Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

  • Passenger, Alexandra BrackenIMG_2331

Rating: * * / ***

Series: #1 Passenger series

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Publication Date: January 2016

Goodreads synopsis:

‘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’

Passenger, along with Truthwitch was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016. Unfortunately, where Truthwitch exceeded my expectations, Passenger did not meet them. From the synopsis, I was expecting an exciting and fast-paced treasure hunt across centuries, but this hunt did not start until well into the novel, and altogether it wasn’t as epic as I’d thought it would be.

There were some bits about the novel which I did really like. For one, I loved the inspiration behind Passenger – the idea of using all the different meanings of the word ‘passage’ was a unique concept and great idea. I really want to try this as a creative writing starter. It was clear that the writer had done lots of research into the details of the historical period, like dress.  There were also some fascinating ideas in the book about time travel, such as the idea that you can’t cross paths with yourself, and the astrolabe’s power.

I also appreciated the fact that there was a diverse set of characters and the novel tackled issues such as racism and feminism. The characters I found particularly interesting were Cyril Ironwood, because his cutting dialogue gave him a clear character voice, and Sophia, the ambitious and hateful distant member of the Ironwood family.

Unfortunately, I did not consistently connect to the main characters, Etta and Nicholas. There was one bit of Nicholas’ narration that I really liked, about his choice of name:

Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, repentant thieves, children – all the things he was and could be. The name made him feel more than protected. It made him feel like he could be a protector.’ 

However, on the whole I found Nicholas and Etta’s narration slow and frustrating, and there was too much internal reflection and not enough dialogue.

The Prologue about Nicholas and Julian in Bhutan was exciting and tense, but the first few chapters from Etta’s point of view felt flat. There was in theory lots of action, but it was not brought to life in a dramatic enough manner. Later on in the novel, the shift between places was confusing  – I didn’t feel like enough time was spent in each to be effective in absorbing the reader into the setting.

I definitely felt that things could have been snappier – both the dialogue and the pacing. I felt the book dragging in certain places, and this reduced my enthusiasm and interest in the novel. Reading it took a lot of effort, and I was rarely gripped. It was only in the last couple of chapters that I felt that there was sufficient drama and intrigue, and by then it felt a bit too late.

Overall, while there were some good points about Passenger, the writing style did not suit me, and I found it a difficult book to reach the end of. However, I have seen mixed reviews, with some people saying the same, that it did not fulfil expectations, and others commenting on how amazing it was, so I think that enjoyment of this book must be very personal, and though I was disappointed with the slow pace and lack of tension, others might not be, particularly if they know from The Darkest Minds that they enjoy Alex Bracken’s style.

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