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Book Review by Robin Widmar

“The Ten Thousand Doors of January”

Alix E. Harrowís debut novel ìThe Ten Thousand Doors of Januaryî seems like an obviously appropriate choice for the first book review of 2022. However, the title actually refers to a girlís name, not the month, and the story has nothing to do with the new year ñ- although one could argue that it does have a connection to new beginnings.At the onset of the 20th century, young January Scaller is the ward of wealthy benefactor William Cornelius Locke. In addition to being a successful businessman, Locke is a collector of rare and valuable artifacts, many of which are procured by Januaryís mostly absent and widowed father. Julian Scaller ìgallivants around the world collecting objects ëof particular unique valueíî on Lockeís behalf, while his daughter resides comfortably under Lockeís roof in Vermont.January is an independent, observant and headstrong girl who is not well-suited to the proper behaviors that Locke and his high society cronies expect of her. She is tired of her fatherís constant travels, and dreams of a time when she can accompany him. She also dislikes being treated like a curious specimen in Lockeís collection because of her unusual appearance. ìPeople are always uncertain about me: my skin is sort of coppery-red, as if itís covered all over with cedar sawdust, but my eyes are round and light and my clothes are expensive.îThe inquisitive January discovers her first Door when she is age 7. Unlike doors in a building that lead in, out, or to other rooms, these Doors lead to other worlds. ìÖ There are ten thousand stories about ten thousand Doors, and we know them as well as our names,î she explains. It seems that the legendary tales of places such as Valhalla and Atlantis may not have been born solely of imagination. Rather, Doors allowed travelers to visit far-flung lands and bring back stories that became ingrained in our history and mythology.January is 17 when she finds a book titled, ìThe Ten Thousand Doors.î Written by a scholar who has researched Doors and explored the worlds beyond them, it reveals the significance of Doors and their effect on our world. ìDoors introduce change. And from change come Ö all the most vital components of human history,î the author writes. But the book is more than simply a research document, conveying poignant tales of love, loss, adventure and discovery. Its text is featured as a ìbook within a book,î which means we get to read along with January as she uncovers truths about her fatherís frequent travels and her own hidden talents.Shortly after she obtains the book, January receives word that her father has vanished. He is presumed dead by everyone except January and her caretaker, Jane, who has her own mysterious connection to him. January decides she must set out to find her missing father ó a decision that has disastrous consequences. Together with her loyal dog Bad (short for Sinbad but also a name suitable to his unruly nature), Jane and childhood friend Samuel, she embarks on a journey worthy of the adventure novels January and Samuel enjoyed as children. Their story is filled with fear and courage, hope and regret, challenges and victories, heroes and villains. It reaches a satisfying ending that is somewhat predictable but wholly apropos.ìThe Ten Thousand Doors of Januaryî can be challenging to summarize. The author deftly threads a variety of themes into this richly crafted story: the consequences of power for those who do not wield it; societal prejudices against people who are ìdifferentî in appearance or origins; the strengths of family, stories and the written word. At its core, the book is about a young womanís search for identity and family truths. But it is also much more than that ó in fact, so much more that I have been deliberately vague on specifics so I donít ruin any discoveries for the reader.Harrowís literary writing style combines with imaginative story elements to create a unique and compelling novel that stands out in todayís crowded market. It is a book that should be consumed at a pace that allows the reader to absorb the wondrous world Harrow has created, and perhaps to ponder the greater social issues of our past and present.

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