Book Review: The Hourglass Door, by Lisa Mangum

Funny story, while I always wanted to read Lisa’s series, it kept getting pushed behind the newest shiny book that I’d been waiting for from the library. Then, I scored what I thought was the first book at a Christmas book exchange party. HUZZAH. I waited for the perfect weekend to cuddle up and dive in – only to find that it was the second book.

PSA: Should you ever take part in a book exchange, don’t bring a book in the middle of the series, kay? Just sayin’.

Long story short, I ended up grabbing a copy of the first book from the library and was finally able to sit and enjoy.

The Story

For a YA urban fantasy, this one hits all the expected points. Young girl who is reasonably happy with her life, although a little bored with her long-time totally devoted boyfriend, encounters mysterious stranger who is both foreign and, well, hot. Mysterious stranger ends up being more than just an exchange student – and the plot thickens from there. Did I miss anything?

Abby is a high school senior and as such is applying for colleges while juggling school and being the assistant director for the school’s Shakesperian play. She’s busy, but happy enough with her life. The only thing that would make her life perfect is to be accepted into the quirky arts college she applied to and for her boring boyfriend to do something spontaneous, like finally kiss her.

Dante is, well, from Italy in the 15th century. Due to his involvement in a conspiratorial plot, he is sent forward in time – a new form of banishment. There are side effects to this time travel, some of which are being exploited by other banished individuals in the present. While Dante also just wants a normal life, he also wants to stop these other time travelers from hurting people for their own gain.

Abby and Dante meet and are instantly drawn together by a force greater than just attraction. Abby has something special about her that alters how the flow of time works when Dante is around. With each step, the situation grows more complicated and the stakes greater until we reach an exciting conclusion.

My Review

I was instantly drawn in by the prologue. The reader is thrown into the head of a man who uses counting to cope with being in prison – so cool. He counts the steps to the door, the minutes until his trial, and the thoughts and regrets surging through his mind. It’s beautifully written, evocative and instantly engaging. A perfect start to the kind of fantasy I love.

Then, we leave that special space and never return. We spend the rest of the book largely in Abby’s head. That was a bit of a bummer, because I really wanted to see the world from that viewpoint again. But, even without that the story was enjoyable, there were plenty of interesting reveals, and the writing, exceptional.

Some say that the story is a little slow to get moving and it takes too long for Abby to start getting a clue, and I would agree. We do drag through quite a bit of Abby’s life before things start to get interesting. While it’s a slow build, it’s still has plenty of drama going on and perfectly captures the angst and insecurity of being a teenager.

When the fantasy magicky bits finally started happening, I was thrilled. We had elements of an alternate world, people with special powers, and devices required to unlock the mystical portal that is the Hourglass Door. It all comes together to create a satisfying conclusion with a natural tie in for the next book in the series.

Recommendations

If you like a healthy dose of high school angst and all the feelings mixed into your urban fantasy, the Hourglass Door is a perfect fit. If high school drama bothers you, then this might not be your best pick. The writing itself is done with care and precision enough that it forgives a lot of the angst, at least it did for me.

This is a clean read, no objectionable language or intimate situations. There are a few scenes with violence and depictions of injury, but it’s handled with care.

I give the Hourglass Door 4/5 stars for being a well written, well imagined story with a slow start.


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