The Hourglass Door – Lisa Mangum

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Abby’s senior year of high school is going according to plan: good friends, cute boyfriend, and college applications in the mail. But when Dante Alexander, foreign-exchange student from Italy, steps into her life, he turns it upside down. He’s mysterious, and interesting, and unlike anyone she’s ever met before. Abby can’t deny the growing attraction she feels for him. Nor can she deny the unusual things that seem to happen when Dante is around. Soon Abby finds herself drawn into a mystery whose roots reach into sixteenth-century Florence, and she uncovers a dangerous truth that threatens not only her future but the lives of those she loves.

Let me start by saying if you’re looking for a new paranormal series to obsess over, you should probably read The Hourglass Door. Personally, I’m usually a series kind of girl. I like following characters I’m invested in over a long period of time. But lately, a lot of series just seem to drag or get repetitive. The Hourglass Door is the first series I’ve begun in awhile that provides a completely new world and unique premise.

The story begins normally enough. Abby is a seemingly ordinary girl who gets good grades and has let a somewhat sheltered life. She’s looking for new ways to break free and gain independence, starting with applying to Emery College, a school all the way across the U.S. on the eastern coast. She’s keeping Emery a secret from everyone for now, including her boyfriend and neighbor, Jason. Abby and Jason have been destined to be together since they were in diapers. But while Abby lights up Jason’s world, she can’t muster more than brotherly affection for him. Still, being with him isn’t bad and there’s no one else she’d rather date. That is, until Dante Alexander arrives.

To Abby’s credit, she tries not being attracted to Dante. She doesn’t want to hurt Jason and she honestly believes she’s capable of merely befriending Dante. After all, he is the new guy in town and she just wants to make sure he feels welcome. And to Dante’s credit, he tries not to interfere in Abby and Jason’s relationship. As much as he likes Abby, he doesn’t think Jason deserves to lose his girlfriend, especially considering Dante’s life is a little chaotic and even…dangerous.

But, I mean, Dante speaks Italian. And he has those blue-gray eyes and that aura of mystery. Hotness aside, Abby does take the time to get to know Dante. A believable friendship blossoms between them, a friendship that she’s able to balance alongside her relationship with Jason. But then things start to get a little tricky. For one, Abby feels this unmistakable pull to Dante and she knows he feels the same way. Then she begins feeling…odd…and these feelings are only magnified when Zo, V, and Tony begin hanging around. These three make up a band called Zero Hour and they seem to have some sort of history with Dante and his adoptive father Leo. Oddly enough, Dante and the members of Zero Hour all sport the same tattoos.

Lisa Mangum is clearly a master of building suspense. The further I got into The Hourglass Door, the more questions I had and the more I had to power through just to get the slightest of answers. Like Abby, I couldn’t tell if the paranormal aspects were actually paranormal or just figments of her imagination. Everyone was so secretive that I was practically dying to know what was going on. I’d form my own theories only to realize how implausible they were and then I’d hungrily read more, glad that the plot wasn’t so predictable. By the middle of the book, Mangum began providing twists that completely blindsided me and the answers I received toward the end were, at times, shocking. I was just entirely pleased by the unique intricacies of the plot and the tie-ins with historical figures that added a believability to the fantastical elements that’s presently hard to come by.

I’d recommend this book for the plot alone, but the writing is also amazing. The snippets of Italian dialogue lend an air of authenticity to Dante’s origins and each character really stands out. Oddly enough, despite Dante’s charm and all-around sexiness, I wasn’t head-over-heels in love with him, but I loved his and Abby’s relationship; their relationship grew effortlessly from a solid friendship, initial attraction, and complementary personalities. The villains of the story aren’t frightening just because they have some sort of super-human strength, but because they threaten to destroy Abby’s life personally by settling in her town, getting to know her and her friends, and attacking that which she cares about most. But little do they know, Abby has some surprises of her own—surprises even she didn’t know about.

Essentially, if you’re looking for romance, action, and paranormal intrigue, The Hourglass Door is right up your alley. You might have overlooked it in the past, but with the conclusion to the series on the way this summer, now’s the perfect time to dive in. A little warning though: have the second book readily available, as The Hourglass Door ends on a big cliffhanger.

Pages: 398
Publication Date: May 2010
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Challenge: Debut Author
Rating [rating: 4]

Teaser Quote: “He was drowning—somehow he was being washed downriver in the midst of this crowded dance floor and I was the only one who could throw him a line, could save him from oblivion. He needed me. Now. Right now.”

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