“Passenger” and “Wayfarer” by Alexandra Bracken
Disney-Hyperion; 496 pages, 532 pages; $17.99; 2016; Goodreads
In Alexandra Bracken’s two part series, time travel, history, intrigue, romance, and thoughtful character arcs abound. The story follows heroine Henrietta – or Etta – Spencer as she learns that she comes from a prestigious time traveling family. Her mother, Rose, having kept her family’s heritage a secret, seems cold a distant, but for good reason. Rose has kept Etta’s ability to travel through passages to different times in history a secret from her because she needs her to destroy the astrolabe, a device that can create new passages and with it new timelines.
One night Etta is kidnapped by the Ironwood family and as she’s on her way to her captors estate she meets Nicholas Carter, a black sailor and fellow time traveler who resides in the 1700’s. Together they have to band together to stop the Ironwood patriarch from getting the astrolabe and destroying everything Etta has just learned about her life and everything Nicholas has ever known.
What is strong in this novel is Bracken’s use of characterization to charge the plot forward. By using a third person omniscient point of view, Bracken is able to let readers into every thought and action of each character. Knowing everything that’s happening helps also to create dramatic irony that left me screaming at the pages of this book.
Etta is a heroic and self sacrificing main character, but when she meets Nicholas and falls in love with him she tries to imagine how she can create a future in which they are together. I loved this aspect because it gave Etta dimensions right off the bat. The fact that she can all at once be selfless and selfish made for a believable character and made me comfortable as a reader following her story because I could relate to her. She was real.
Nicholas is also a bit like Etta when it comes to doing the right thing even if it means sacrificing all that you have, but it’s really his background that gives him the rough edges. He is the son of a slave and a member of the Ironwood family. He served the Ironwoods faithfully until he was able to barter his freedom from them, and found himself a job among a crew of sailors finally answering that lingering call of the sea. For me his characterization fit with the time of the 1700’s. Even though he had a rough go of it at first, he still carries himself as a respectable gentleman.
I really also have to give Bracken props for having the story’s main romance be between a biracial couple, but the diversity doesn’t stop there. There is also a LGBT couple who I absolutely fell in love with. Bracken makes it easy to root for love as love no matter who it’s between in this series.
I did have a problem with the pacing of the book because of the third person omniscient point of view the book seemed to drag on, and when it came time for Etta and Nicholas to fall in love I felt like it happened so fast. On the other hand, as a reader, I was being told of their affections towards each other, but it wasn’t all that physically prominent until the end of the first book. I thought it might gradually progress physically, but that wasn’t the case and that took me aback a bit.
Also adding to the lack of brevity is Bracken’s painstaking account of every little thought each character has. One thought can last anywhere from three to six paragraphs. I prefer more actions in my book, but the fact that she was able to get the character arcs so perfect really allowed me to overlook the play by play of each characters mind. Unfortunately though, I was left wanting more information and background on a few key characters that I felt like I wanted to get to know more, but wasn’t given that chance.
All in all this is a great series for those who not only love romance but adventure. The time traveling is also enjoyable for anyone who loves history. For more information about the author you can catch her on Goodreads, on Twitter at @alexbracken, and on Instagram at @alexbracken.
Up next I will have review of POISON’S KISS by Breeana Shields and CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber.