Author: Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger, #1
Release Date: January 5th 2016
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 travelled 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 traveller 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
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
I love time travel books and I love Alexandra Bracken, so even before I picked up Passenger I knew it would be a winning combination. Then I read it. To say I loved this book; that it was full of some of the best characters I’ve ever read, the most intricate settings and a brilliant plot, feels like a massive understatement. I had high expectations for Passenger, I’m sure a lot of people do, and every single one was not only met but exceeded. I can’t think of one thing I didn’t like about the story, except the fact that it had to end.
Etta has been preparing her whole life for her debut as a violinist. She is sure of her talent and the only hurdle left is convincing everyone she is ready. However on the night of the lead-up performance to her debut something goes wrong. Following the sound of the strange feedback that only Etta and another girl can hear, Etta stumbles across a horrifying situation, before being shoved through a passage and into another time and place.
After witnessing his half-brother’s death and being exiled from the Family Nicholas only has to complete one last job before cutting his ties with Ironwood. He thinks his job will end the second he sees Sophia and Etta to New York where Ironwood awaits them, but the instant he sees Etta he is enraptured. He is good at hiding his feelings but he cannot deny that he is drawn to her. He finds himself vowing to protect her if she feels she is in danger, to go against Ironwood and help her get home but only if the need arises.
After arriving in New York in 1790 Etta soon discovers that Ironwood has outwitted her before she ever took a step off the boat. Backing her into a corner from which she has no escape, threatening the life of her mother, Etta is given no option but to go along with Ironwood’s plan. But Etta is not a weak and easily controlled woman like the kind raised in 1790, the kind raised in the Family who bow and scrape to Ironwood’s every whim. Etta is determined to swipe the astrolabe, the object Ironwood is determined she find for him, out from under his nose and use it to rescue her mother and return home.
Together Nicholas and Etta travel through London, Paris, Angkor and Damascus; encountering dangerous times they follow the trail of breadcrumbs Etta’s mother left behind when she hid the astrolabe. All the while trying to stay one step ahead of Ironwood’s guardians and the Thorns, a group of renegade time-travellers, who would use the astrolabe for their own purpose. However as they discover more about its power Nicholas and Etta start to wonder if giving the astrolabe to Ironwood is really the safer option.
Etta is determined to prove herself; to her mum, her tutor and the world. She has dedicated her whole life to the violin, given up everything to practice her craft. The determination is something she doesn’t lose when she travels back in time. She isn’t going to let anything stop her from trying to save the life of someone she loves now she has the power to attempt it. Granted she has her moments of doubt, moments when her situation does overwhelm her, but she doesn’t let it stop her for long. She is incredibly brave, strong, stubborn and smart. She stands up for herself; against pirates, Ironwood, and even against the ideals impressed upon women in the 18th century.
Nicholas has faced plenty of hardships growing up. As a illegitimate, black man born to a slave he is looked down upon and scorned but he has fought for his place in the world, determined to make something of his life despite the colour of his skin. After being exiled from the Family following his half-brother’s death, an accident he still blames himself for, Nicholas thinks he is out for good but he soon realises that escaping Ironwood’s reach is not as easy as he first thought. Nicholas is a kind man, smart like Etta, and in spite of his growing feelings he still very much trapped by his circumstances.
The attraction between Etta and Nicholas is instant, but the actual feelings take a while to form. When Etta first runs to escape Ironwood, trying to outwit him and find the astrolabe before he can put more chains around her, Nicholas follows her. He is determined to act as her protector, determined to find the astrolabe and return it to Ironwood in the hope that it will mean the journey he took with his half-brother, that lead to his death, will no longer be in vain. Etta doesn’t need a protector, a fact she proves to Nicholas more than once, but she could use a partner on her journey. Despite the different times and ideals they have grown up in and around the relationship between them is not one-sided; their talents and knowledge complement one another, and the more time they spend together the more they come to trust, rely, and care for one another.
Sophia is an interesting character. Like Etta she is very determined but unlike Etta her determination has a sharper edge, more of a desperate hunger to prove herself and gain the recognition she thinks she deserves from Ironwood. However as a woman in the 18th century she is constantly overlooked by Ironwood when all she wants is to be given a position within the Family. She is a sharp character, fierce and deadly. She doesn’t open up to Etta and she downright hates Nicholas, but I am very interest to see where her journey leads her in the second book.
Etta doesn’t trust Sophia. She sees something in her, the fact that she is willing to do anything and everything possible to prove herself, and it makes her uneasy. I loved seeing the two of them interact with one another. Etta could have led a very different life if she had grown up within the Family, under Ironwood’s thumb, like Sophia. Etta is set back by the time travel history and knowledge she does not know and it’s a steep learning curve as she travels through the centuries after the astrolabe.
Time travel can be challenging to write and write well. The world building, history, and setting all need to be well put together and the research needs to be sound. Alexandra Bracken has done a brilliant job with Passenger. Everything is incredibly detailed; the fashions of Paris in the 1880’s, the terror of World War II in London, the smell of New York in 1790. Even the prejudice Nicholas and Sophia face in the 18th century, one born an African-American and the other a woman, was clearly well researched and executed.
Passenger has fast become one of my favourite time travel books, it’s competing for first place with the Immortal Descendants series, and after the way it ended I cannot wait to get my hands on the second book. Sadly I still have a year to wait before it’s released.
What did you think of Passenger? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.