Book Review: Passenger

Published By: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Page Count: 486
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fantasy

I love this trend of blending together rich historical details with fantasy elements. It appeals to both the history nerd in me as well as the lover of magic and the supernatural. I have been dying to sink my reading teeth in this one ever since I first heard about it months ago. The anticipation was well worth it as Passenger did not disappoint.

The story begins in present day New York City as one of the main characters, Etta, is preparing to play at a posh event at The Met. She's always had issues with stage fright, but she's ready for her talent to take the world by storm. She's convinced that she will not freeze up this time; she's ready, but an unexpected chain of events makes her performance memorable for reasons beyond her violin playing ability. It is on this night that Etta learns that she has the ability to travel through time. 

After tragedy strikes, Etta finds herself on a ship in 1776 America. She soon orients herself to her newfound reality and learns that a dangerous and ruthless man, Cyrus Ironwood, wants to use her for his own nefarious purposes. Etta befriends a young man, Nicholas Carter, aboard the ship who will become her friend and partner in her travels to find the object Ironwood so desperately seeks. 

Along the way, Etta and Nicholas will grow closer and dodge danger at every turn as they travel to London in the 1940's as the blitz rains down its terror, Angkor in 1685 when the jungle is just as dangerous as any modern weapon, Paris in 1880, and Damascus in 1599. It soon becomes clear to Etta that not only is Ironwood hot on their trail, but so are a lethal group called the Thorns who want to stifle Ironwood's power. Etta becomes a pawn that both groups stalk as she tries to unravel the clues left for her by her mother.

I loved the action and adventure in this one, but the characters are what truly make this one shine. Etta is the sort of girl I'd want in my corner. She's a little self conscious, but has the heart of a lion. She doesn't let anyone tell her what to do and constantly stands up for the rights of females - even when she is time traveling in time periods where women should have been seen and not heard. Her gumption and courage made me root for her from the start. I also adored Nicholas. It was nice to see a diverse character in the spotlight and Nicholas also provides a lot of to think about concerning racism and social justice. His life as a biracial citizen in the 1700's is anything but easy. It was interesting to watch how the concept of race played out for him as he traveled to different eras. I also loved the relationship that develops between Etta and Nicholas. Lastly, I loved that this would appeal to both female and male readers as the perspective shifts between Etta and Nicholas while focusing largely on the adventure.

In addition, the specifics of time travel were well thought out and explained in this one. There is little science to understand which made it easy for me to follow. The ability to travel is hereditary and exists in a small portion of the population due to conflict between the gifted families. Most of the travelers have been eradicated by the Ironwoods which makes the ability rare and easy to hide. 

Furthermore, I loved reveling in the historical time periods that Etta and Nicholas visited. Part of me longs to see for myself those amazing buildings and societies of the past - even if just for a moment. Bracken wrote them in such ways that I felt like I was walking the streets and traversing the jungle along side Etta and Nicholas. Passenger is certainly beautifully written and well worth the time. I'm anxiously awaiting book #2 which is set to hit shelves in January 2017.

One Last Gripe: The ending was truly a cliffhanger, but it's still pretty brutal.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The historical details

First Sentence: As they ascended, retreating farther from the winding trails that marked the way to nearby villages, the world opened to him in its purest form: silent, ancient, mysterious.

Favorite Character: It's a tie between Etta and Nicholas.

Least Favorite Character: Sophia - I tried to feel sorry for her, but in the end, I just couldn't stand her.

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.


  1. Hmm, I didn't want to fully read your review since I haven't picked up the book yet. I do want to read it because of the historical element.

  2. The Passenger is one I've been on the fence about getting, but after reading your review I think I'm adding it to be want list - especially with a well done time travel slant it sounds really, really good <3 Gotta add, LOVE that cover art :D

  3. I've had this one wishlisted since I first heard of it. It sounds like quite an exciting read!


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