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“The Ten Thousand Doors of January” by Alix E. Harrow


I thought this had a bit of a slow start but I enjoyed the latter stages a lot. I think perhaps one reason for the slow start is that it's a story about a protagonist who starts off with very little knowledge of what is going on around her or opportunity to do anything about it. I think it makes sense in terms of the character arc to start off this way but having the lead character mostly passively reacting to events for the first part of the novel doesn't help the pacing. Another issue is the book-within-a-book whose chapters are scattered through the novel, it does provide some vital background detail but the fictional author is an academic and their writing does feel a bit dry which makes sense for the character but is again not helpful for the pacing. Fortunately things pick up later on, particularly once January leaves her home and I thought this is where the story became a lot more compelling. One thing the early part of the book does well is slowly introducing various hints about how there's a lot more going than initially meets the eye. The 'Doors' that the title refers to aren't necessarily an original concept in fantasy, portal fantasy is almost a subgenre in its own right, but this book does interesting things with them, particularly in exploring the importance of change and new ideas.

January is a likeable protagonist, and there are some memorable supporting characters including both her allies and antagonists. I think the most interesting character might be her guardian Mr Locke who for most of the novel is a fairly ambiguous character where it is difficult to tell what his true intentions and motivations are.

Overall, I thought that after a relatively slow start this turned into an entertaining story and I thought it was particularly impressive for a debut novel.

Rating : 7 / 10

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