January Scaller has never quite fit in anywhere.In the early 1900s, she is a mixed-race almost-orphan. She lives with her enormously wealthy guardian, Mr. Locke, in his house full of treasures, while her father travels the world seeking curiosities for Mr. Locke’s collections. January is an inbetween kind of person, not fitting in fully anywhere, but largely insulated from her own otherness by Mr. Locke’s wealth and status. And then, January finds a book. The book tells the story of doors – doors between worlds, opening endless possibilities.
What follows is a warm-hearted adventure as January starts to learn the truth about the book, and about her own life and circumstances. There are some heavy themes in the book; Harrow doesn’t shy away from the experiences of a mixed-race girl in the early twentieth century, and is clear-eyed about how money and class can change the game. There is no shortage of bad guys, who do some truly rotten things.
While this is nominally January’s coming of age story, I actually found myself drawn far more to the story-within-the-story, of Ade and Jul Ian Scaller [apologies for any character misspellings – I listened to this one on audio]. I loved the character of Ade, her adventurousness, and the unapologetic way she lived the life she wanted. I’d read a whole other book just about Ade. I also appreciated the ending, and the way the author resisted tying everything up in a tidy bow. There’s enough open-endedness to be very satisfying, and to avoid falling completely into cliché.
Good choice for fans of The Starless Sea.