This journey is only the beginning.
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Pulled back through time to 1776 in the midst of a fierce sea battle, she has travelled not only miles, but years from home.
With the arrival of this unusual passenger on his ship, privateer Nicholas Carter has to confront a past that he can’t escape and the powerful Ironwood family who won’t let him go without a fight. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value; one they believe only Etta can find.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by an enigmatic traveller. 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 from Nicholas, and her way home, forever.
“Look lively,” he said. “We’ve a journey to make”.
Oh my god you guys – I cannot recommend this book enough!
Passenger is perfectly titled. This is a book that gives you an incurable sense of wanderlust because the way that Alex Bracken writes this quest… it’s like we’re actually swept away, unlikely passengers living in the pages of this riveting narrative. And I’m talking riveting of epic, blockbuster proportions. Full of pirates, oh – I’m sorry, I meant privateers, sweeping romance, a lost treasure shrouded in mystery, intrigue, time travel and plenty of action.
Basically, Passenger’s plot amounts to a treasure hunt through time itself. Think National Treasure meets Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Caribbean and you come close to the abundance of adventure and feels that is Passenger.
Though Passenger is told from a dual perspective at the story’s heart is Henrietta, “Etta” Spencer. Living in present day New York, Etta has sacrificed much in pursuit of her musical debut. A violin virtuoso, Etta basically spent her life in isolation mastering her instrument, desperately scraping for her mother’s attention. But her debut is the least of her problem when she is quite literally pushed through a passage, emerging aboard what’s essentially a pirate ship amidst a skirmish in the 1776 Atlantic. At the mercy of the ruthless, cutthroat Ironwood family, Etta discovers that she is the heir to a family legacy of travellers and she is tasked with finding an item long lost to time. Ironwood will do anything to obtain it, even commit murder, as it could turn the tide in a centuries long struggle between the traveller families. With only a matter of days in her arsnel and with no one but the dashing privateer Nicholas Carter for assistance, Etta must set off on a sweeping hunt through time, following a trail of clues left behind by her astranged mother.
What did I tell you – Passenger is actually the stuff of Hollywood dreams.
First I’d better talk about our protagonist and love interest, Etta and Nicholas respectfully. Etta is a girl with gumption, and despite having no prior knowledge of travelling, rises to the challenge. This is a girl with tenacity – one you can honestly root for. But, having a 21st century girl stumble through various time periods doesn’t just make for an excellent plot – it opens the door to some much welcomed discussion. Passenger really plays with the theme of race and gender through time. Specifically the role of slaves in the colonies and the role of women. It really makes you realize just how lucky you are to have a voice when Etta encounters men in the past who are quick to discard her opinion and undermine her. That being said, it was also refreshing to see Etta deal with privilege as she grows and gains perspective through her travels.
The same can be said for Nicholas’s role. Nicholas, the half-son of Augustus Ironwood, spent the early years of his life enslaved to the Ironwood family. In fact, Nicholas remained a slave until his freedom was literally purchased by Captain Hall who offered him a new life. Despite being a freed slave, it doesn’t stop the constant threat of racism and hatred and Alex Bracken explores this beautifully. Through Nicholas’s point of view Alex Bracken explores oppression and cruelty, that is still very much relevant to the world we live in today. The slow burn romance is actually born from the fact that Nicholas grapples with his feelings towards Etta, believing himself a “scoundrel” because in his natural time, interracial relationships were illegal. It’s pretty heavy watching him come to terms with the fact that he can touch her, hold her without fear of their persecution.
While these aspects and more help to cement Passenger as one of my [gun to my head] all time favorites, what really steals the show is the world building and Alex Bracken’s theory behind time travel. Not only do we follow our protagonists through some truly incredible and diverse places around the globe but we’re also travelling through a number of vastly different time periods. History buffs and fans of Outlander will rejoice. Etta and Nicholas’s journey takes us from the peaks of the Taktsang Palphug Monastery and the Atlantic to war-time London, the jungles of Cambodia and the deserts of the Middle East and let me tell you – Alex Bracken did her research. Every detail of the time period and culture is embedded then sewn into every page.
Bottom line – you need to read Passenger because you need these ships in your life. It’s sweeping, its romantic, the plot is highly sophisticated and I cannot recommend Passenger enough.