I wasn’t sure I was going to like it after the opening chapter but ended up loving it.
The book starts when our protagonist is quite young but most of the book is set when she is around seventeen I think. January has grown up with an eccentric millionaire, Mr Locke, in the US around the turn of the twentieth century as a kind of surrogate father while her real father who works for him travels the world searching for valuable items for Mr Locke’s collection. However she begins to notice strange things going on and discovers that there are secret doors throughout the world that link to other worlds and it involves all the people around her.
The whole book is from the POV of January though there is also a book within the book from the perspective of someone else unknown. As I mentioned it started off with January quite young and the combination of this with some quite flowery language turned me off at the start. However soon enough the characters and the story really got a hold on me and the language added to it and I was properly hooked. January was a really intriguing character, so strong and fearless at the start until life and expectations made her withdraw into herself and it took a major traumatic event to get back to what she was really like. Secondary characters are also really well written and felt as real as January even though we don’t get inside their heads.
Though ostentatiously a portal fantasy book, a good part of it is also an examination of race in our world as January is mixed race and we get to live her experiences in a pre civil rights world but tempered by her benefactor’s wealth. I really empathised with her feelings as an object of curiosity rather than a person in their own right and thought the author did it really well even though I have never experienced this personally and so am not sure how accurate it was.
I also loved the book within a book part. That story was amazing and I loved the alternate chapters in the first part of the book. Parts of the story were hard to read but overall I thought this was a hopeful and beautiful book. Not sure if it was the rocky start that made what came after even better but I really enjoyed this more than I expected. It is a standalone which is a great option in the genre of multi book series and I am very much looking forward to reading more from this author.