The adage says “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But we’ve all done it, right? I will freely admit that the gorgeousness of the cover of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow’s debut fantasy novel, was the first thing that drew my attention. In this case the prose and the story were every bit as beautiful as the cover art.
This is the story of a young woman called January Scaller, who is growing up in the late nineteenth century in her guardian’s home in New England, a home that is also an overstuffed museum of artifacts and objets d’art. January’s father is a world explorer who is commissioned by her guardian to find and acquire paintings, tomb relics, and botanical samples to bring to his home to add to his collection.
January’s upbringing is oppressive, to say the least, as she is under the eye of a rotating cast of stern caregivers. She finds joy in reading and exploring in her own house. Over the course of her childhood and young womanhood, she begins to discover that there is more to her world than she had previously suspected.
This plot makes full use of the “doors between worlds” fantasy trope, and it is beautifully done. It also celebrates books and words and storytelling, twisting and turning as January comes to terms with her own self and story. It’s a wonderful book; one of those books that makes you sad when it’s over.
Another terrific fantasy novel from 2019 is Erin Morgenstern’s long-awaited, very long novel, The Starless Sea. It is beautiful in many of the same ways as the January book.
So if you’re in search of beauty, try these! They will immerse you in an imaginative world that is as rich as it is fantastical.