Ahoy there me mateys! I am catching up with the rest of the crew who has been reviewing this book all over the place. I loved this author’s Hugo winning short story “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018). Ye can read the story for free. I really did enjoy this full length novel even though I did have some quibbles about it. I am not going to go into the plot summary here though the blurb appears later in the post for those who wish to read it.
Things I Loved:
- the doors: I loved the idea of tracking down new worlds through myths. Awesome. I also loved where they were and how they opened and closed. The through-line of the doors was the best part of the book.
- the main character, January: I enjoyed January as a character and especially how she grows into her own being during the course of the novel. I particularly liked her adult way of facing hardship and pain towards the later parts of the book.
- the writing: I thought a lot of the writing was very beautiful and there were some very lovely turns of phrase.
- magic: I loved the magic in the world whether from cool artifacts or abilities of people. I loved the word magic most of all.
- the dog: I was glad that January got to keep him and how sweet their relationship was.
- the ending.
Things I Didn’t Love:
- the doors: I didn’t get enough description of what the worlds were like through the doors. Lots of tantalizing hints but no real specifics besides one world.
- the main character, January: While I liked her growth, I thought that too much of the book showcased her passive side and angst. I would have liked her to have found agency much sooner.
- the writing: While I loved the writing overall, I didn’t love a lot of the framing of the story and how it evolved. It felt choppy to me and the story bounced around in time a bit too much.
- magic: I wanted more! Though I did dislike the main villain’s powers.
- pace: It took a while for me to get into the story at the beginning. It didn’t really capture me fancy until about 50%. The pace never really sped up and this led to some disconnect with both the plot and characters.
- secondary characters: While I loved the idea of Jane specifically, I did not feel that any of these characters were well-rounded or really understood. They seemed to have no lives outside of their interactions with January.
I could write more but it seems that I am in the minority on this one. Seriously all the reviews I have seen are 4 or 5 stars. I am glad I read it and I actually wouldn’t mind another book set in a different Door. I guess I had higher expectations for this overall. Arrrr!
Goodreads had this to say about the novel:
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.
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