This has happened again! Just like with «Miracle Creek» by Angie Kim, «Ten Thousand Doors of January» by Alix E. Harrow didn’t grab my attention enough to care about the characters or the destiny of different worlds. And while in my review of «Miracle Creek» I mentioned that there wasn’t anything I hated about the book, in «Ten Thousand Doors of January» I can say with confidence that I would have enjoyed this book so much more if not for the writing style.
After seeing such a warm and loving feedback from the bookish community for this Alix E. Harrow novel, I’m very disappointed that I didn’t love it. And, although, my opinion is in minority, I still saw those 2 and 3 stars reviews on GoodReads of people who felt similarly to me.
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure, and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
Thank you, NetGalley and Orbit – Little, Brown Book Group for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way.
January Scaller is one of a kind. She is a unique specimen, and when she was seven, she found a Door. Not any ordinary door to the neighbor’s house or to the broom closet, no. She’s found a Door to another world.
In this magical Literary Fiction, a young woman searches for her true self, fantastical worlds intertwine with each other through the magical Doors, and two people discover the power of love.
WHAT I LIKED:
1 – January Scaller that we meet at the beginning of the book is my favorite version of January Scaller. Don’t get confused! There is only one January, and I will talk more about my issues with characterization below, but January that I started to like, at first, was this brave young girl, witty and bright, trying to discover the hidden powers within herself.
You don’t even know my name (it’s January Scaller; so now I suppose you do know a little something about me and I’ve ruined my point).
Reading the story from January’s point of view was a true delight, and from very first chapters I expected to fall deeper and deeper in love with her and her story. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen.
2 – The existence of Doors to other worlds is a splendid idea that got me so excited to read this book. And the beautiful cover design, of course. Look at that cover! Even though I loved the concept behind this book, the execution wasn’t what I expected. I wanted adventures in different worlds, I wished for a big quest for the main character, I desired to learn more about what lay behind those doors. But my wishes went unanswered, except a few mentions of adventures:
It smelled like adventure itself had been harvested in the wild, distilled to a fine wine, and splashed across each page.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
1 – Almost every single review of this book mentions the beautiful writing style. And, of course, Alix E. Harrow is a very talented author. Hence why I highlighted so many passages. But these passages combined together created this emotional barrier that I couldn’t overcome. All elements of the story were described to me in a way that I felt very distant from the characters and not engaged in the actual events.
I’m sure everyone has saved many beautiful quotes from this book, as did I. But while some of them sound wonderful, they don’t really contribute to the story, just unnecessarily stretch the events. Take for example this one:
Time went strange. The hour-dragons stalked and circled. I heard their belly scales susurrating against the tiles in my sleep…
2 – I also had some trouble with characterization. More often than not characters would act out of their element. When a character is first introduced to us, from the initial acts, dialogues, descriptions, I usually start forming a certain opinion about that character – is he quite, is he loud, does he have a strong personality.
In «Ten Thousand Doors of January» my first impressions of the characters would always turn out to be wrong. I’d imagine Yule to be a quiet scholar, and he’d act brash and recklessly. I’d imagine January as this brave, selfless young lady, and something would happen to turn my whole image of her upside down.
And, of course, I know that the characters are not defined by just one trait and that maybe I’m not seeing the multiple layers of their personality, but for me, it felt unnatural.
3 – Another big complaint is the pacing. I loved the beginning and January’s story, but as soon as I started to read the book inside the book I needed to push myself through the story, not really caring about Yule and Adelaide. While also interrupting my connection with January as I waited for the next chapter to bring me back to the “real” world.
The disconnection that I felt made me consider DNF this book multiple times, but instead, I pushed myself to read 50% of the book, and when I realized that it wasn’t getting better I skimmed the rest 50%, sometimes skipping entire paged. But you know what? I don’t feel like I missed anything.
I know that most of you read and loved this book, and I hope that I was able to express well what exactly didn’t work for me.
Will I pick up any of Alix E. Harrow books in the future? Probably not. There’s certainly an audience for her books, but I won’t be joining their ranks just yet.