Book Review: Passenger (2016)

Book cover of Passenger; Manhattan in a bottle, a ship in a bottle reflected underneath.

Passenger (Passenger, #1) by Alexandra Bracken


Softly, Nicholas asked, “Do you really believe I’d take my leave of you without so much as a good-bye? If nothing else, I gave you my word that I would take you away from here if you were in danger.”

“Promise?” Etta whispered.


I really appreciate this book. Is that a weird compliment? Well, I do. I appreciate it. I love time travel stories and I love romances and I love books with historical settings that pay homage to those settings while rightly calling out issues that impacted different people of the time. We get a modern lady and a historical lad and we get commentary on the past and the present and I just – I appreciate it. It’s a very nice book to have picked up.

And the locations!! You’re not just going to one place in history, no. You get MANY. This is a book for history nerds. We also get to travel with Etta and Nicholas from modern day New York City to 1700s Atlantic Ocean (pirates!) to 1940 London and then to France and Cambodia and Damascus (can’t remember the years) – SO MUCH TIME TRAVEL. The settings are so richly detailed, you get descriptions of the fashion, the technology, the lack of technology, the openness of later developed lands, the sounds and smells. Bracken is a really evocative writer.

We first meet Etta when she’s having an overwhelming case of imposter syndrome. We find out this is largely related to her relationship with her mother, whom she feels detached from. The opening really focuses on how much she seeks her mother’s love and affirmation, and I felt quite bad for Etta. Her entire sense of self worth was related to winning her mother’s affection. Her only friend is Alice, her violin teacher.

The night of Etta’s big rehearsal, she suffers a great betrayal, but before she finds her answers, she’s pulled out of the rehearsal and through a passage – a doorway through time. You go to different years, but the same day (1 December 2014 could only bring you to 1 December 1770, etc). The girl who’s brought her to the past, Sophia, tells her that she’s being brought to the wealthy and infamous Ironwood family. A historical time travelling family of whom Etta is apparently distantly related. Worse, most of the Ironwoods are caught up in a scheme to control the timeline (there are other time-travelling families), led by the cruel, racist and abusive Cyrus Ironwood. And it’s Ironwood’s exiled son, Nicholas, who’s been tasked with bringing the ladies to New York.

Nicholas is just wonderful. You get both his point of view and Etta’s. We actually start off with Nicholas, when his brother Julian dies in a time travelling accident. The entire family blame Nicholas for Julian’s death and think he did it out of jealousy. Nicholas put them behind him for a time, but he needs the money Cyrus is offering to be free of them once and for all, and so he’s agreed to a final job. That job being taking Etta to Cyrus.

But what Sophia and Cyrus never told Nicholas is that Etta had no knowledge of her ancestors, no idea what a passage is or how it works – and Nicholas is rightly furious on her behalf. He instantly appoints himself her protector and THEY ARE SO ENDEARING FROM THE START. They fall quickly into guarded friendship and then sparks of romance blossom. Both intend on going in different directions, but they can’t help falling for each other and IT’S SO GOOD. SO LOVELY. I LOVE THEM.

I’m so glad I gave the book a go. It was sitting on my shelf for years and I honestly did not expect it to be what it was and IT WAS SUCH A NICE SURPRISE. I loved the time travel explanation and set up. I loved that it wasn’t just Etta who could time travel, but all of them. You could change time, but you couldn’t erase yourself from the timeline, you got expelled from it instead. It was fascinating! I loved the romance and how they developed together. Pirate partners! And ooooh, the twists at the end. Nice. Definitely going to pick up book two when I can!

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Passenger (2016)

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