By Alexandra Bracken
To Sum It Up: Violinist Etta Spencer is on the verge of making her debut when’s she’s pulled back in time to 1776. There she finds herself on board the ship of Nicholas Carter, who’s been tasked with bringing Etta to the powerful Ironwood family. Etta is the key to the Ironwoods’ absolute control over time itself, and they’ll stop at nothing to obtain it. Until now, Etta knew nothing about the existence of time travel, but it seems that she’s been destined for this path and to try and save her future.
Review: As a huge fan of Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds series, I’d been eagerly awaiting the release of Passenger. That anticipation was not unwarranted; within the first few chapters of Passenger, I was hooked.
Passenger is really the story of two characters: Etta Spencer, a gifted violinist preparing to make her debut on a New York City stage in the present, and Nicholas Carter, captain of the captured ship Etta wakes up on after her sudden and unexpected trip back to colonial times. Nicholas’s heart belongs to the sea, and he yearns for a ship to call his own one day. First, however, he must complete his mission to deliver Etta to the Ironwoods, an extremely powerful family of time travelers that has almost obliterated other traveling families in order to obtain total dominance. The Ironwoods need a single object to fully control time itself, and Etta is their means of locating it, even though she’s entirely new to this world.
What makes Passenger so refreshing to read is Etta’s handling of her situation. She goes from modern day NYC to 18th century Revolutionary America in a heartbeat, bringing her 21st century attitude with her. She’s not afraid to use it, either. Etta speaks her mind, social expectations of the day be damned; her fire quite endears her to some of Nicholas’s crewmen. Etta’s spark perfectly complements Nicholas’s own determination, and although what starts as an impromptu partnership isn’t without its obstacles and differing agendas at times, you cannot finish this book without needing the Etta/Nicholas ship to sail off happily into the sunset.
Alexandra Bracken’s take on time travel is absolutely brilliant. It’s explained in enough detail without feeling shallow, yet it doesn’t require the assistance of someone with a PhD in astrophysics to understand. Each historical period is recreated with so much vividness that you truly feel you’re right there alongside Nicholas and Etta in colonial New York City, World War II London, and 16th century Damascus, among other places/times. My favorite scenes, though, take place in Nicholas’s own time, 1776, on board the ship carrying Etta that he helps capture at sea. There’s an awesome pirate-y atmosphere to these chapters of the novel, and if the whole book had been set on the high seas, I think I would have been just as happy.
I will say that the pacing lags in a few spots, but this didn’t turn into a big issue for me. There are plenty of thrills and narrow escapes to be found within the pages of Passenger, along with a sweeping romance that utterly convinces you that love transcends all, including time. And the ending is guaranteed to leave you demanding the sequel, Wayfarer, ASAP.
All in All: A fantastic start to a new series. The time travel is excellently done, and the two main characters will not only win you over individually but especially when they’re together. Swoon factor: very high.