For every book we read during the book club, we’ll write a review so that anyone who couldn’t be there can still join in on the fun! Saskia den Ouden is our YA book club reviewer, judging all the books we read.
A disclaimer; since I will be reviewing the series in its entirety the following review will contain spoilers. I will, however, try to keep them to a minimum.
Do you love time travel, romance, alternative histories, and music? This might be the book series for you.
Passenger opens with Etta Spencer on the biggest night of her life, the violin recital that might change the course of her future. However, through a series of strange incidents, Etta ends up both miles and years from home.
Nicholas Carter is a content sea-faring man, where he is free, instead of in the hand of the Ironwoods. However, this all gets thrown into disarray when Etta lands on his ship, together with Sophia, a member of the Ironwood family. The Ironwoods demand that Etta goes on a journey to find an extremely valuable object that was stolen from them and they are sure only she can find.
Together with Nicholas she travels over continents and through centuries, puzzling together clues to the true location of the object.
In Wayfarer, Etta and Nicholas have ended up separated. Etta is threatened by two groups of people who both want her dead and help comes in the form of the last person she expects, Julian Ironwood, the heir apparent to the Ironwood clan.
Nicolas in the meantime has teamed up with Sophia, trying to locate Etta. Li Min, a mercenary-for-hire, quickly joins them, but not everyone’s motivation is as pure as it seems. Ironwoods are hot on their trail, but so is a third and even more dangerous party.
As you can read in the synopsis, Bracken takes us on quite the journey, from Hannibal’s Carthage, World War II London, 18th century New York, Imperialist Russia and many other places besides. She paints beautiful and interesting scenes of life in those places, with all their weird idiosyncrasies.
The characters are well developed and very diverse, the action is exciting and the mysteries surrounding Etta’s parents and family, really make this book series a nail-biter, especially Wayfarer, because it turns a lot of assumptions made in book 1 on its head.
However, the romance between Nick and Etta is laid on really thick, rather too thick. In Passenger when they embark on this journey together, they immediately start their swoony business and making moon eyes at each other. Both characters are compelling and interesting in their own right. I don’t begrudge them some romance. However, as a reader, you are reminded that Nick and Etta have to act fast. They have only 8 days to navigate all the different portals and dangerous situations and that is an extremely short amount of time. So why are you making out for 30 minutes in a jungle that’s filled with snakes and tigers, while you just got shot in the leg? I almost didn’t continue book 2, because of this nonsense.
The romance aspect of these novels gets a lot better in the second installment. The romance gives Nick proper motivation to pursue Etta and Etta still thinks of Nick, but she actually has the space to focus on the mysteries surrounding her own life.
As I said before, the books are really enjoyable. I wouldn’t read them if you are a time travel nerd because the logic used in the book is a little hinky. I’m not going into this, as it would involve a very long and mostly philosophical explanation, but if that stuff doesn’t bother you, this book is an excellent form escapism.