A Fantastical Debut: “The Ten Thousand Doors of January”

There’s no better way to end a taxing day than coming home to a new book—especially when it’s free.

Yes, here I am (Taylor), again, bragging about winning an ARC of a rather intriguing and fantastical debut novel by Alix E. Harrow. The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which will be released into stores in September 2019, is a coming-of-age story set in the 1900s.

I’m really going to attempt to give a very general description without any spoilers; hopefully I succeed!

The action really begins when a young woman, January Scaller, finds a mysterious book detailing the phenomenon of hidden doors leading to other worlds. January herself is a curious rebel but soon is confined by expectations and perception of how a young woman should behave, especially since she is of color (this is only heightened because of the time period as well).

Her father works for Mr. Locke, a wealthy collector of rare artifacts and a member of an archaeological society, and January lives in Locke’s mansion while her father travels around the world finding these artifacts. And, of course, to trigger the action and January’s journey, something needs to happen—in this case something devastating.

Overall, I enjoyed The Ten Thousand Doors. Out of the many coming-of-age stories, it was nice to have a protagonist who is headstrong and not a young white male. Now, I have nothing against tales where the boy is the “savior”; this book is just another example of a step in the right direction of the publishing industry. Though, it wasn’t written by a writer of color (I don’t want to assume—I did Google—so correct me if I’m wrong), she does a nice job of depicting what life would be like if you were stuck “in between” races.

This theme of “not belonging” is strong not just in race but in where a person calls home, and, ultimately, what home means to that person. Is home where you grew up or is it a person? Or is it an entirely new world you have yet to discover? January is afforded the chance to choose for herself. And the theme of “resistance to change” is strong as well and reflects a little of what society today is experiencing as well—I’ve read so much about our education system with my internship at Harvard Education Press: there is a lot of resistance to change in the United States, in that, not many want to fix what isn’t broken since it’s been that way for so long. They see any new idea as a threat and as a waste of time.

I would delve more into these themes, but I don’t want to risk spoiling something!

So, should you read The Ten Thousand Doors of January? Yes!

This is a solid debut novel. It is written well and with the intent for the reader to take away that change is okay. January Scaller is a force and a character that gives young girls and even women another female protagonist to proudly look up to and a protagonist of color whose representation is sorely needed.

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