I heard really good things about Ten Thousand Doors of January, so although the cover and blurb at first glance didn’t really appeal to me or look very original, I picked it up anyway for me and my teenage daughter to read. So..the blurb/cover might be a tad misleading.
The book starts out one way: the story of a little girl of mixed race in the 1900’s living with a rich benefactor who has hired her father to go out on archeological expeditions to bring back artifacts for the benefactor, Mr. Locke’s, collection. January yearns to run free outdoors with her friend, the grocer’s boy Samuel. But Locke and her straitlaced nanny insist on ladylike behavior. Her life’s only joys are when her father comes home for brief visits and the mysterious gifts that appear in a blue box in the Egyptian collection room.
The nature of January’s life, and the book itself, changes one night when Mr. Locke attempts to initiate January into his collector’s society. Her rejection causes a rift with Mr. Locke and forces her on a magical journey in search of Doors. Because the entire book’s leitmotif (and heavy motif) is the transformative, necessary nature of Doors.
Also love. There are two love stories here, one sweeping grand saga with much passion and suffering. And another one involving January that is a sweet, supportive revelation. January herself is plucky and sympathetic. I enjoyed how she came into her own power, a power that was earned and involved sacrifice, and also how she is the agent of her own salvation.
I wish I could be more specific, but some of my joy at reading this book was at the slow unfolding of January’s parents’ history (from a narrative book her father wrote and bequeathed to her) and her slow realization of her own worth and right to be free.
Suffice it to say, there are warrior women, sailing over oceans, the threat of Mr. Locke and his not-all-human compatriots, scholars, tattooing of words that shape reality, secret notes, cantankerous farmer Aunties, legends of ghost women, and lovely, lovely prose.
Really lovely prose. I almost quoted a passage here, but the book is upstairs and really you should discover it for yourself. There’s a little bit of gunshooting violence, a bit of stabbing, but otherwise nothing too upsetting for YA folks. Alix Harrow is definitely on my book-buying radar now 🙂