Following the same time travel vein of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken is a time traveling adventure story filled with intrigue, suspense, romance, and a massive cliffhanger.
Etta Spencer is a violin prodigy living in modern day New York City. She was raised by her mother, Rose, who is a restorationist at the Met and Alice, her violin teacher. While not the warmest of mothers, Rose raised Etta on wild stories of her past adventures – complete with Rose’s own paintings – and secret notes and messages. On the night of her soft debut at a fundraiser, Etta overhears her mother and Alice having an argument about Etta and her future. Believing the argument has to do with her violin career, Etta angrily rebukes her mother before returning to her debut.
While on stage, Etta stumbles through her piece due to an unusual sound filling her ears. Only one other individual, another girl named Sophia, seems to hear the sound and leads Etta away. But instead of heading towards help, Etta is led deeper into the Met museum towards the source of the sound – and a horrid tragedy. When next she wakes, she finds herself on a ship in the middle of a battle and the Atlantic…in 1776. Etta is saved from drowning by Nicholas, the prize captain of the ship she is on.
Etta soon learns that she is part of a traveling family who has the ability to travel through time. Sophia and Nicholas are from the Ironwood family, a powerful traveling family who has dominated all the others. Their head, Cyrus, wants Etta to retrieve an artifact that Etta’s mother hide years ago. The only problem is that Etta was not raised as a traveler and only has strange clues that her mother left her in a mysterious letter. With Nicholas’ help, she must navigate through the different countries and eras in order to save her mother without changing her timeline. All the while, she battles her growing affections for Nicholas who, though born into the Ironwood family, wants nothing more to do with his relatives.
I found Passenger to be an intriguing story from the start. The idea that Etta doesn’t know she is a traveler makes it easier for the reader to experience her confusion and uncertainty as she does. As the story unfolds, Etta starts with one plan and must find herself changing her plans as she learns more and more about the restraints of traveling. Etta begins the story agreeing to Ironwood’s near impossible mission in an effort to save everyone: herself, her mother, Alice, and even Nicholas as she finds herself falling in love with him. By the end, faced with the fact that she can’t save everyone, Etta finds herself making an impossible choice.
The relationship between Etta and Nicholas is also intriguing. Nicholas, who is more trained in traveling, is Etta’s guide through all the different eras. By the same token, Etta is Nicholas’ guide to how the world changes and becomes less hostile towards individuals such as himself. But what I really love about them is that Bracken has created, for the purposes of her story, two unconventional protagonist. Etta is a modern day girl who suddenly finds that her gender becomes a hinderance as she navigates the past. Nicholas, the illegitimate son of an Ironwood son and a slave, is constantly hindered by his skin color. The two must overcome their individual obstacles – both those they experience and those they internally fight – in order to do what’s right to save time yet still stay true to each other.
The novel ends on a huge cliffhanger, which makes me anxious of January 2017 to arrive so I can know what happens. I found this novel to be slightly denser than most YA novels; not difficult to read, but there’s a lot of information about Bracken’s unique method of time traveling that needs to be accounted for. I really enjoyed the story, more than I expected, and can’t wait for the next novel.
My rating: 4/5