Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

This novel flits between centuries and is more than a thrilling adventure; it is a combination of romance and remorseless conflict between families.


Passenger starts with off renowned teenage violin prodigy Etta Spencer preparing herself for her first debut. She is fizzy with nerves, and after overhearing a mysterious conversation between her reclusive mother and her beloved instructor, she suddenly feels overwhelmingly confused. But then as soon as she starts playing her piece, Etta hears a bewildering screech that whines throughout the hall. None of the audience can hear it though, and as she exits the room in panic her hand is grabbed by a stranger, who races her through the venue, dragging her past the shocking corpse of her instructor and through a blazing white door.

Etta wakes up several days later, centuries from her home and lost in a vicious tangle for power, with Etta wrapped tightly in the middle. Only Etta can drag herself out of this mess and back home. Only Etta, and perhaps the handsome Nicholas Carter who crosses her path on the ship she finds herself on.

Etta is the protagonist of this novel, and she’s incredibly affable- not only because of her feisty character that ensures she always stands up for her beliefs, but because she is an adventurous and determined person. Having said this, she’s not perfect; Etta has a poor relationship with her mother, and a lack of any sort of parental figure in her life. She is dedicated to the violin, and so has no friends either. All this combined, and we experience extreme sympathy for Etta, as she appears to be a genuinely pleasant person, and doesn’t entirely deserve this.

Well, she’s not all alone; Etta has her violin instructor Alice. I do not entirely understand their relationship and was annoyed when Etta was desperate to go back in time and save her life. From the moment Etta uttered this idea, despite it frequently recurring throughout the novel, I could tell it was never going to take place. It seemed to be task that would ultimately satisfy Etta too much, and therefore could never take place. Also, I didn’t feel particularly attached to Alice- I’m sure she was an amiable old lady but honestly she wasn’t particularly outstanding and was going to die in several years anyway (she was 90!).

I enjoyed reading about the reinvention of time travel, and the certain things that limited it. It did indeed seem realistic and believable in a way many books in the past, despite the employing an overactive imagination, have not quite achieved. The whole process appears all rather practical and thought through, without the explanation given by science. I thought that generally it was a strong plot, and it was fabulous to see Bracken fully explore the characters and push them to their respective limits, whether mental or physical. One weakness though was that at one point I was not entirely convinced by the plot; it was at the stage when Cyrus was blackmailing Etta to find the astrolabe. This was because, although I knew that she was intimidated, I also knew that Etta was smart and could see that Cyrus was desperate and actually needed her. I was disappointed because I expected Etta to work things out on her own terms, being the strong-willed person she is; I felt that she acted out of character, and that that scene took place because Bracken needed it to go in that direction, not because it was driven by the characters.

Also, there is a bit of romance in it, but I was not impressed by it. Although it wasn’t instantaneous, there was a sense of instalove as there was hardly any tension between them, and when there was it was over in the same paragraph, which frankly is disappointing.  On another note, I loved the settings that cropped up  we travel through time and thought that it would have a much more engaging novel if as readers we had more time to explore as opposed to just hurling through them.

So, despite this novel being too long, I still think it was respectable and worth a read if you are interest in a time-traveling, slightly weak romance, new interfamily conflict novel. Seriously though, if you don’t have time for a 500 page novel, do not bother. It is good, but not worth all that effort.

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