‘’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.’’
What do you envision when you see a door? Do you imagine what is behind it? Does it inspire you to look inside? Do you want to open it? Or do you see it as a sign that says, “stay out”?
In “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” by Alix E. Harrow, “Doors” are the catalyst for an adventure story about love and family. It’s been a long time since I fell in love with a book and I’m not ashamed to admit this fantasy-labeled novel stole my heart. It’s delightful, wonderfully written and incredibly imaginative. I know some of you may have already stopped reading when I called this a fantasy but really, you will be pleasantly surprised if you open the doors of your imagination and give this book a chance.
First, let me preface by saying “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” doesn’t have wizards or dragons or drawn out wars between magical creatures. It’s no “Lord of the Rings” type of fantasy. Contemporary fantasy would probably fit better but since the story takes place in the early 20th century, contemporary isn’t completely accurate either. January Scaller is living a rich girl’s life as ward to a Mr. William Cornelius Locke. The late 1800s and early 1900s was a time where men of means collected all sorts of unique things: rare orchids from the Amazon or mythical-like creatures from Africa. Locke is also a collector of the unusual and his supplier is January’s father, Julian. Because Locke sends Julian all over the world, January is mostly brought up by Locke. She believes Locke loves her, in his own stilted way, and feels abandoned by her father.
Then one day she finds a book that changes everything. The book is called “The Ten Thousand Doors: Being a Comparative Study of Passages, Portals, and Entryways in World Mythology,” written by a Mr. Yule Ian Scholar. The book argues that there are Doors that are portals to different worlds, and points to mythological stories as evidence. January is fascinated with the story – after all, she lives for the penny stories delivered to her by the local grocer’s son. But soon, January realizes that this slender book is much more than a fantastical made-up story and it propels her onto a journey of discovery of self and family.
What charmed me about “The Ten Thousand Doors” (both the novel on my shelf and the novel within the story) is the ease which Harrow has writing about the premise. She believes in this dual world and doesn’t have to rely on heavy handed fantastical elements to get us to believe it, too. January keeps us rooted in our own world while the book she is reading talks about another one. It’s no different than reading a story where the characters live in two different cities, because for all the fantasy elements (and again, these are not overwhelming) it is still a character driven story.
I wanted to rush through and find out what happens to January but the writing was so beautiful I made myself slow down. When I finished – and I found the ending very satisfactory – I contemplated the overall theme. Yes, it’s a story about love and choices. Yes, it’s got adventure, evil and heroism. But to me the “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” is about stories and their origins. And the idea of doors (or Doors) is very compelling – just Google “quotes on doors” and you’ll see what a good allegory it can be. The real world may not hold portals to a different place, but “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” was a door I was happy to escape through. As January says:
“I hope you will find the cracks in the world and wedge them wider, so the light of other suns shines through; I hope you will keep the world unruly, messy, full of strange magics; I hope you will run through every open Door and tell stories when you return.”
Thank you for reading!
Lynn Alexander is a recently published author and long-time book, food, cat and college football lover (Go Green!). Her career journey started in upstate New York, writing and recording commercials for radio. She moved to Venice, Florida to manage a restaurant which led her to Naples and Marco in 2002, where she currently books weddings and events for a local resort. Alexander is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum which fed her passion for history and learning. A butterfly at parties but a loner at heart, she loves nothing more than baking yummy desserts then retreating to a quiet corner to read.