Passenger (Passenger #1) by Alexandra Bracken
Publication Date: January 5th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Genre: Young Adult, Time Travel, Historical, Adventure
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i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.
Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.
Passenger is one of many time travel themed books released this year and overall I really enjoyed the book. We get to visit some fascinating locations and events in history and the concept of time travelling is pretty easy to follow. However, the pacing for this book was very slow; case in point, it took 200 pages for us to actually figure out what Etta’s task was. There are a lot of monologues and overly detailed descriptions in this book and it really did halt the progression of the story. These factors also meant that we lose this sense of urgency that drives Etta to complete the task at hand.
This is a dual narrative. Our female protagonist, Etta is a driven violinist from present day New York and is suddenly thrust into this time travelling business. I appreciated Etta’s maturity and ability to adapt to this new world. She was determined and when they encounter some setbacks she is able to keep her composure and think things out rationally. Music is obviously a big part of her life and on several occasions she turned to music as a way to keep her grounded when things got a bit too hectic.
We also have Nicholas, our male narrator and through him we get to explore the themes of racial discrimination and slavery. As a person of colour from the eighteenth century, Nicholas has spent his whole life being judged solely on the colour of his skin. It’s only when he is out at sea, surrounded by his shipmates that he feels a sense of freedom from the chains that tie him to the Ironwood family. However, as he journeys with Etta, he finds himself experiencing a new kind of freedom. Being Etta’s partner shows him what it’s like to be treated as an equal and it makes him consider other paths that have been set out for him.
As individuals, I really liked these characters. Now when it comes to the romance I have my reservations. To start, this is a clear case of insta-love and a lot of the inner monologues were spent with these two fighting their attraction to one another and treating us to one of those overly descriptive passages detailing their attraction and how alluring they are to one another. I feel like if there had been a bit more of a build up I’d be a lot more invested in this couple but the downside of the insta-love trope is that these character are often way to quick to make their dramatic declarations of love and sacrifice.
Overall, Passenger introduces us to the fascinating world of time travel and as we’re taken on this scavenger hunt through time, we get to see a glimpse into the history and culture of several different countries and time periods. I appreciate the research that went in to each location and the time travelling system was very simple to follow and clearly laid out the boundaries and limitations to the system. The dynamic between the time travelling families scream tension, one that had stemmed from a long lasting history of violence and sabotage. Our main characters are both intriguing and despite my reservations about the insta-love, I am interested in seeing how their relationship is explored in the next installment. The main issue I had with the book was the pacing of the book. It was tediously slow and even though the pacing got kicked up a notch towards the end, the damage had already been done and the sense of urgency that came with the stipulations of Etta’s task was never really felt. For time travelling and historic fans I’d recommend this book but only if you can push through the slow pace.