Ten Thousands Doors of January : Book review

Reading this book is my first attempt at trying a Nebula Award book this year and since it got so many good reviews in the blogosphere, it also encourages me to finally pick it up and even suggested it to my friends for our book club of September.

To give you an idea of the set up, picture Kentucky in the 1900s. We are introduced to January, a girl who lives with Mr Locke, an art collector and also her father’s employer who sends him out to look for rare artefacts. She always longs for adventures but Mr Locke’s restrictions and willingness to keep things in order gives her not much freedom. Until one day she picks up a pen and a paper and starts discovering the wonderful power of words and how it lead her to unexpected doors and even more unexpected questions and answers.

As a whole, the concept is enjoyable, stories between stories? Great, love that, even the action scenes are interesting and the writing style is very consistent, the wordcraft is skillfully done and establish A Thousand Doors of January a very strong debut novel. However, the fact that the protagonist is so annoying from the start made it hard to overcome the first pages of the book. The fact that as a narrator she would assume what the readers think is pretty obnoxious to me. But that is of course only my personal opinion I know a few who loved the opening of the book.

I have to say, this book to me was a frustrating read. Everything about it was almost great. Magic system based on words and language? Check. Secret cabal collecting mystical artifacts around the world? Check. Modern interpretation of mythical monsters? Check. Plot twist threaded through a legend within the story, raised by beautifully lyrical prose? Check and check. This could’ve been one of my favorite books. But it’s not, it never pushed over onto greatness. The themes and the world-building and the (side)-characterization were all there. But the protagonist was annoying and the antagonist was predictable. If only it had that extra little spark of something.

– William

Another hiccup I had with this book is the pacing which I find very bumpy and messy, losing momentum at some places and refocusing on random sentences. At the end of the book, it feels like it races down an entire lifetime just to explain the resolution.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January  is an alluring book, mixing up portal fantasy , identity and family. Nothing new is added but reuses a lot of past fantasy ideas coming together to create an overall enjoyable storyline.

For those who have read it, what are your thoughts on it? Did you like the book overall?

Trang

4 comments

  • I had the same issues honestly. It was hard to fall into it and it’s a heavily descriptive book with little dialogs. The prose is beautiful but it felt …dense or heavy to me.

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  • I absolutely loved this book, right from the beginning and all the way to the end. I just found it a very light and refreshing read that completely worked for me. Perhaps it was just the right book at the right time given my mood or outlook at that point, not sure. But it has me looking forward to trying more by the author.

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