Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken


Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release date: January 5, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 496
Goodreads || Book Depository

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.


4 stars

Passenger is a scavenger hunt through space and time for a mysterious object that can change history and the world as we know it. In this book, we follow two main characters, Etta and Nicholas. Etta is a violin virtuoso, from present day New York City, who is about to make her debut as a professional violinist. However, she encounters some strange people in a strange situation that causes her to faint and wake up in a time and place that is definitely not present day New York. She crosses paths with Nicholas, a legal pirate from 1776, and together they are forced to find a mysterious item in a mysterious location and time that they need to bring back to a man who seems to control the world. Etta and Nicholas find themselves time travelling to different centuries and locations in search for this mysterious “astrolabe”, while escaping from men who are watching their every move.

I haven’t read very many time travel books and I thought Passenger was a great one. The time travel aspect was so interesting and unlike any other time travelling system that I’ve read before (not that I’ve read very many). There were three things in particular about the time travel in this book that I found to be unique and intriguing:

1. In this novel, time isn’t stagnant. The different timelines work in parallel so that even if you time travel to a different location and year, you still end up in the same day of that year and time continues to move forward. For example, if you found a passage on January 11 from 2016 to a different place in 1900, you would still end up in 1900 on January 11.

2. The second aspect that I found interesting was that you cannot cross paths with yourself, meaning that you can’t go somewhere if you have already been to that place at that time. You cannot rewrite your history in that time and place, and you just get bounced out of that ‘passage’ if you’ve already been there at that point in time.

3. The third thing that I found interesting about this world was the fact that even if you die, you still exist in future years, if you’ve been there before. So if you existed in 2016, but you travelled back to Paris, 1790 and died during the French Revolution, you would still be alive in 2016?!

The time travel in this book did remind me a little bit of Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series. Etta and Nicholas finding passages and travelling to different locations, while evading people who were after them, reminded me a lot of Jacob and Emma travelling through time loops and escaping from the wights. But ultimately, the worlds were different enough for me to separate the two.

Besides the time travelling, I really enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of this book. Even though this is a book about time travel, it definitely leans more historical than it does sci-fi. The book only travels to different places in the past, including 18th century in the West Indies, 20th century London, 17th century Cambodia, 19th century Paris and 16th century Damascus. I found the settings of each of these places to be very vivid and I could definitely see myself in all of those places. The book seemed very well researched and it had lots about the customs and culture of those places during those periods.

I loved our two main characters separately and together. I enjoyed that Etta was a violinist and that she could fall back on music during tough times, and use it to calm and centre herself. I loved that she was headstrong, smart and relatable. She handled herself very well and she was never whiny or angry about the situation that she’d been thrown into. She wasn’t flailing around and acting like a fish out of water, which would have really annoyed me. I enjoyed how well she adjusted to her situation and how mature she was about everything. Nicholas was another great character. He was a person of colour and I liked this about his character because it allowed for the exploration of slavery and the marginalisation of people of colour. It was interesting to see how each time period treated those who weren’t white and I thought the book explored this very well. I also liked being able to see the different customs throughout time and how women and men were expected to behave around each other, especially since Etta was white and Nicholas was not.

Etta and Nicholas’s relationship was so beautiful. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to think of it because it started off very insta-lovey. They pretty much fall in love at first sight and it just didn’t seem to be realistic, especially since they’re from vastly different time periods and didn’t really know much about how things worked in their respective time periods. But it became obvious how well-matched the two were. They’re both very smart and, although Nicholas has never had a formal education, it’s obvious from the first time we meet him that he’s knowledgable about many different aspects of life and history. I loved how their relationship developed and all of the qualms they had about being together (which I’ll let you discover for yourself). I just cannot wait to read more about the two of them together.

What I had a problem with (and why I took off one star) was the pace of this book. It was consistently slow, which is completely fine since most historical fiction novels are slow. But I found that the first half of the book had almost nothing happening, with most of the action coming in the second half of the book. I had a hard time getting into the book and it wasn’t until 100 pages in that I started to enjoy the reading experience. Passenger spends about 170 pages setting up the world and the time travel aspect of the book and I thought this set up was too long. I appreciated it more after I had finished reading the book, but in the moment, I was kind of bored and confused. I did think that the second half of the book was stellar and Passenger is definitely worth the read. It just takes a while to get into. The other problem I had with the book was the ending. There were a lot of explanations within a short page span and it felt a little bit info-dumpy. There were some things that came out of the blue in order to set up for the sequel, and I just found myself confused about a few things that were mentioned.

Having said that, the confusion and the excitement that I feel makes me very excited for the sequel in this duology, Wayfarer. Passenger has a really unique time travel aspect and a great set of characters that I cannot wait to explore further.


29 thoughts on “Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

  1. Josephine says:

    Passenger sounds so good. I definitely need to read more time travel novels and the historical fiction side of this novel also sounds right up my alley too! I’ll have to make a note to purchase this book next.
    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Book Freak Revelations says:

    I don’t want to read your review solely because I haven’t received my pre-ordered copy of this yet, and it’s upsetting. This has been out for almost a week now, and even our local bookstores don’t have it yet. But I’ll be sure to get back to this review once I have it. Always a pleasure visiting your site, Jenna! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Yeah I absolutely hate it when pre-orders don’t come on time! I pre-ordered Passenger and Truthwitch from Book Depository… they were both shipped out on the same day but I still haven’t received Truthwitch yet! It’s been one week since I received Passenger so I have no idea where Truthwitch is. So frustrating! I hope you get your copy of Passenger soon. It was a fantastic read!


  3. Lydia Tewkesbury says:

    Is time travel the new ‘thing’? I feel like I’m reading about a lot of books along that theme lately.

    I love how escapist this book sounds. It seems like the sort of thing that would be a great antidote to adult life, when you need it. I’m also intrigued to find out what a legal pirate is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Yeah time travel seems to be the trend this year. There are so many time travel books and pirate books. I’ve pre-ordered The Girl From Everywhere and that one is also about pirates and time travel. I hope it’s as good as Passenger! And I laughed quite a bit at the legal pirate concept. Haha. Nicholas gets pretty offended when you call him just a pirate. Because he’s a legal one XD


      • Lydia Tewkesbury says:

        I do love a good pirate story so I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts of that one. Something about being a legal pirate sounds less fun. But my entire idea of pirates comes from Johnny Depp, and it would be difficult for anyone to have as much fun as Captain Jack Sparrow.


  4. Valerie says:

    I haven’t read a published copy, but I also found that the beginning was really slow, I think someone mentioned to me that it was 200 pages in where you understand what is going on. However, I actually liked the beginning because I wanted to know more about Etta and her love for the violin, but I think it was just me hahaha.

    I actually thought this was going to be an incredibly different story, which is why this ended up not meeting my expectations. But I still enjoyed it, and I think I’ll read Wayfarer. Maybe. I’m not sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Yeah it was at about page 170 that we meet Cyrus and they don’t leave New York until around page 225. I remember thinking “Great. The story is finally starting” at around page 225. I definitely liked the beginning a lot more after I had finished the book. When I was reading it, it was just too slow and I was waiting for something to happen. Considering the blurb of the book was about the time travelling part, I didn’t expect to have to wait such a long time for it to begin. And I totally understand what you mean when you say you thought it was going to be a different story. I didn’t really go into it with any expectations but I didn’t think the book was going to play out this way. I enjoyed it nonetheless and I’m super excited for the sequel.


  5. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    Great review Jenna! I loved this book so I’m glad you enjoyed it as well, looking back I do agree that it starts of pretty slow but hopefully that won’t be the case in the second book. I am so excited for Wayfarer to be released though there’s still so long to go, but after the way Passenger ended I need to know what happens next.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says:

    I can’t wait to read this one Jenna! Even reading your thoughts on the time travel has me confused and I’m excited to hear how it’s all explained in the novel. The insta-love warning ia definitely appreciated, though! It’s those historical aspects that sound really interesting too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. aentee @ read at midnight says:

    *dances a little* I am so happy you liked this one because all them negative reviews on GR was making me so nervous!! It sounds like this book has a lot of elements I would enjoy, especially the genuine romance. Plus after reading The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August I just need MORE time travel in my life. UGH THAT BOOK IS AMAZING YOU NEED IT IMMEDIATELY.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s