cover image The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Alix E. Harrow. Redhook, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-42199-7

Harrow imbues her debut, set primarily in early-20th-century Vermont, as well as in an alternative world called the City of Nin, with genealogical mystery. The immensely wealthy William Cornelius Locke employs Julian Scaller as a plunderer of valuable artifacts, a job that prevents Julian from being a proper parent to his daughter, January. To fill the void left by January’s traveling father and her mother, whose absence is initially unexplained, Locke ensconces January in his mansion as his ward. January discovers that she has the power to write words that open doors leading to other worlds, including the City of Nin. Throughout the novel, Harrow quotes at excessive length from The Ten Thousand Doors, a book Julian owns, and January gradually discerns a connection between her own life and that of Adelaide Lee Larson, a character in Doors. Harrow weaves in commentary on race: Julian is black and January’s mother is white, and, in a clever inversion, in one of the worlds January visits, everyone is black and racism is nonexistent. Harrow’s novel will hold strong appeal to readers who enjoy portal fantasies featuring adventuresome women. Agent: Kate McKean, Morhaim Literary. (Sept.)