Passenger – Alexandra Bracken

ISBN – 9781460752043
Publisher – HarperCollins Australia
First Published – 2016
Pages – 544

Passage, n.
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.

Before we get into the story, can we just take a moment of silence to praise the cover gods for this beauty…
Because yes. Just yes. I picked up this book on the design alone. And I know there are a lot of strong feelings about judging books by covers, but if you’d like my humble opinion… covers are the first thing you see, they’re designed specifically to SELL a book, and this one did exactly that. So yes, it’s a winner and if the premise doesn’t grab you, trust in the cover and read this time travel extravaganza anyway. It’s worth it.

I’ve never finished a book by Alexandra Bracken. I say finished because I own her debut novel Brightly Woven and started it when it came out back in 2010 (I think?), but never finished it. I guess I was reading a lot of very similar fantasy/magical based novels at the time and with so much competition, it just didn’t wow me. Passenger, on the other hand, is so very different from anything else I’ve read. It captures the essence of a time travel story and fleshes it out so well you’ll have a hard time feeling like you haven’t actually stepped through into a different time and place.

We follow the characters Etta and Nicholas, to individuals from entirely different worlds who find their journeys intertwined. Naturally (after several world tipping events), a romance blossoms. I wasn’t totally sold on Nicholas and Etta… I mean, they’re sweet… and whilst it definitely wasn’t #instalove, I could definitely see it coming despite not really understanding where their relationship was founded. I shipped it, but I would have loved a few more building blocks, especially since this is such a hefty novel so there was certainly more room to space things out. Etta’s family dynamic is a fascinating one and her interactions with Alice, her violin tutor and basically surrogate mother were some of my favourite. I hope we have the opportunity to explore more of their bond in the second novel in this duology, Wayfarer.

Whilst this book at times did feel just a tad too long and carried some fairly lengthy descriptions, I kinda get why Bracken left them in there. Maybe I’m just impatient? The world building is stunning and definitely doesn’t lack anything, but this does leave you feeling like you’ve just sat through a history lecture at times.

Passenger presents something unique amidst so many YA novels on the market today. It’s a little slow, but it’s intricacies and individuality push past this to form something magical.

Rating (out of 5):

There are rules, but rules may be rewritten if only one hand holds the ink.

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