Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow

First I would like to start by linking you all to one of the best short stories I have read in a long time, also by Ten Thousand Doors of January author Alix E Harrow. Thank you to Jocelyn is Wrong for pointing it out to the masses. I have thought about it every day since reading. Really. It has librarians and witches. It has books. Go read A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies. 

Now, for The Ten Thousand Doors of January. I was super hyped for this book. After about 9 months of seeing the cover everywhere, reading reviews, and just general buzz I did something I almost never do. I preordered the book. It showed up at my house the day it was released and I was ecstatic. I took many pictures of the gorgeous cover. I told all my friends about it. I dove in. 

I found the reading waters to be thick. The language was beautiful. I was so excited, but I wasn’t enjoying my reading experience.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is the story of a girl living with an oppressive guardian. It is the story of a girl who opens doors that appear in the middle of nowhere. It is the story of a girl who barely knows her family, but knows her dad is an adventurer. A girl who grew up quiet and well mannered. 

It is also the story of a girl who learns to resist, who learns to grow, who writes her own story. 

In theory I should be all about the Ten Thousand Doors of January. Instead I felt that the beautiful prose allowed the story to drag out. The middle of the book felt like drowning to me. There was no end in sight. I didn’t care for the story within a story aspect that Harrow used to provide backstory. I wanted adventures through doors with January Staller. I didn’t care about anyone else. 

And that, I think, was the real downfall of The The Thousand Doors of January – The characters. Mr Locke is both intimidating and endearing enough to create a complex emotion. January is full of life. She jumps off the page. Everyone else is stale. The story really comes into its own when it is January’s own adventure, who own story, not when she is trying to solve her past, or interact with her family and friends. When she is on her own she shines.

What I guess I’m saying is The Ten Thousand Doors of January could use more January. 

I know my review is in the minority. So many people loved this book. The writing really is beautiful. It just wasn’t the story I had wanted it to be. I suppose that is the problem with hyped books. Readers have time to imagine all sorts of amazing things and sometimes those visions are hard to live up to.  It is definitely still worth the read, and I wouldn’t want to dissuade anyone who thought the premise sounds interesting.

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