It is done. After yearning to read this since it’s release, I finally got the chance to after the holidays. And I… have thoughts. Most of them a little muddled and confused right now because I’m attempting to write this after a night of excellent food and lavender labyrinths, and without any tea.
Like… augh… argh… how to even start this? I mean, I suppose at the beginning…
January is a precocious girl; rambunctious, a little wild and a little rude- in spite of being raised up to this point by a mysterious benefactor and the various nurses he has hired over the years, as well as having a soft spoken father. We meet her on a hot summers day, while the aforementioned benefactor, Mr. Locke, (his names a metaphor, clever!) makes some business arrangements. January grows bored, and decided that waiting around in a stuffy foyer is not acceptable, and she lets herself out, but not before pointlessly attempting to destroy an expensive vase…
What happens when you are looking for a portal fantasy and instead find… something else?
…Let’s find out!
I don’t believe in over-hype, I don’t think having high expectations with reading guarantees disappointment in the end. The Starless Sea, Gideon the Ninth, Red, White and Royal Blue- everything I heard about them before reading was amazing, and they did not disappoint.
But Ten Thousand Doors? Boy did it let me down.
The premise sounded amazing, a young ward in a huge, mysterious house full of magical relics from other worlds, and doors that lead to all of them. Unfortunately the premise is not the plot, which is a meandering, listless thing that is propelled forward by January’s refusal to act (a refusal that is neatly explained in the end, but it felt more like the author realized she had written a lead that had no agency and needed to go back and explain why).
Tangled within her narrative is another, a book that begins like the driest doctoral dissertation you could possibly imagine. And proceeds to tell us a story of insta-love so predictable, that I knew it how it was going to end almost as soon as it began.
But let’s focus on January to start. Have you ever read a story narrated in the first person that does things like,
If I was a brave girl, I would have said no, I would have turned on my heel and left.
I’m not a brave girl.
Another person might have taken that chance, might have risked it all to keep the people they loved safe.
I’m not that person.
I don’t know about you, but I find that sort of writing incredibly frustrating. Using it once or twice throughout the narrative is fine, but constantly offering the readers an exciting scenario only to be told that it is not going to happen seems cruel. But this doesn’t happen once or twice, it happens over and over, as January hems and haws her way through character growth till we reach a point and BAM, suddenly she is strong and willful, bold and brave, when throughout the course of the story she has been anything but (save for the one exception when she gets drunk and makes a lot of impulsive choices).
I was also confused as to what exactly her power was. In the beginning it seems like she able to write things into existence, to change the fabric of reality to suit her needs, but she can actually open doors? Or is it both? I don’t know because the author told me several different (contradictory) things about her power and by the end I knew what she said she could do, but that didn’t reconcile with what she had done and what she said she couldn’t do earlier in the story.
The characters relationships never felt well structured; the author told us they spent time together, but never showed us it happening. This left me with no emotional connection to the supporting cast or any real investment in their well being. The historical and language inaccuracies were distracting, and even the dog was lacking, simply there to growl threateningly when needed, but with no real personality beyond his ability to growl and limp.
Guys, I didn’t even care about the dog.
Because I had no reason to, being told over and over that a character is important to the lead doesn’t make them important to the reader. I would have loved some more interactions between the characters, but January is so busy repeating herself that we barely have a chance to get to know anyone else.
There is also racism, classicism, abuse- both verbal and physical, and self harm. It would have been nice knowing that when I got into it, especially the latter. As someone who is very familiar with multiple types of self harm, I found the cutting scenes to be jarring and more than a little disturbing. I thought she would be writing with blood, but instead she carved words into her own flesh, and it hurt me in ways that are hard to explain.
Then there is the second narrative, which fleshes out the story, but once again, the characters felt hollow, any glimpses of personality displayed more annoying traits then anything positive. Not to mention the teasing of amazing worlds and interactions, the glimpses of magical and amazing places that we never enter. It was like having ten thousand doors available to lead me to the novel I wanted this to be, but every time I get close to one, the author closed it in my face.
A lesson you have to learn for over 300 pages before you suddenly transform into a completely different person who has gone from indecisive and weak willed to making irrational choices and rushing head long into danger with only your permanently injured dog. Yeah.
*sighs* Final Conclusion: I don’t know? The people who loved this, really loved it. It was not what I was expecting, however, and the characters are not ones I enjoyed. My best advice would be to start reading it, and if you don’t like it, put it aside knowing that it’s not going to get to a point where you do.
Edit: Wow, I can’t believe I did this again! So, I keep notes in draft form on WordPress, while I’m reading a book, and once I’m done, I’ll write my review and remove that notes, which are often muddled and rambly… but twice now I’ve forgotten, and twice now those reviews have gotten a lot of likes, so I guess you all are OK with them.
January never does anything for herself, she just freezes and someone has to fix a problem for her. Every she’s told to do something she does it- for all this talk of dangerous woman and her wanting to be that, she hasn’t not progressed at all in the 230+ pages I’ve read.
Yule Ian’s reasoning for not removing him and his daughter from their living situation is ridiculous. She loves Locke House? Who cares? She loves you more, you’re her father! Stop putting yourself and her into danger and do the right thing. Oh, wait, never mind, it’s too late for that.
Why would you ask for a bad dog? And then call him Simbad but really just Bad… it’s too cheesey, I can’t cope.
I am rather tired of how often Yule Ian talks about how crappy he is. Yes, we understand, your actions so far have told us, we don’t need to hear your angst about it.
So January can open doors, OK, but she just did it and she already knows the limits of her power? Sorry Jane, I can’t do it. I know all about my mysterious power that has recently manifested and is completely unique and even though I write things that become true I absolutely could never open a door for you. Sorry. Also I mentioned earlier in the narrative that Jane was a bad name, yet now you’re name is Jane. How ironic.
I mean, she wrote a door into existence at the start of the book when she was like nine, but now she’s older and she can’t? Sure, whatever.
How can she still think that going back to Locke is a good idea? What is she talking about?
THIS LOVE MIGHT NOT BE TRUE LOVE SO HOW COULD I EVER GIVE MYSELF TO IT?!
Shut up. You’re an idiot.
A black woman walks into a town with a rifle over her shoulder in the 1800’s.
No one stops her?
For people who have read a lot of adventure stories they certainly don’t know what they’re doing, do they?
Oh boy, we’re going to “Arcadia” three guesses on how this ends and the first two don’t count.
So she just reopened a door, a specific door to a specific place. But she can’t help Jane? Is it because her name is Jane? How selfish- I hope you can settle in Chicago or Kenya with a nice girl. Like WHAT? Sorry about your old life I know I could get it back for you after my father destroyed it but I’ve got to go be my own character now because I developed a spine in the course of a couple pages.
All these amazing, sparkling, magical worlds mentioned, but never explored. I wanted so much from this story, too much, I guess. What I got was a story set in Louisiana and Maine and not much else.
Did I just get handed a 1984 reference? Gross.
So the last handful of pages just explains away all of the main characters lack of action very neatly- same with the dad. But it still felt… lazy? As though the author went the entire story without realizing their MC is a prop to be moved around by other characters and then got to the end and realized January had very little agency if any at all and instead of fixing that they wrote in an reason and threw in some sentences in the previous chapters to make it seem like foreshadowing. Am I to assume that January has been mind controlled this entire book and that’s why she made all these gloriously bad and/or boring choices. What a way to write a story.