by Alix E. Harrow
Published by Orbit on September 10, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy, Historical
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.
Things that attracted me to this book: the title (I first saw it in January, around my birthday); the cover; and the blurb mentioning a book. I picked it up because the only books appealing to me right now are fluffy, preferably magical realism plots.
This book was both and neither. I have no idea how to describe it. A grown-up fairy tale sounds too trite and too superficial, though its roots are firmly in myth and legend. The writing is lyrical, the tense is fourth-wall-breaking second person. It’s a happy story, a heart-wrenching one, and a magical one all at once. It’s both predictable and surprising; cynical and fantastically idealistic. It genuinely shocked the hell out of me because it wasn’t at all what I expected.
As the ward of the wealthy Mr Locke, January Scaller feels little different from the artefacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place.
But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across 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 reveals more impossible truths about the world…
It’s both a perfect and perfectly inadequate description. The closest I can come is a story with very faint shades of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, only for grown-ups.