January Scaller is not white. This makes her stand out as an oddity in early 1900s New England despite her clothes and demeanor that would have passed every high-society test on a girl with white skin. Her caretaker, Mr. Locke, has done his best to provide January with all the things she will need to be comfortable: a home, nice clothes, training in being demure and quiet, and a nursemaid. Despite his best attempts to stifle, January is determined to find her own path in this world or another. Along the way she is aided by Jane, a nursemaid sent to January by her father and not Mr. Locke, and her loyal dog, Sinbad or Bad for short.
I wanted to really like this book. I really did. In her debut novel, Alix E. Harrow created an interesting system of magic that had just enough explanation to be believable and fun. I enjoyed that the readers get to read along with January as she reads a book within the book. Jane is an all-around bad ass character that I found the most engaging. This book had so much potential that Harrow never quite fully captured.
I think the biggest issue is that there is not a careful enough exploration of January’s race. That she is so racially different from everyone around her is brought up frequently, but there is no real dive into how January’s race would have affected her relationships with others, with her community, with the country (we know we’re in the early 1900s in the United States, so the Civil War just happened), or even January’s relationship with herself. It felt like a diversity hire, or like Harrow completed the book, realized that nearly everyone was white, and went back and changed the main character’s skin but nothing else. It was a missed opportunity to explore January’s race in order to make her a richer, more developed character.
DEBUT BINGO SQAURE