book review, buddy read, fantasy

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow

A much hyped fantasy novel that unfortunately disappoints.

At seven years old, January Scaller finds a magic door to another world, much to the annoyance of her benefactor, Mr Locke. After the incident, January is kept on a tight leash with only the grocery boy, Samuel, and an African woman, Jane, for friends.

In her seventeenth year, January finds a strange book that tells the story of Adelaide Lee. She reads the book.

A story full of potential, The Ten Thousand Doors of January seems to be aiming for a full house on how not to write a book. There are two first person narrators in the book, January’s and the book she reads, but they are identical, leaving the author’s love of words and long rambling sentences and description predominant. The narration is also full of references to the future, contradicting things that are said at the time, which reduces all urgency in the tale.

As far as plot and pacing go, there is very little. Not much happens to January. Most of the book involves her reading a book, and even though the events in the book within a book are marginally more interesting, they are told in a second or third hand way which sucks all interest out of them.

The characters are poorly drawn and behave in erratic and unbelievable ways. Most of the time we are told, in a glut of words, what a character is like and how they are feeling without any corresponding evidence to suggest that this is true.

January has powers that are convenient. She uses them without any repercussions, suddenly becomes afraid of them to create false tension in the plot and then uses them again with abandon.

The villains of the piece are less well developed than the killer in a z rate slasher movie. They are full of contradictions and don’t make any sense. You expect me to believe that very rich powerful men travel alone on foot everywhere they go? I don’t think so.

I found the theme of the book as poorly thought out as the rest of it. January tells us repeatedly that doors mean change, but apparently empires, trains and colonialism doesn’t count as change in the author’s eyes. No, change involves the twenty first century minded worlds invading our world and causing rebellions and revolutions, because they are always the good kind of change.

If you like language above story, pacing and plot, than this book is probably for you. Harrow revels in the rise and fall of language, choosing twenty words to do the work of one, and sacrificing all else to weave a lulling rhythm across each page that I’m sure many have found intoxicating.

If you love portal fantasy for great world building, strong story and places that make characters stronger, help them heal their rifts and test themselves in the fire, this is not the book for you. The doors in The Ten Thousand Doors of January cause fractures and leave the characters broken.

I award The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is available for $6.62 ebook and $16.99 print book on Amazon.

This is my December buddy read and rant with Jonny @ Jaunts & Haunts. Watch out for our post coming soon.

Click here to read Jonny’s review on Jaunts & Haunts.

12 thoughts on “The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow”

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