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.
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.