Book Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

20983362Passenger

Alexandra Bracken

3/5 stars

Release Date: January 5, 2016

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

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.

Review:

As I whole I thought the book was good, but I had issues with the pacing and structure. I do plan to read the sequel, but if I find the same issues, that will negatively impact my reading experience, more so than book #1. I found the prologue and first chapter to be very confusing, so much so I almost DNFed. I loved the last 30% of the book and thought it was really exciting! That cliffhanger at the end was great as well.

Bracken has a knack for world-building. I never felt like she was info-dumping when it came to explaining how time-travel works in her book. Information about passages and travellers were explained at the right moments; I was never confused about that. In addition, the settings were described really well – it was so easy to visualize all the different places Bracken takes us to. I wish we’d spent more time in Angkor, but I do see how other places warrant more space.

Although I could imagine the setting really well, the same can’t be said for physical actions. I didn’t feel like the author was clear when trying to visualize what a character was doing. For example, if character A is getting kidnapped, it’s important to know if they’re being carried by character B or on an animal etc. Important details like that weren’t made clear. Things were happening and then suddenly they weren’t anymore.

I loved Nicholas and connected with him immediately. I enjoyed being in his head. I liked learning more about him and his life. I also liked that the author made clear the issues Nicholas faces as a POC in various timelines and the way it opened Etta’s eyes. I did like Etta, but she struck me as a plain Jane; I didn’t really connect with her, or even think much of her. I’m really surprised by that because her being a violin protege should have gained a large emotional response. I’ve always wanted to play an instrument, like a violin in the way she plays – being so good to make a professional career out of it. Along with the time-traveling ability, that should have had me wishing to be her, but instead I just wanted to steal those two parts of her, nothing else.

I loved the chapters in which Etta and Nicholas were at sea, but there weren’t many of them. I know the title of the book refers to the time-travel element, but I feel like this book has been largely marketed as a pirate/sailing sea adventure. I just wanted more of that. There’s lots of references to pirates & sea adventures, but nothing really comes of that.

My issues with the pacing and structure mainly happened in the first half. Sometimes the pace was so slow and other times it was too fast. Certain characters would be sharing things about themselves and I’d feel like I missed some important character development that led to that point. This book is really big and the structure of it made it harder to get through. Like I said, if I find these same issues in the sequel and it’s just as or bigger than book #1, it’ll be a very unhappy reading experience.

I loved the ending and thought it was wrapped up really well. I have to commend Bracken for that cliffhanger – I could have completely hated the book and still read the sequel just to know about a certain thing that happens (assuming I read right to the end). I hope the sequel is like the ending – exciting, fast-paced and full of plot-twists.

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