Writer: Alix E.Harrow
Publishing House: Orbit
Date of Publication:September 10th 2019
Rating: 4 stars
”Maybe you’ve even seen one for yourself, standing half-ajar and rotted in an old church, or oiled and shining in a brick wall. Maybe, if you’re one of those fanciful persons who find their feet running toward unexpected places, you’ve even walked through one and found yourself in a very unexpected place indeed.”
January is a young girl torn between two worlds. Her parentage makes her special, yet people see what they want to see, dictated by the (twisted) preconceived notions of the early 20th-century society. Motherless and with an absent father, January tries to find an escape and a purpose to satisfy her ever-searching mind and soul. And then, doors start appearing. Doors leading to different worlds, doors hiding adventure and danger. And, perhaps, the key that leads to her past and her family.
”Those of you who are more than casually familiar with books-those of you who spend your free afternoons in frusty bookshops, who offer furtive, kindly strokes along the spines of familiar titles- understand that page raffling is an essential element in the process of introducing oneself to a new book. It isn’t about reading the words; it’s about reading the smell, which wafts through the pages in a cloud of dust and wool pulp. It might smell expensive and well bound, or it might smell of tissue-thin paper and blurred two -colour print, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco – smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, of literary weight or unsolved mysteries.”
If nothing else, this novel is rich in beautiful bookish references. I found some of the most powerful descriptions of the impact of books in our lives, the way they shape our souls, the difference we unwittingly form in relation to people who don’t touch a book, remaining prisoners of the telly and their mundane microcosm. Books make us soar, imagination runs wild and doors open, leading to new worlds and new characters that become our company. Some momentary, others become friends and loves for life. January discovers a new life through a book of Ten Thousand Doors, aided by a brave young woman.
Themes of race and identity are mixed with vivid descriptions of the cultural and social circumstances of the era, a time when progress was knocking on people’s doors but the status quo was still undisputed and dangerous. Passages, portals, and entryways lead to worlds graced with elements of the myths that once existed about undiscovered, uncharted territories and their inhabitants, and the writing is beautiful, adventurous and engaging.
The same adjectives can be used to characterize January and Jane, two memorable characters that become the perfect companions for such a story. They are faithful to their course, fearless and realistic. But for me, the crown jewel is Ade. Ade and Jul’s relationship is beautiful and moving and it touched me so much that once Ade was kept out of the picture, I began to lose interest… At times the narration drags and the dialogue becomes too contemporary, arguably unfaithful to the era depicted. Certain incidents and twists were repetitive and predictable. Once January discovers her past, the writing and the story slow down. In addition, certain parts of the plot seem too neatly wrapped and others were left loose.
I am certain that Fantasy lovers will adore this novel. It was definitely a satisfying and unusual read but it didn’t particularly stick with me. Which is fine, not all books can enter the Favourites squad. The writing was beautiful and the themes powerful but I lost focus and grew tired towards the final chapters. Therefore, four stars from me.
”[…] my long years of research have taught me that all stories, even the meanest folktales, matter. They are artifacts and palimpsests, riddles and histories. They are the read threads that we may follow out of the labyrinth. It is my hope that this story is your thread, and at the end of it you will find a door.”
Many thanks to Orbit and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.