Check out our episode here! The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
We begin the story when January Scolla is seven. She's an in-between sort of person with reddish brown skin that doesn't look like anybody else's. She lives with Mr. Locke, a wealthy man most of the time while her father is away, collecting artifacts for Mr. Locke. She runs away from the hotel she's staying at with Mr. Locke one day because she's a bored, troublesome little girl. She finds a mysterious blue door in the middle of a field. The door doesn't go anywhere because of course it doesn't, it's just an empty doorway in the middle of a field. January has a great imagination, so she starts to write a story about the door. Then the door transforms and takes her to a cliff on a seashore with white sun-bleached houses down below. She's called back through the door by Mr. Locke who is worried about her. On her way through the door, she finds a silver coin which she hides away. When she tells Mr. Locke where she went, he doesn't believe her but seems disappointed and throws her diary on the ground. She runs away again, but comes back to the doorway later, though now it and her diary are burned to ashes.
When she's seventeen, she finds a book called The Ten Thousand Doors. It's so old the letters have begun to fade away, but we aren't quite to this point in the story yet. When she's nine, she asks her father if she can travel with him, but no, she can't. He leaves again.
When she's thirteen, Samuel, a boy she's been friends with even though he's beneath her station as she's been taught, comes by to give her a puppy. Oh no, she can't keep that mutt, but if she's good, she might get a dachshund as an early Christmas present. She writes down in a book that she and her puppy would be together forever, or some such, and later that night, her friend secretly brings the dog back to her. Was it because she wrote it down? Hmm...
When January is fifteen, her father who is still always away exploring, sends a woman, Jane, to stay with January, to accompany her and keep her safe. She's still got her dog Sinbad, or Bad for short, who only rarely bites people, and they're probably bad people anyway. When she's nearly seventeen, Mr. Locke tells her that her father hasn't been heard from in three months and that he's probably dead. Yeesh.
Now let's finally get back to that book. She found it around the same time she learned of her father's death. Mr. Locke probably left it for her, just like he's probably been leaving things for her all along. The Ten Thousand Doors. It's a scientific book about Doors, how they connect to other worlds, that they are where mythology comes from. Magical portals that really do exist, but not all of them can be seen. Inside the book, there is a story of Adelaide, Aide, who finds a ghost boy in her distant hayfield one day. He's an interesting color, red black, and speaks an odd language, but they have a conversation, kiss and plan to meet again in a few days. But before they can meet again, her crazy aunts sell that property to a rich man that shows up in town one day and the house where she found the boy and the door are gone.
For January's birthday, Mr. Locke has a huge party and invites her to join his secret society, but she turns him down, upset with the fact that her father was never allowed to join because of the color of his skin. She ran out of the room full of society members and went outside with Samuel. They almost kissed, but she remembers she has been raised to be a good girl, so she goes back to her room to read her book.
In the next chapter of The Ten Thousand Doors, Aide's eldest aunt dies and so Aide finally decided she can leave and explore. She goes to the field where her door once was and constructs one, but it doesn't go anywhere. She sets out on a search looking for the land where the boy was from and finds a ton of others before she finally finds it in the mountains of a mining town. The author of the book interviewed lots of people to find out Aide's story and mentions traveling through their own share of doors. When Aide finally finds her ocean town, she builds a boat, carries it through the door, and sets sail.
January wakes up there next morning after the party and Jane finds her book. She is excited and worried about it and puts it in her pocket when she is called away to speak to Mr. Locke. She doesn't come back. Uh oh. January plans to run away but meets Mr. Locke in the foyer on her way out. She says she's leaving to find her father because Jane said he's missing, not dead. She says she's going on a search for doors and a shady friend of Mr. Locke who is also there says something along the lines of "I thought we weren't going to mention that to anyone, Mr. Locke…" Uh oh again.
Turns out that's what the secret society is all about, the doors, the fractures between worlds. But how did she come to know? Two thugs lock her in her bedroom and hurt (kill?) Bad. She desperately wants to get out of her room, to find her dog and her friend and escape. So she writes the door open. Pulls out a bit of paper, writes "the door opens" and it does. She goes back down the stairs, Mr. Locke curious about how she escaped, and says he's going to send her to an asylum and shuts her in the closet. At the asylum, Samuel throws rocks at her window and gives her her book. Jane met him and said she'd need it, so he brought it to her. There was a note in the back, telling her to hold on. She reads throughout the night.
In the next chapter of The Ten Thousand Doors, we read about Yule Ian's life. He is the son of a tattoo artist on the island everyone's been finding, Nim. He loves studying and wants to be a scholar, but what will his field of study be? He likes learning languages and learning just to learn, until he finds a door. This door takes him to the field where he meets Aide. He decides he wants to study these doors obviously so he can find Aide. Some years later, he hears a rumor of a crazy pale lady or maybe ghost sailing through the ocean and he knows it's her. He goes to the shore to wait and when she arrives, they never want to be separated again.
Havemeyer comes to visit January at the asylum. He asks her how she found out about the doors, which he calls fractures, and tells her Bad is dead. What a pleasant man he is! Then he asks her if she's ever heard of strigoi, vampires, because, oh yeah, he is one, and he sucks a bit of her energy away. Of course vampires are real, and magic wands and glass slippers and everything else. Havemeyer wants to use January since she clearly knows about the fractures, but he doesn't really realize just how much she knows. He thinks she's just overheard the society talking about them. He's asked to leave by the nurses and says he'll come back. January is weakened by Havemeyer's touch and just generally freaked out by him and asks for her book, but the nurses say no. One nurse sneaks it in to her in the middle of the night though, and so, she reads.
Yule Ian and Aide fall in love immediately even though they met one time 12 years ago. They travel for months and get married when she shares that she's pregnant. January reads about her birth as told by her father. Yep, he wrote the book. She decides she can write herself out of her predicament using her own blood just like she opened the door in Mr. Locke's house. She sharpens the coin she's had since she was small, the coin that was from the town where she was born and uses it to carve a sentence in her skin that opens her room at the asylum. As she's walking out, she sees Havemeyer. She shuts herself in a closet and carves another sentence to add to the first and goes through a door where she is met by Jane and Bad! (Thank goodness about that dog.) A white hand follows her through until she carves another word into her arm and the door snaps shut. Three fingers are left behind. Yuck! January rests safely with Jane and her dog in what turns out to be Samuel's family cabin.
Jane reads the next chapter of Ten Thousand Doors to January so she can rest. In this chapter, Aide wants to visit her aunts, so they sail for the door. As they're traveling through the in-between, over the threshold, something goes wrong and Aide doesn't make it through. Yule holds baby January close to keep her safe and they survive but Aide is gone. What a terrible chapter. After this, Jane tells her story of how she met Yule and where she lived before she did. She became something like an Amazon warrior who lived with a clan of women who could turn into giant jungle cats and kill ogres while their multiple husbands and wives stay behind with the babies. These women taught her how to shoot a bow and arrow and clean her kills and eat raw meat. Eventually they thought she was too small to stay with them, so they sent her away, but she went through her door again, came back with a gun, killed an ogre and dropped its head at the leader's feet. She stayed with them for some twenty years after that, until Yule came and her door closed for good.
After this story, there's a knock at the door of the cabin. Mr. Havemeyer is back. He is dragging a nearly dead Samuel with him, threatening to kill him unless January comes with him. Clearly she's too important to leave behind, what with her talents and all. She begrudgingly agrees to go as long as everyone else is kept safe, but then Bad charges. While Bad is attacking, Jane shoots Havemeyer right above the heart. Way to go, Jane, you badass! As he's dying, he says "they'll never stop coming for you." Jane drags his corpse away while January tends to Samuel.
January reads the end of her father's book in which he explains what he's been up to in his Journeys away from her. He's been looking for another door home. He started working for Mr. Locke who knew of his door searching and paid him to search for the doors as long as he brought back interesting things for him to sell or keep in his museum. Seems like an okay situation. One of his favorite treasures that he found was a pair of boxes that things could travel between, but he only gave one of them to Locke. This is the box January has been finding all her treasures in the entire time. The one she thought Locke was leaving gifts for her in. Oh no, dear girl, your father has been sending you gifts all along. He realizes after finding several worlds that someone is following him and permanently closing doors behind him by destroying them. Well that's not good. He knows this is happening but can't figure out who's doing it or how to stop them. It happens when he meets Jane and is how she gets trapped outside of her door. They are about to return through it when a man in a British general coat sets off an explosion. While he's talking down to Yule, Jane shoots him and then bashes his body up and throws him in the explosion pile. January tells Jane while they're burying Havemeyer that Yule is sorry and Jane asks if January will use her power to open a door to her world, but you know, going from the asylum to Samuel's cabin nearly killed her, so she doesn't do it. The end of her father's book talks of Yule finally finding a door back to Nim but just as he's about to go through it, he decides, no, I'm not going without my daughter. Then he scribbles a note to go to Arcadia. But where is he now?
The door to Arcadia is on a rock in the middle of the ocean and so January, Jane, Samuel and Bad plunge into the cold water and swim to the door. Surely no one will follow them all the way out there! How would they even know how to get to that door? They go through into Arcadia and are met by an old friend of Yule's, Sal, who takes them through a passageway filled with golden eagle feathers. The eagles in Arcadia drop one feather in their lifetimes and if your blow on one, it makes you invisible. Cool! They agree to stay there for awhile because it's hidden and safe, but oh hey, it's not. There's a mysterious old lady following January that turns out to be one of the society members wearing a mask. In addition to this cool mask that transforms the wearers entire body, he also has a compass that led him straight to exactly what he was looking for... January. He kills Sal and gravely injures Jane, steals an invisibility feather and runs off, destroying the door behind him. Well shit. Now everyone in Arcadia is probably going to die because they need to travel through the door for supplies. But you know what? January tries to use her power to open the door back up and it works! She leaves in the middle of the night, not wanting anyone else to get hurt. The matron of the town is so happy that January was able to open the door again that she gives her one of the special feathers. Armed with the knowledge that she can reopen closed doors, she decides to go to that door she opened all those years ago that she knows leads to Nim. Before she goes, she writes letters for Samuel and Jane and mails one to Mr. Locke telling him she's going home.
Her travels are not great. She's a wanted woman now and she's practically starving. She takes a job washing clothes for a few days and gets a check for her wages that she then forges into a greater amount so she can buy a train ticket. No one realizes that the check was forged, which means that her writing powers work on more than doors! While on the train, she's met again by the guy who found Arcadia, though now he's invisible. She traps him in a room on the train, writes the door locked and for no one to check on it ever. Yikes.
Finally she's arrived at the door from her childhood that burned which turns out to be on her aunt's farm. But oh no. Her great aunt tells her the name of the man who bought their property so long ago. And yes, it was Mr. Locke. And guess what! He's there waiting for her! Oh no. He's the founder of the society that's been shutting the doors. He's the one who found her father as he's scribbling the note to go to Arcadia and pushes him through a door and then destroys it. He's the one that burned her very first door. He came through a door himself two centuries ago from a frozen world where there were wars and families killed each other to take over. He challenged the leader at 16 and won but then left. He has the ability to persuade people to do what he wants, which is probably why January has always been so subservient. Always a good girl. Well not anymore! She makes a door and starts to go through it, but then Mr. Locke threatens to shoot Bad and January steps in front of the bullet. (Please stop trying to hurt this dog. Seriously.) She and Bad go through the threshold and she gets shot again and then Locke grabs her ankle. Bad to the rescue again! He bites Locke who goes freefalling through the blackness between worlds. Lost forever hopefully, geez.
January and Bad are in Nim. She has the compass that creepy invisible Man/old lady had and asks it to lead her to her father. It points out to the middle of the sea, so it seems like he's far far away, maybe dead. She changes her course and follows the compass to a house that belongs to her grandparents. And not only are they there, SO IS HER MOM. They have a lovely reunion and just as she's about so set off in her mother's boat on a new adventure, HER DAD ALSO COMES HOME. He sadly tells Aide that he had to come back without their daughter and she's like, well, good thing she's a smart gal because hey, she's right there! Aww!!!
January goes back to Mr. Locke's house which doesn't belong to him anymore according to his will that she just found, wink wink, sees Jane, who is also back, hooray, and then goes to see Samuel. He doesn't yet have all his memories back after Locke suggested he forget everything, but we all have a feeling that's going to get resolved, too. Aww!