Author: Alix E. Harrow
Publication Date: September 10th 2019
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.From Goodreads
TLDR; A great ‘portal’-style fantasy with ten thousand doors, a young woman discovering herself, and a story within a story that warms the heart ❤
This book was such a joy to read! I struggled through the first hundred pages, but everything after that was fantastic. At this point in my life I just don’t typically enjoy 1st person stories or books narrated from the point of view of a young child (nothing against people who do, it’s just not my thing), so for that reason I was very skeptical I’d enjoy the story. I almost decided to drop it about fifty pages in but I’m so glad I didn’t – there was so much to love about this book later on I would have missed!
About a hundred pages in the story really picked up for me, and I loved the ‘story within a story’ element facilitated by January’s discovery of a mysterious book. From there she’s swept on a grand journey and we accompany her as she grows into a fierce, determined adventurer with a will all her own. To be honest I was uncertain she’d evolve to that point, given her long status through the first bit of the book as a ward to Mr. Locke. Her situation seemed so stagnant it was entirely possible she’d become complacent and grow old in it without seeing the time pass. Days filled in a quiet collectors house, doing lessons expected of young ladies, and attending horribly boring dinner parties, punctuated by visits from Samuel and the occasional return of her father. The only hints we get of future adventure is the strange gifts she finds left in an antique chest, and Mr. Locke’s affectionate introduction of her to guests as unique (which is something any proud ‘parent’ would say). Of course everything eventually comes to a boiling point and the adventure is kicked off in an unexpected way.
The slightly bookish/writer part of me loved the mechanisms used for magic in this book, even though I was skeptical I’d enjoy the portal/door idea. There are also non-human creatures included but I don’t know that they were used so effectively. It seemed like they could have been slightly gifted/augmented humans and the story would have been equally enjoyable. The two love stories within this plot also stole my heart. They’re not overly sappy or cliche (which is a complete turn off for me), but have just the right balance of love, trust, and growth to make your chest feel full.
The book concluded with a very satisfying ending (again, not overly clean) and while I sincerely hope there’s a sequel at some point I’m perfectly content with how the ending wrapped up. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys portal-style fantasy, has a small nerdy bookish/writers side to them, and harbors a secret soft spot for a side-helping of romance (last bit non-essential).