautiful love stories the bring people together, and the anguishing endings that tear them apart. They are hallways of hope for the restless as they seek to find a world in which they belong.

I read this novel at a time when I needed distraction and to be absorbed into another world, and it certainly achieved that. Looking over the sometimes bizarre and completely random elements of the plot, it was a delight to read and left some poignant thoughts on our world and its possibilities:

“If you are wondering why other worlds seem so brimful of magic compared to your own dreary Earth, consider how magical this world seems from another perspective. To a world of sea people, your ability to breathe air is stunning; to a world of spear throwers, your machines are demons harnessed to work tirelessly in your service; to a world of glaciers and clouds, summer itself is a miracle.”

“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.”

“Dance through this eternal green orchard, where ten thousand worlds hang ripe and red for the plucking; wander with me between the trees, tending them, clearing away the weeds, letting in the air.”


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