Ahh I have fallen so far behind. It’s been almost a month since I updated and I have several several reviews to write. So sorry! Okay but .. this book. Read it.
As luck would have it, I was at first reading The Ten Thousand Doors of January virtually in tandem with The Starless Sea and both pretty quickly revolve around magic doors acting as portals to other worlds. Unfortunately this had me initially writing January off as a knock-off (I’ll get to it in that review, but Starless Sea is actually impossible to compare to and I never should have tried) but the further I got through it the more I was obsessed with this book in it’s own right.
Our narrator is a young woman named January. She is in the care of her father’s wealthy white benefactor, her mother having never been a part of her life while her father is consistently off on exploration adventures. As a child, January discovered a door in the middle of a field, one that led to a new ocean, and when she went back the next day the door was destroyed, though she’s never been fully convinced that what she saw wasn’t real. Years later she’s informed of her father’s death and her benefactor tries to draw her into her secret society and she makes her escape into a world much bigger than she ever knew, filled with doors and whole other worlds behind them.
January’s father is black and her mother is implied to have been white and throughout the book, quiet, unspoken threats use her race as a tool to keep her biddable. When she’s deemed sufficiently well-behaved, she’s one of the good ones and when she acts out, it’s “well what can you expect”. It’s insidious and awful. January is dismissed at every turn and is stronger than anyone expected, in part because she is so underestimated. So often in genre fiction, race is practically just a paint color that has no impact beyond a physical description so it is a welcome change to see an author take into account how this could shape a character beyond how they are said to look. The author is a white woman so as a white woman myself I may also be reading this incorrectly.
January’s chapters are interspersed with the written biography of another woman who leaves home in search of something, this becomes a book she’s reading in an arc that is very satisfying. The language and writing on this is absolutely gorgeous which kept me going even as Harrow took her sweet time getting to the point. I enjoyed myself more and more and then around the halfway point I was hooked to the point of obsession.
Please, more people read this so we can talk about it.