Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (for both)
Summary of Passenger: “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” (Goodreads).
I haven’t done a conventional review in a few months, just because college keeps me more busy than I anticipated, but nevertheless, here I am! I recently read both Passenger and Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken, quite late to the game, I know, but I ended up really enjoying them.
My favorite part about the books, I think, is the relationship between Etta and Nicholas. While they were separated during most of the second book, their relationship was very strong during Passenger. I normally dislike insta-love and while they certainly fall into that trope, I found their relationship quite believable and really, really cute! The intimacy (even just the sweet, chaste moments) between them was very well-written.
The plot of both books varies for sure, definitely falling into what I would say is a typical “path” for duologies: the first book is the main quest/journey and the second book is the aftermath and the journey to resolve the consequences of the first quest. In Passenger, the plot was Etta and Nicholas’s high-stakes quest to find the astrolabe and in Wayfarer, they were separated to fix the consequences of said quest.
I appreciated how Bracken expanded the plot-line to show more of the rules of time travel; in Wayfarer we see multiple timelines and how these wrongs must be righted. I found this especially interesting.
While I didn’t love that Etta and Nicholas were apart, I appreciated the strengthening of Nicholas and Sophia’s friendship in Wayfarer, especially considering Sophia is a source of conflict in the first novel. I grew to really love her character and enjoyed the banter between them greatly!
I think ultimately what I loved about this series was how fun it is. I haven’t enjoyed a YA fantasy this much in ages. These books aren’t perfect and certainly aren’t five star reads, but they’re enjoyable, fun, and quite well-written. If you’re looking for something deep with layers of social issue discussion, this isn’t it, especially considering the lack of discussion about Nicholas literally being a freed slave. However, if you’re looking for something fun and fast-paced with a relatively unique time-travel world, I definitely think this is that.
Perhaps this isn’t a recommendation, but I’m honestly just glad that I ended up reading something that had been on my shelves for years and enjoying it a lot more than I expected.
Apologies if my review is all over the place; I had already written it and it got deleted and I’m honestly still seething.