Book Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

I’ve been looking forward to Passenger ever since I read the synopsis last spring. The mix of music and time travel sounded like a fun combination and I’m so excited that release day is finally here.

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Synopsis from Goodreads:
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

Passenger captivated me with its unique characters, fast-paced action, and interesting historical locations. Etta has been thrown into the world of time travel with no background or experience whatsoever—just like the reader—and part of the appeal of Passenger comes from learning about the rules surrounding time travel at the same time as Etta. She goes from being focused on her violin debut performance to time traveling across the globe to find a missing object and save the world. I loved Etta’s determination to figure everything out despite her lack of prior knowledge and her instinct to do anything for her loved ones, even when it wasn’t necessarily what she should do.

While marketed as fantasy and historical fiction, I think Alexandra Bracken and Passenger deserve kudos for having some great mystery elements as well. There is an incredible amount of detail woven into the story and so much that seems insignificant at first comes to play a large role later on. Alexandra Bracken does a great job of making each setting distinct and detailed and she takes us to some great places. Time travel can be confusing but I found it easy to identify each place and time due to the thorough descriptions. As far as the time travel component itself, I think that is explained well. There are one or two questions I still have but overall, the method of travel in Passenger is unique and magical.

I should note that the beginning felt a little slow to me the first time I read it but looking back, I see how crucial those chapters are to the story. There are so many vital details and clues woven in right from the beginning. I really liked how some of the introductory information was relevant later on, especially with Rose and Alice’s characters.

As a violinist, I may be biased but I loved the inclusion of Etta’s musical lifestyle in the beginning of the novel and appreciated the references made to it throughout Passenger. I just wish it hadn’t been so limited to the first few chapters!

The relationship between Etta and Nicholas is really sweet. While it initially feels a little like “love at first sight,” it really is based on their similarities and develops slowly throughout the novel. We get to know both characters individually and that makes it easy to understand why they are great together, despite their differences. I’m so curious to see what kind of solution Bracken comes up with for them in the next book.

Passenger is definitely worth checking out for fans of fantasy and historical fiction. The attention to detail and description is wonderful and will transport you to other times and places right alongside the characters. Just be prepared for a cliffhanger that will leave you dying for the sequel, Wayfarer!

Passenger Music Playlist

Because music plays such a large role in Etta’s life, I thought it would be fun to put together a playlist for Passenger. I ended up with a mix of classical and contemporary music that I felt was relevant to the book, ranging from Bach to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie soundtrack:

Lauren is a 20-year-old student living in Northern Virginia. She loves to read YA books and watch movies. Lauren is passionate about many things, but reading has always been a huge part of her life. Ever since she first learned to read, her parents have always had to pry books out of her hands when it’s time for other commitments. Lauren loves everything from The Hunger Games and Divergent, to Percy Jackson, mysteries like State of the Onion, and other YA books, like The Fault in Our Stars, and is always eager to try a new book, author, or series. She also loves music, public health, Harry Potter, and the Washington Capitals. Follow her on Twitter: @LWengrovitz.