rating – 3/5
Honestly, this is the second book with doors and portal magic that has disappointed me this year ( The first was The Starless Sea) It is a beautifully written book, there is no doubt in that, brimming with lyrical prose and vivid imagery. I feel this book had a problem with pacing, it began slow and it took a while to pull you in. I was halfway through the book waiting for it to grip me and it did, but for a short while. I would say about 25- 30% of the book half way through is what captured my imagination and I wanted more but it didn’t deliver,
The book set in the 1900s follows January Scaller who stays in a sprawling mansion filled with curiosities and antiquities belonging to her guardian Mr. Locke. She is perpetually awaiting the return of her father who is off traveling and exploring in search for lost treasures for his employer ( Mr. Locke) in hopes that this time she will get to travel with him and have adventures. January is a spirited girl with a wild streak, but Mr. Locke does not approve of her ways and punishes her for acting out. Once as a child,she stumbles across a Door to another world and is able to open it by writing her wishes in a journal. But she finds the door destroyed and Mr. Locke emotionally forces her to be more subdued and forget about it all. Eventually, January finds a book in one of the treasure rooms in the mansion and begins to read it. The contents of the book are included within The Ten Thousand Doors of January in addition to January’s story. It talks of doors to different worlds and of star crossed lovers and changes January’s world irrevocably.
The novel has great world-building but my biggest complaint was that everything occurs retrospectively, most of the magic and action happens off-page, you are only told about it by narration and only described using a book within a book trope (which I quite enjoyed). The plot was good, but it was wordy and dense and hence lost the edge a bit. At no point was there any tension created in regards to any character. You expect elements of fantasy, new worlds and a lot of portal magic, but you will not find much of that here. What you will find are some very interesting side characters including a dog called Bad who I was invested in, and a unique way of describing and tackling issues like racism and child abuse.
It is still a great book, and the writing is honestly beautiful. It’s just that all of that should not come at the cost of the plot and pacing. All in all, a charming book for lovers of historical fiction with a dollop of magical realism, but maybe I was expecting it to be more fantastical in nature and not so passive and so I walked away a tad underwhelmed