By: Alexandra Bracken
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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.
Jings. Time travel.
My mind is just ablaze with confusion and pure happiness right now. I’ve been looking forward to this book since literally the hour it was first announced way back a few years ago, so I’m so happy to finally be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief and say; this book was everything that I wanted it to be. I’m pretty sure that, by now, everyone knows of my love for Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds trilogy, and everyone knows that this was my number one most anticipated book of 2016. In the lead-up to PASSENGER coming out, I tried to stay away from chapter previews and the like, because I wanted to go into this book completely fresh when it finally arrived on my doorstep. I knew that the general idea was that the boo was about time travel, and I was pretty much hooked on that.
Everything about this book, really, was fantastic in its own way. The plot was so fast-paced and exciting that I never felt bored reading it, the time travel aspect was so cool and Alex crafted it in such an interesting and unique way so that every time we would learn little extra bits of the rules of the time travel system in this world I felt like it was genuine and not forced, and of course, the writing — as with every single Alex Bracken book — was unbelievably good. I swear, she is probably one of the best writers I think I’ve ever read. On top of all of that, the characters were just so… good! It’s a split narration from the perspective of Etta Spencer, a seventeen year old violin prodigy in present day New York, and of legal pirate Nicholas Carter who’s primary year is 1776. One of my absolute favourite things from this book is that every character is very consistent; there was never any trouble distinguishing between narratives, because Etta and Nicholas both had such strong, differing mind-sets that it was clear to know who’s head we were in. Both of them had such vibrant personalities that I never felt surprised by any of their words or actions; I constantly read the things Etta would say and think, ‘Yeah, that’s a classic Etta thing to say’.
Honestly, if you enjoyed any of The Darkest Minds books, or if you’ve even just heard of this book and think you might like it — go pick it up! It’s early in the year still, but I know that it’s going to be hard to beat this one. I only just finished reading it a few hours ago, but I’m already toying with the idea of reading some of it again; going through my favourite bits just to get back into the world.
(PS: PASSENGER IS A #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND I’M SO HAPPY AND SO PROUD AND SO LET’S ALL JUST FLAIL ABOUT THAT FOR A WHILE TOO!)
All of the threads that make up this book weave together so well, like a massive jigsaw that slowly gets pieced together as the book goes on. Something weird happened as I was reading, though; I was trying to take my time with it, trying to savour and enjoy every single page but there was a point when I turned the page and it was just… over. I hit the end without even noticing. There was no more story left and Etta was gone and Nicholas was waking Sophia up and I was just IN MUCH NEED OF MORE!
I can’t explain how much I really liked the plot. There so much I can say about how beautiful the writing was, and how wonderfully diverse and complex the characters were, but at a base level, the plot of PASSENGER was just so enjoyable, and so engaging. Watching Etta and Nicholas hop between different countries and times made me smile and laugh and feel like I was genuinely enjoying a history lesson for the first time in my life. And through their travels, learning the rules of the time travel system was actually incredibly interesting. I’ve never seen anything similar to the rules and limitations that Alex has created in this world; while you can travel back and forwards in time, the different times continue to move forward, meaning you can only travel back by year, rather than by day. So, in order to travel back to, for example, the day I was brought into the world in 1994, you’d have to wait until March 20th to do so, or travel back to whatever the date is and live through until March 20th. It’s pretty complicated to write down, I’ve just realised (I mean, seriously Alex, how did you manage to explain that so smoothly?) but you get a hang of the rules pretty easily.
I was so engrossed in the story as I read the duo’s adventures looking for the astrolabe through World War II London, to Angkor in 1685, and a few others. All of the locations that they go to were so interesting, and one of my few negative points was that some of the places seemed to race by in just a few pages! I would have loved if Etta and Nicholas had spent more time exploring Angkor Wat, or 1800’s Paris. I can’t complain too much about that, though, because whatever I felt was lacking in those chapters was more than made up for throughout the rest of the book, and through the insanely good ending. As soon as Etta realised she had been shot and was seemingly zapped out of existence, I knew that she wasn’t dead. Even as Nicholas went through his grief that he had lost her, I knew that something had happened with the timelines leaving her stranded at another point in time. I still struggle to wrap my head around all of the different timelines, and paradoxes, and general time-travel stuff, but that’s just because my mind can’t work fast enough to work everything out! It all makes sense in terms of the book. The ending was so good, too. Like, I can’t even. I should have known by now that Alex Bracken books almost always end on a cliffhanger, and they’re always FANTASTIC. PASSENGER is no different, and I can’t wait for WAYFARER to come out so that we can follow Nicholas and Sophia as they search for Etta (and most likely have some hilarious ‘I Hate You’ moments with each other), and to figure out where Etta is! Because right now, I have no idea! I also really want to know who the future person is who told Rose everything that had to happen — I like the theory that it was Etta from the future, but.. can it be? I don’t know, time travel, ahhhh!
And talking of Rose — damn, I don’t like her. She’s obviously doing what she can to save, well, the world, but she could have at least even casually jokingly mentioned something to Etta about her being a traveler and that she might have to save the world instead of leaving all these complicated hints and clues around her life. And then when the plot takes a massive twist and it turned out that it was her who killed Alice, I felt my heart dropping a little.
The whole cast of this book was brilliant. Etta was such a feisty and independent character, eager to treat each different time they went to as if she was living in her own despite the differences in culture and society. It was so refreshing, too, for one of the main characters to be African American. Nicholas was such a fun, albeit aggressive and violence-happy character. It’s clear to see that he’s fiercely loyal to his friends and his passengers. Sophia is the kind of character who you spend the first half of the book liking and wishing the best for her, and then spend the final scenes yelling “I WAS ROOTING FOR YOU, WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU”. Cyrus Ironwood was just intense and frightening. Hasan was the kind of guy who I felt deserved a pat on the back and just really genuine, “Thanks, dude. You’re pretty great at helping.” Even more minor characters like Jack and Hall felt fully fleshed out and realised. To be honest, no character felt like a filler character. Everyone served a purpose to the story.
There aren’t really many things that I wasn’t a fan of in this book, but one thing I can bring up; we all know by now that I’m not a big romance-y person. I knew going into this that it was billed as a ‘time travel romance story’, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be massively romance-y. For me, though, the romance felt a little bit easy. It didn’t seem rushed or forced, but it did feel like it just kind of happened just because. I enjoyed Nicholas and Etta, and thought they had some fantastic moments with each other, though, and the fact that their romance felt so easy isn’t going to diminish my thoughts on the book. I only felt that they might have had more of a build-up of an emotional bond. But, c’est la vie, and their romance did give us beautifully written passages such as;
…And what she found in that soft, warm darkness had no beginning and no end, for this time was their own, and it created its own eternity.
There was a lot of build-up for this book, and it was one that I was personally waiting for for about a year and a half/a year and three-quarters. I went into it with a great hope that I’d enjoy it, and that it would be as good as Alex’s other series, The Darkest Minds. Honestly, now that I’ve read it, I don’t think I’d say I enjoyed it as much as THE DARKEST MINDS or any of its sequels. But that’s more because TDM is easily one of my favourite books of all time; it’s going to take a lot for a book to be better than that in my eyes. But PASSENGER definitely lives up to the expectations I had for it. There’s no release date for the sequel, WAYFARER, as of yet, but I’m going to be eagerly waiting on that every day until it comes out, and PASSENGER is definitely going to be on my mind a lot over the year. At the end of the day, it was a phenomenal book.