Passenger – Alexandra Bracken
NOT ENTIRELY SPOILER FREE!!!
Today I’m reviewing Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken. It’s the tale of Etta, a violin virtuoso who literally stumbles into a different year in history, only to later find out she has the ability to travel through time.
This ability is passed down through the generations as Etta learns that her mother was also a traveler through time. The book begins with Etta practicing for her big night at the Met where she is to make her debut as a solo violinist. During her performance, she hears strange sounds that cause her to stop playing. She is escorted off stage where she continues to follow these sounds that no one else hears. No one else except for Sophia, another soloist. Together they find a portal and pass through it landing them 1776, just off the West Indies, on a large ship.
Shortly after, Etta finds out that Sophia is also a traveler who shoved her into the portal on purpose because her grandfather needs Etta for a mission. The entire time, Etta has no idea whats happening since her mother never told her about her abilities.
One thing that I love (among many) is the way Alexandra Bracken weaves her story. It’s difficult when dealing with time travel to know when to drop hints or clues but Alex did it beautifully, so that each time something was revealed, you were able to follow the story and not have to go back because you were confused. Small tidbits that didn’t make sense when they were spoken or seemed irrelevant were later deemed to be vital to the story. I loved those moments.
On the ship, she meets Nicholas (my new favorite male character ever!) who is a black sea captain and also a traveler. I bring up his skin color because it plays a heavy part in the story. Throughout the first half of the book, it’s painfully obvious that Nicholas is an amazing man, great leader and captain. It is also painfully obvious that his skin color causes him a lot of disparaging comments made at his expense. There are many times that he is disrespected and looked down upon. I do love how Etta comes to his rescue when another officer from a competing ship tries to woo her by demeaning Nicholas. It doesn’t go well for him. After all, Etta is from the 21st century, where everyone is equal. (Supposedly)
Though also a traveler, Nicholas wants nothing to do with the lifestyle, simply choosing to remain in his current time as a sea captain. He has his reasons. However, he is related to Sophia (the bastard child of a slave) and both are controlled by Cyrus, the head of the Ironwood family of travelers. Cyrus sees himself as the leader of ALL travelers and is in need of something that only Etta can find, the astrolabe, which her mother has hidden. Nicholas and Sophia are ordered to bring Etta to him.
Once Cyrus threatens Etta with her mother’s life (because naturally mommy dearest won’t give up it’s location), she agrees to find the object. All that is left is a letter written by her mother which can only be decoded by Etta. Then they must follow the clues in order to locate the object. I love how throughout the first part of the book, the interactions between Etta and her mother Rose are tepid but full of information that Etta will need later on. Everything, every interaction and conversation in Alexandra’s writing has purpose. There is no filler, just wonderfully descriptive writing.
I’m also a huge fan of history, so I love that they went to Paris in the 1880, London in the 1940, Damascus 1599 and Angkor 1655. Not only did they go to these time periods, but Alex also added tidbits of history to coincide with the story.
One thing I didn’t love was Etta’s mother Rose. She doesn’t come across as affectionate toward Etta. She doesn’t even bother telling her that she has the ability to travel time. I understand why she didn’t tell her, it gets explained later, but she is still written as cold hearted. A lot of what happens in the book doesn’t need to happen but it does because of Rose and her inability to trust in others. There’s a lot of secrecy which I can’t stand. So many stories wouldn’t happen if people just told each other the truth! But then we would have nothing to read 🙂
My favorite part of the book was the blossoming romance between Nicholas and Etta. He was so stubborn and so sure that a white girl would never want him but he was proven wrong countless times. I love that they each had their own issues and insecurities keeping them apart but in the end they said ‘the hell with it’.
I’m not sure how I feel about Sophia, it’s difficult to like her considering she spends most of the book being a whiny bitch but you do feel some sympathy for her in the end. Perhaps in the next book her character will grow on me.
I knew there was a second book so I wasn’t expecting a neat and tidy ending but I was mostly satisfied with it. This book does true justice to not only historical fiction but time travel as well. It’s written so beautifully that I had a hard time putting it down to go to sleep. I’m excited for the next book and I can’t wait to see Nicholas kicking some ass. I would also love to see him in the 21st century.
Overall, I loved this book and give it 5 stars out of 5. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, YA, time travel or just want an interesting read, than you will not be disappointed.