Genres: Fantasy, Time Travel, Young Adult
Series: Passenger #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on January 5, 2016
Also by this author: The Darkest Minds
In a whirlwind of a time travel adventure, Etta Spencer is rescued out of her extraordinary modern life as a teenage violin prodigy after seeing her teacher murdered and is thrust into a world of secrets, political and familial machinations, and historical easter eggs. Etta finds herself in the eighteenth century on a captured ship with the acerbic, yet seasick, Sophie Ironwood and gallant, young, aspiring captain Nicholas Carter and no clue of how she came to be there. Upon finding out she possesses traveler blood inherited from her parents [a father as yet unknown and a mother who would never speak about her past very much] and that there currently is a war going on between the four traveler families, namely that the Ironwood patriarch wants control and only Etta has the power to save or stop him from it, Etta begins a journey accompanied by Nicholas to discover her heritage, traveling through time and across countries to retrieve the astrolabe her mother stole. Together Etta and Nicholas must confront unpredictable dangers, each other's motivations, and Cyrus Ironwood's tyrannical desires to control the world and time itself.
I was a huge fan of The Darkest Minds series and thought it was one of the best, most underrated dystopians since it didn’t get as much hype as The Hunger Games or Divergent. When I saw she was coming out with something new, I knew I had to wait a bit before beginning it because I’d probably want to read everything at once!
I loved the uniqueness of this book! It was not what I was expecting at all, not that I had much of an idea to begin with. However, let’s start with the cover. It’s absolutely beautiful. First glance shows a glass bottle with modern day New York inside, and underneath a second faded glass bottle with an eighteenth century ship. It’s so understated and yet shows a quick glimpse of the book. Great job, Disney Hyperion Marketing and Design departments!
At first, I had a bit of a hard time getting into it because I was trying to grasp all the details of time travel, how it’s possible, and how it relates to Etta. Because Etta is largely in the dark about…well…mostly everything, so is the reader. That got a bit frustrating because we have to wait until Etta meets Cyrus Ironwood to get a little more insight. The two characters closest to Etta, Sophie and Nicholas, are themselves similarly fairly powerless in the scheme of things: Sophie is a girl who can’t inherit and is thought to possess frailties due to gender and also is actually a bit of a rebel despite being Ironwood’s granddaughter while Nicholas is Cyrus’s grandson and a bastard, his mother having been a slave who was assaulted by Cyrus’s tyrant son, and remember, during the eighteenth century, anyone black or having mixed blood was still considered of lower status in the American colonies.
Etta, with her modern way of thinking, does not recognize these social norms of the day, and when Sophie and Cyrus treat Nicholas like a servant or furniture rather than blood, Etta rather views him as a partner and her equal, a relationship he’s never had before and never known was possible. Etta too is constantly underestimated for being female and merely a pawn for Cyrus Ironwood, though she at least knows what possibilities exist in the modern world. These themes of sexism and racism are explored and Etta herself confronts them when she acknowledges what a privilege it is not to worry about the color of your skin and how that affects various aspects of your life especially if you lived in these periods.
I found the glimpses of historic time periods and exotic locales to be fascinating. From rainforests and temples near Thailand to Egypt to eighteenth century New York and London during WWII…the fun way they skip about history is a gem to discover, especially if you research it at the same time they’re flitting about. It gives a fuller picture of the settings.
Overall, I really liked this book despite how it took me about 25% of the book to get into, which other reviewers have pointed out. This is not your usual fast-paced YA because Bracken takes time to really develop the feeling of confusion and the unknown for Etta. Once I was in, though, I was hooked, and was totally caught off-guard by the typical Bracken doozy of a cliffhanger at the end. Absolutely had to get my hands on Wayfarer asap! Look for that review soon as there’ll be more about the romance and other secret plot developments!