Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Time Travel
Format Read: Paperback
Published by HarperCollins - Australia on January 25th 2016
Highly anticipated novel from NYT best-selling author of The Darkest Minds trilogy.
Etta Spencer is a violin prodigy. When tragedy strikes and a mysterious power tied closely to her musical abilities manifests, Etta is pulled back through time to 1776 in the midst of a fierce sea battle.
Her capture was orchestrated by the Ironwoods, the most powerful family in the Colonies. Nicholas Carter, handsome, young, prize master of a privateering ship, has been charged with retrieving and delivering her to the family - unharmed.
Etta learns her fate is entwined with an object of untold value from her past. Ironwood is desperate to secure his future, but Etta must find it first in order to return home. Embarking on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind from a mysterious traveller, the true nature of the object and Ironwood's dangerous game, could mean the end for Nicholas and Etta ...
Passenger was one of my highly anticipated books of the year. I LOVE time-travel, but more often than not, they end up being a big flop. Unfortunately, Passenger falls into my flop pile.
Main protagonist Etta is a prodigal violinist. On the night of her debut performance, a hundred things seem to go wrong as she overhears her trusted violin teacher Alice telling her mum that she’s not ready. Having given up everything for her moment to shine, Etta knows she’s ready and steps up on stage to make her debut. Halfway through, a harsh buzzing noise that no one else can hear forces her to run offstage, chased by a girl named Sophia who pushes Etta down a flight of stairs…
And she wakes up on a ship sailing through the Atlantic for New York in 1776.
Brilliant start to a well-intentioned time travel story, but that’s where it starts getting boring. I’ve read the first book in Bracken’s Darkest Minds series and had the exact same problem: pacing. Passenger was no different — at almost 500 pages, Passenger needed a huge edit because the story seemed to drag on with unnecessary details. In the first 200 or so pages, we learn about time travelling and how the Ironwood family had ceased power across time periods, changing the world’s timeline for their own gain. However, the patriarch of the family wants to shift the timeline again, and he needs Etta to find an astrolabe that her own mother had hidden for the sake of humanity.
Given an ultimatum to help or see her mother killed, Etta chooses to find the astrolabe with hopes of being able to use it herself to save her mum. She’s accompanied by a sailor and fellow time traveller called Nicholas, who is half Ironwood but despised by the rest of the family as he’s African American.
Pacing is definitely one of the biggest issue in this book. It dragged on, which presented a slow-moving story that took away the expected urgency of Etta and Nicholas having to find and retrieve the astrolabe by a certain date. However, pacing wasn’t the worst part of the book.
When it comes to time travel stories, I expect to be taken to a vibrant reimagining of a certain time period — it needs to be well-researched and the author really needs to let the setting shine. While the plot of the story in itself was slow, the ‘travelling’ aspect of the book was way too quick for my liking. I felt that Etta and Nicholas rushed through a lot of the interesting time periods that they landed in, and I couldn’t get any sense of why they were there, considering each of these periods were integral to the clues that Etta’s mum left for her.
I was not immersed in these worlds/periods, which was a huge disappointment.
I think the best part about this book is Nicholas’ backstory. Despite having Ironwood blood, the rest of the family sees him as a bastard son whose mother will always be the African American maid that his Ironwood father copulated with. I love the fact that Bracken had included a diverse character as a love interest, but the romance? Yeah, not a fan. Yes, it was instalove, and the book lost sight of what it was meant to be in order to progress this dull romance.
I’m definitely sad that Passenger did not live up to my expectations, and I probably won’t be continuing with the series. However, I’m still holding out hope that Bracken will release a series that I can fall in love with, because her story ideas are intriguing; the execution just needs to be tightened.
Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.