Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

This is a good, fantastical adventure story. An epic journey of discovery. However, it begins a little muddled. You're not sure what's going to push the story forward fast enough to know what to pay attention to right away. It detracts from the 'aha' moments later. 

The author seems to love the genre so much, she over-inserts classic elements. You feel at times like you're in another book, if only for a few pages. This makes it hard to emphatically say whether I think this is a good book.

January Scaller is a girl that doesn't belong. She lives in a world she knows she doesn't quite fit into, but what choice does she have? Apparently, she has a lot. Weak spaces in the fabric of worlds create doors. If you can find them, you can move through them to somewhere new, somewhere that fits.

It's the beginning of the 20th Century when we first meet a young January. She's living as the ward of Mr. Locke, the head of an archaeological organization that obtains rare artifacts from around the world. January's father works for Locke retrieving these items. He's not really around for January, which makes it hard since she lost her mom as a baby. When her father disappears and is presumed dead, January begins to question everything. Once, January had discovered a door to a world smelling of salt and the sea. Maybe this is the solution to the mystery of her missing father, and what Locke is really up to.

At the same time all this happens, January comes into possession of a special book. It's a story of love, pain, and sadness. It's about misplacement and an almost endless search. It's her parents' story, and January decides she can find them again if only she can get to the right door. 

That's the heart of this book, what I feel is the main narrative line. A girl, coming into her own, heads out on a great search. But, that's hardly all that happens. It's practically impossible to summarize since so much leans into the general action. From multiple villains, magical abilities, daring escapes, death, love, and heartbreak, the story is stuffed with so much more than it needed. It takes too long for January to develop a sense of urgency, and she misses the obvious time and time again. The arc is awkward.

What I did like about the book is the magic it imbued to words. This is a book where words have true value and power. When believed in, they can literally change the world and bring people back to each other. It would have been easy for the author to use words as witchcraft, with characters speaking magic spells, but that's not what happens. It's more organic and feels more powerful.

Overall, this is a fun adventure to read over the summer. It will pick up momentum as it goes, so stick with it.

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