Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #1
Released: 5th January 2016
Published by: HarperCollins
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 464
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
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 is one of the most talked about and hyped releases to hit 2016, giving rise to some pretty high expectations on my part. I'm a huge fan of Alexandra Bracken's 'The Darkest Minds' trilogy (which I have fangirled about on goodreads here), and so was definitely excited to read this book as part of a new series. While I feel this is something I did like for the most part, I have had some conflicting opinions about it which I'm breaking down in this review:

What I enjoyed:

Timey-whimey stuff

We need more time travel in YA! It was great to see that element brought to life in Passenger, with settings from New York in the present day, to the same city back in 1776, London in the midst of WWII, Angkor in 1685, Paris in the late 1800's and Damascus in the late 16th century. Bracken has definitely done a good job in terms of trying to make the concept plausible with the introduction of the 'astrolabe'. Travelling between these dimensions and timeframes will be somewhat familiar to readers like myself who are fans of Claudia Gray's Firebird series thus far, though Passenger does differ in that it is focused more on past destinations than those in the future. While in some aspects I found that this element of the story was overshadowed by others, such as the romance and complexities of the Ironwood conspiracy, I'm still glad that it was there as one of the main ingredients. 

Dual POV's

The dual perspectives from both Etta and Nicholas is subtly done in this book, which I actually liked. Although both originally from vastly different societies and timeframes, it was interesting to see how they formed a slowly developing bond. The 'Etta as a gifted violinist' part of her character is one I would have perhaps liked to see more of throughout the novel, however the fierce loyalty to her family and those closest to her did make her a character you wanted to see succeed in her mission. Nicholas on the other hand had already struggled to overcome challenges in the early years of his life due to the racial prejudices of the time, and his protective nature over Etta was admirable. Though at times their relationship was frustrating it and isn't one of my top OTP's, I think that they make a pretty good pair overall. 

Pirates! (sort of)

Yes, that's right - the 'shiver me timbers' type that we love to see in 'Pirates of the Carribean' did make an appearance in this book. It's something that I haven't really seen much of in the genre, and found it quite a unique addition. I was expecting this to be a more prominent element of the story initially (as the cover led me to believe), so I only wish that there was more!

What I didn't:

Long-winded prose

There were definitely some short bursts of action that piqued my interest, but in some places the story did tend to drag. At close to 500 pages long, while I wouldn't say I was bored, I found some sections where the characters internalised a lot of their thoughts to be long-winded. There doesn't have to be a thrill that gets your heart racing the whole time, but more dialogue for me is what I would have preferred to break up those long passages. 


It's undeniable that the ending left me wanting to know more! Alexandra Bracken has always known how to handle a good cliffhanger that will leave readers itching to read the next book she's got in store...and this is no exception. That's what brought me back to being excited about Passenger and what could transpire in the novels to follow, despite the small qualms I had with this.


Overall, Passenger may not have quite met my towering expectations, but it's still a book I'd recommend giving a try. Even though it wasn't perfection for me as a reader, it ultimately made me excited for the next instalment - and that's the main thing!


  1. I'm struggling through this book at the moment! Like you said, I'm finding it slow and the prose is just so ridiculously chunky. I don't know if I overhyped it in my heard - this was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year - but it's just falling flat so far. I really hope it pick up. Great review!

    1. It seems I'm not the only one then - but it does definitely get better towards the end! Thanks for stopping by Rachel :)

  2. I AM a little worried about how long it is. But hey, I won a copy, I'm not complaining. And I'm excited for all the different settings!!

    OH, and lovely to see you today (albeit briefly) <3

    1. The different settings definitely are part of what make this book an enjoyable read! It was great to see you too, even if only for a few short moments (it got pretty hectic back there!) Hopefully we'll see each other again sometime on campus :)

  3. I've seen very mixed reviews for this (to the point I removed it from my TBR, and then got a copy and thought 'oh guess I have to read it now' lol) so I'm glad to hear you had some positive things to say, even if it was a bit long-winded at times.

    1. I do try to focus on the positives, and this one wasn't lacking in that department overall which was good. I guess it comes down to personal preference with the writing style, but regardless - it's a good read! :)

  4. I completely agree with everything you've said here! I loved the concept and the way the time travel was handled, but the long-winded prose definitely threw me off as well. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥


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