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 make sure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.
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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.
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.
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken was one of my most anticipated reads of this year, mainly because of how much I adored Alex’s The Darkest Minds trilogy, but sadly Passenger didn’t live up to the expectation I (maybe set too high?) had of it. In no way was this book bad, on the contrary really, it was in the third person (love-heart eyes), the plot was intriguing, it had strong characters and, my favourite part, there were pirates! It did, however, lack in action and excitement. I wanted there to be more suspense, especially to counter the love story, and more twists and turns. It was, at times, predictable and seemed too easy.
I had a love-hate relationship towards Etta, the protagonist. She presented herself as strong and capable throughout most of the book, quick-witted and biting back against prejudices towards Nicholas – her partner, love interest and the other protagonist of the story – yet she was also quite irritating, working out things chapters after I did so myself and falling in love too quickly/easily (barely two weeks of knowing Nic?). She needed more character depth and I felt like she lost her sharp temper towards the end of the book, which I missed. Nicholas, on the other hand, was a very well-developed character. The motives behind his actions were clear, he was his own person, and he was both physically and mentally strong. A protector. What I didn’t understand, though, is why he missed/longed for his brother so much. Unless I misinterpreted, his brother treated him like a slave along with the rest of the Ironwood family, Nicholas kept reinforcing how much he wanted to be free and his own person, to make a life for himself by himself, yet he missed him a great deal more than what I would expect.
The thing that got me in this book was the change in the atmosphere once they left the ship. I missed the feel of the beginning of the novel, there was suspense, there was action, there were intrigue and suspicion, curiosity and attraction. And once they met Ironwood, it disappeared and became something different. I found myself bored and disinterested during the middle of the book and I think it was aided by the fact that I missed the air of the beginning of the novel.
I was particularly fond of the side-character, Sophia. What she was with the cage around her was fierce and admirable, even if she acted like a swine to Etta, and when she took her life into her own hands, not trapped by her grandfather or society of the time, I felt really proud of her and found myself rooting for her more the Etta and Nic. There’s a soft spot for characters that strive to destroy someone for what they’ve done to them in my heart, as dark as it sounds. Makes things a hell of a lot more interesting that doing something for the good of the future and it’s people.
Another thing I noticed was this book is very Americanized. It focused a great deal on American standards, beliefs and biases, which were at times more prominent than the actual story. Etta was considered “experienced” at seventeen, which is a growing concern I have for young people and that is aided by media (look at Teen Wolf Season One, they main characters are supposed to be like 15?) sourcing in the US. It is becoming a standard that young people are losing their virginity at young ages and it is because of media, especially social media, that this is happening, and the weird thing is; it’s frowned upon in society to be a slut, yet the same if you’re a virgin? I felt like this added (not largely, but enough) to that notion being presented in media in a negative way – She acted a lot older than 17 and, if she were to say she had done this before rather than that she was experienced then I wouldn’t be as concerned, experienced makes it sound like she’s done it often? I know it may sound like an overreaction but it is so carelessly used/thrown around, and Passenger just added to the list of culprits. Also, the issues of racism and sexism were presented very well, but it began to dwell on them. I know racism is a large issue in America at the moment, and I feel Alex wanted to reinforce that issue in this book, but her political correctness was overdone and it began to get in the way of the actual story line. I understand it shaped Nic into who he is, and Sophia the same, but we don’t need to read paragraph after paragraph about it once it’s already been stated. The characters are more than just a half-caste and a woman in the 18th century, and I felt Alex was too consumed with being politically correct that she forgot that they were still people, not icons for racism and sexism. And lastly, the setting. If I hadn’t played ACIII (thanks, Ratonhnhaké:ton) I would have no clue about what the hell was going on during the time period, actually, even playing Assassins Creed, I was still lost. What I’m trying to say is that not everyone is familiar with American history, I know I never learnt anything about it at school, so more information was needed. Though I am happy because I did learn something from this book: that a white could be physically punished for marrying (or was it just touching?) an African-American.
The time-travelling aspect of Passenger was very intriguing and, well, cool, but I was lost. I don’t quite understand the rules of the travellers and guardians. Why can’t you be in the same time that you’ve already been in? What happens when you create a ripple? Can only travellers travel, what if they accompany a non-traveller or a guardian? How did the whole thing come about? I have too many questions and not enough answers which is why I feel Alex needed more world-building and explanation in this book. I also felt like the love between Etta and Nic was very fast and needed to simmer longer, I didn’t believe it as much as the author wanted me to.
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With all that I’ve said, I still enjoyed Passenger, though not as much as I thought and wanted to. The plot was intriguing, the characters strong and fierce and the writing easy to read and well manipulated. The ending was, in true Alex Bracken style, a cliffhanger and I will more than likely be picking up the next installment to see how it all plays out.
★★★☆☆ – (3 Stars)