Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Passenger (Passenger #1)
By: Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN: 978-148471577-2


A gifted violinist, Etta Spencer has spent most of her sheltered life honing her talent and preparing for her debut, the first step being a performance at an exclusive fundraising gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rattled by a confrontation between her mother Rose, and Alice, her beloved instructor, Etta's nerves are shot when she takes the stage, her performance shattered by an inexplicable, incessant, clamoring noise. Following the sound of terrifying screams, Etta finds herself pushed through a shimmering portal by a girl she's never met, waking from her performance-induced panic to a hellish, all too real conflict. Thrust into the eighteenth century, Etta finds herself the unwilling travel companion to her mysterious kidnapper, and heir to a startling family legacy of danger and secrets the like of which she'd never suspected.

For Etta has inherited her mother's ability to travel through passages around the world into other times -- always the same date, but to different countries and time periods. As she quickly learns, those with her "gift," known as travelers, are dying out, and her familial heritage has made her a valuable commodity to Cyrus Ironwood, the ruthless head of the most powerful remaining traveling family. As a descendant of the Linden family, Cyrus wants to leverage Etta's naivete in order to force her to find and turn over her family's greatest asset, a powerful astrolabe that would give its bearer the limitless, unchecked power to rewrite history. 

Partnering with Cyrus's estranged, illegitimate grandson, former slave-turned-privateer Nicholas Carter, Etta flees through time, determined to foil Ironwood's plans and save her captive mother. But as she begins to experience the wonders and dangers of her family's incredible heritage, Etta realizes that the life she's always thought she wanted may be smaller than she'd ever realized. With all of time suddenly at her fingertips and a dashing, protective sailor with secrets of his own at her side, Etta resolves to foil Ironwood's machinations, and do more than simply pass through life and passively accept her fate. But tampering with the laws of time is a dangerous game, and the consequences of one misstep could forever alter not only her life in irrevocable ways, but the lives of all those she holds dear.

Passenger has been on my radar since I first read the raving review posted on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books shortly following its release last year. Thank GOODNESS my to-be-read pile is continually growing, as if I'd read this book last January and had to wait the ENTIRETY of 2016 for its sequel, it is highly questionable whether or not I would have survived the wait. This book this book THIS BOOK. This book is everything I ever wanted and never knew I needed in a time travel-romance-adventure. This book has everything -- EVERYTHING! -- romance, suspense, history, time travel, compelling characters, non-stop action, and does it all so well.

With Passenger, Alexandra Bracken has accomplished the exceptional feat of leaving me with nothing but raves for this gem of a novel. This is the rare novel that not only entertains (and that's putting it mildly, as this book is a non-stop page-turner) but enlightens and challenges a reader's perceptions of how history is viewed. Within the framework of this fantastical world, Bracken manages to deliver a timely treatise on race relations and perceptions through time that never feels forced or inauthentic. Nicholas and Etta's blossoming romance explores the societal ramifications and challenges of their potential relationship in a wholly organic, engaging fashion.  As a modern woman thrust into eras where she is viewed as a commodity and not an equal, Etta is forced to confront through her attraction to Nicholas the prejudices and privileges bestowed upon her by the rights of her time that she's always been able to take for granted.

This is a story begging to be made into a film, as from its opening pages it took hold of my imagination and wouldn't let go. Bracken pens her tale with a break-neck pace and a cinematic flair. Setting aside the inventive concept and the delicious, heart-stopping romance, my favorite aspect of this book has to be that it is a coming-of-age story that isn't. This is a coming-of-age -- or perhaps a more accurate description would coming-into-one's-own -- story that defies the stereotypes. For while Etta begins as a sheltered teenager, her focus and dedication to her music has, in many respects, left her better prepared for her role as a traveler than she would be were she already a more worldly-wise, typical teenager, less driven to succeed. And while her blossoming romance with Nicholas unfolds relatively quickly, Bracken gives it an extra weight and authenticity by forcing both Etta and Nicholas to confront not only their respective worldviews but the historical and societal ramifications throughout history of any potential relationship.

Passenger is a novel to savor, as in the days since completing the final pages I've found my mind often returning to Bracken's gloriously realized world. I loved seeing history unfold through Nicholas and Etta's eyes, as I could not imagine a more intrepid or better-suited pair of time travelers (the one notable exception being, of course, a certain mad man in a blue box). Theirs is a relationship of true equals, their romance all the headier for their partnership based not simply on physical attraction but a true marriage of intellectual and emotional compatibility. Though I must admit I'm somewhat loathe to start Wayfarer as I know it is the final chapter in this thrilling journey, here Bracken has crafted a world I cannot wait to return to and one I foresee revisiting often. Nicholas and Etta have joined the rarified company of characters so real, vibrant, and compelling they've carved a niche for themselves in my bookish heart.

About the book:

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's 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.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read this book (although it's on my watch list now) but have you read The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway?