Passenger (Passenger #1) by Alexandra Bracken (2016)
YA Fiction | Fantasy | Time Travel
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.
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”
pooled ink Review:
This book, this book…in short it has officially found a place within my Top Ten Favorite Books Ever. Okay, so maybe my Top Ten list actually has about 20 or so books in it but I’m serious when I say that this book has become a part of the exclusive club in my heart.
I’ve not read Bracken’s Darkest Minds series even though it has been on my TBR list for years and years (I guess I should really get on that, huh?) but through fate or destiny or a gang of conniving time-travelers I somehow heard about this book. Via Twitter and Instagram I witnessed the title release, the blurb release, the cover art release, and finally the official book release. I hesitated to buy it, I admit, but only because it seemed a bit too good to be true and far too likely to let me down (books that get an avalanche of hype tend to do that) but I got a Barnes & Noble giftcard for Christmas and I decided I would steer my own destiny and just bought the bloody book.
My reaction in one word? YAS!
Is the book long? Okay yeah maybe. But is it worth every single word on every single page in every single chapter? YES. The book is long only in comparison to a grouping of others but it is not “long”, ya know? It does not drag on and on endlessly and without substance or purpose (unless you’re not a fan of beautiful intellectual writing). Everything is vital and sparks life into the story and each sentence is coated in an addictive salty-sweet coating that keeps you coming back for more and more and soon your eyes have glazed over glued to the pages for so long and the sun has set outside of your window and you finally remember that breathing, eating, and sleeping are vital actions required in life.
Time-travel, pirates, globetrotting, interracial love story, plot twists, human nature, history, it all spills over the brim of this cauldron of literary genius. I could write and talk about this book for days but for this review perhaps I will limit myself to a few important topics.
Time Travel. Time travel is obviously an extremely complicated concept to write about considering it doesn’t actually exist (or does it?) and beyond that there are an infinite number of theories, possibilities, and impossibilities. Bracken brilliantly developed her own vague yet totally detailed theory of time travel for this book. She provides enough evidentiary support, scientific reasoning, and alluring logic to make the reader utterly convinced and yet simultaneously leaves a touch of flirtatious vagueness to keep from exploding heads with its mind-numbing details and circuitous arguments as well as to expertly escort any rebel readers away from any holes or faults in her proposed theory. Well done, Bracken. She indeed explains time travel in an easy to follow way but with enough explanation to avoid gaping holes and oversights in her theory. Basically, I bought it. Hurrah!
Characters. The characters in this book are exquisitely complex and beautifully human. So many aspects of humanity are explored throughout the story including, but not limited to: greed, ambition, love, race, family, power, fight or flight, feminism, memory, purpose, and hope. Empires will rise and empires will fall but neither without great sacrifice. An interesting array of characters are introduced throughout this book and each shine a different color on humanity, such a multifaceted creature. I also deeply appreciate the drive for historical accuracy Bracken seems to have made for each character as well. Many authors try to modernize their characters when such a thing would have been ruthlessly unlikely and instead Bracken has succeeded to create characters that remain true to their timelines but with indeed perhaps a wider mind seeing as they have nearly the whole world to explore and witness. I hesitate to delve too deeply for their true marvel remains in reading their story.
Plot. The idea of time travel as a major plot point is a success in my opinion giving this book the fantastical spin that it requires. Etta begins in Contemporary Fiction, Nicholas begins in Historical Fiction, and their fusion evolves from pure delicious Fantasy. There is enough action to drive the plot forward but an adequate number of breaks are interwoven to allow us to catch our breath and take a moment to gaze around at our surroundings and drink in the story before us. Similarly there is enough danger and darkness to keep things thrilling but a relieving balance of softness is trickled throughout to keep us afloat.
I loved the diversity of the locations traveled in this book as they took us all across the globe. It was a delightful treat to get even a taste of these places and these times. I heard that Bracken spent ages doing research for historical accuracy with this book and in my humble (not a scholar) opinion I’d agree that she has done a job well done. Any plot twists?? Of course! Or, actually, not really. I mean there are plot twists but once they are revealed to you and you think on it a bit you realize that if only you’d paid closer attention to these people and their lives you might have seen it coming long ago (a lesson to be applied in real life as well).
Romance. Nicholas Carter and Etta Spencer, a beautiful story that is yet to be concluded. I love their relationship and the fact that it is a mixed race relationship (like my parents! Yay!). I do not like it because it’s so totally omg hipster in the book world. I do not like it because he’s so omg so hot. I do not like it just for the sake of it being mixed race. No. I like it because it speaks volumes to their story and adds an intricate obstacle to their relationship. Their relationship is not just the merging of a man and a woman but that of race, ethnicity, and culture. I honestly believe that Etta must be white and Nicholas must be black. Not necessarily for them to fall in love but for them to be who they are.
Race is a man-made idea and I therefore prefer exploring people’s ethnicities but regardless both are important and not interchangeable; also the tensions between whites and blacks in the U.S. are the most widely discussed and relatable. Etta must be white because she’s a part of this global empire of time travelers and honestly when isn’t it white people who rule the world? (I swear I don’t mean that as if I’m condoning it, I’m just pointing it out historically…although I dunno, the Asians have had some seriously epic empires, oh and Egypt? And-…anyway). I just mean that it fits the Ironwood family and the lot of them for them to be (mostly) white, and the fact that the Ironwoods “own” Nicholas and for Etta, one of them, to fall in love with him becomes so beautifully miraculous.
As for Nicholas he has to be black. If he were white it would completely tear apart the person who he is, he would be someone so completely different. By being half-black and born in the 1700s he is a specific person given a place and a boot to keep him there. Etta could most certainly fall in love with a dashing white guy and this book would still be pretty awesome but the fact that she falls in love with a black guy born in a time of slavery speaks volumes and gives their relationship a resounding strength that most of us cannot begin to fathom. They each have their own mountain to climb but they need not climb alone.
It also brings a different angle of feminism to the relationship and to Etta. She has grown up in our time where women work and do whatever and throughout it all she tries her best to stand on her own two feet, and she does, but Nicholas protects her anyway (half because he’s a gentleman and half because she actually does need a protector at times). But more than that she extends the same offer of equality her gender has fought for towards him. She constantly treats him like her equal both in gender and in race (she constantly reminds him that they are partners – a lovely word we so often forget in any relationship) and while this catches Nicholas by surprise he slowly absorbs it and little by little she is able to shed a bit of light on the darkness his life has left inside of him. It’s beautiful. Anyway, yes they are remarkable together and Bracken has written a beautiful, poetic, and loving romance between them. I love it.
I’ve literally written so much already but I truly could write so much more! I wish I could meet Alexandra Bracken and talk to her about her book but let’s be honest, if I did get the honor to meet her I’d probably just forget English, smile, hand her my book to sign, and then shuffle away mentally slapping myself for letting the opportunity slip away.
Okay, I’m just gonna tie this review up because otherwise we’ll be here all day.
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken is a beautiful composition of prose strumming together a symphony of adventure, love, and fantasy. This book will leave your pulse thrumming, your heart stuttering, and your eyes the size of moons as you lick your desert dried lips and brush away your sea breeze-swept hair feeling only a yearning desire to see this story through to the end.
Until book two, Bracken.
P.S. The cover art is PERFECTION. My favorite by far!
Purchase here: Passenger
Meet Alexandra Bracken!
Hi! I’m Alex and I write books. xx A