Etta Spencer has no idea of her family legacy, beyond an incredible talent for the violin.  The 17 year old prodigy is set for her professional debut after years of single-minded practice, when her world is torn apart. Literally. In the blink of an eye, she goes from standing on the stage at The Met in 2015, to waking up in the middle of a sea battle on the Atlantic in 1776. On Nicholas Carter’s ship.

Nicholas is a 19 year old freeman, soon to captain his own ship. He is also tied to the travellers, descendants of four families that can travel the centuries and continents, exploring the world. But while that option was dangled before him years ago by the patriarch of the ruling Ironwood family, it was just as quickly yanked away. Now he sails, burying his demons in the everyday work of staying alive on the seas.

Etta and Nicholas team up on a dangerous search (ironically, on a tight deadline) through hundreds of years in Paris, Cambodia, England and Damascus, for a priceless family heirloom that can change not only their destinies, but also the time line of the entire world.

Killer concept. I love it.  I am a sucker for time travel, even though thinking about it usually gives me a headache.

Etta is a strong, well-written character.  She is thrown into a life that she was never trained for, was not even aware existed, yet finds a strength and drive inside her that was formerly directed at the violin, and is now directed to saving her mother. I love that Nicholas is an African American freeman. Diversity. It is getting more common in YA, but there is always room for improvement. Son of a slave, Nicholas’s freedom was bought by his guardian, who also educated and trained him for a life on the sea. He is a product of his times, but has a drive that matches Etta’s in a desire to make something of himself.

Sophia is a b*tch, Alice is lovely, Hasan is a cheerful guardian of the family, Chase and the rest of the privateer crew are loyal and rough and definitely individuals. Cyrus and Rose are perhaps the two characters that I haven’t figured out my feelings for yet; I’m supposed to hate Cyrus, but he’s a bit bland. Controlling and power-hungry, yes, but just does not come across as totally threatening. Rose is remote and cold and calculating, and I did not find it easy to connect with her. For all of Etta’s devotion to her, it does not seem reciprocated.

The settings are wonderful. Travelling through humid jungles, arid deserts, war-torn London and the vibrant culture of 19th century Paris is fabulous. Alexandra Bracken’s writing is descriptive and imaginative, as she paints detailed pictures of the sights and sounds of the various destinations. I almost feel traveller’s sickness myself after each trip through a passage.

Romance between Nicholas and Etta develops slowly and naturally, with Nicholas fighting against the constraints and prejudices of his time and his family, and Etta’s experiences of still fragile race relations 21st century America tempering them. It is beautifully done. Bracken handles Etta’s shock at being face to face with historical prejudices, both racial and gender, realistically.

This story, for being close to 500 pages in length, finished way too quickly.  I need to know what happens next! I could use that damn astrolabe right about now to go a year in the future and bring the sequel back…

Passenger was published January 5th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion.


20 thoughts on “Passenger

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