Thursday, 18 May 2017

A Review of Passenger and Wayfarer

I love the font used on the titles on the covers!
Passenger and Wayfarer are a duology by Alexandra Bracken. Henrietta "Etta" Spencer is a gifted violinist, about to play her debut solo performance in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, the concert is cut short when Etta is drawn to another part of the museum. There, she finds herself pushed through a portal in time, coming out on a ship in a different century. There, she meets Captain Nicholas Carter, a young Black sailor who was born into slavery. Etta finds out she is one of a few families, who have the ability to travel through time. Unfortunately, a family called the Ironwoods are trying to manipulate other travellers so that they have complete control over the passages of time.

You know how I love travel books? Well this is basically that, but with time. AKA the best type of books. And you might even learn something about various time periods as you read!

I found the pacing in the first book slightly off. The story takes a while to get going, and once Etta gets pushed through the portal, I thought it was going to pick up. However, we first get a question and answer style exposition about the time travel mechanic in this book. Which I do understand was necessary, but it does go on a while. Since Etta was just sent so far away from home, readers may feel like they want to get into the action. It feels almost like the author can't find a better place to work it in. I kind of wish we'd learnt this information slowly, over the course of the books. We also spend much longer in some time periods then others, and some of them were places I really wanted to explore.

Luckily, since all the set-up and explanations took place in Passenger, Wayfarer manages to get us straight into the action, with plot twists coming from the first few chapters. Etta and Nicholas have wound up separated by time, and are attempting to find their way back to each other. Nicholas has had to enlist the help of Sophia Ironwood to navigate through time. Etta has ended up working for a family she thought to be the enemy. I liked how we went into more distant time periods rather than just about ~500 from now. However, I felt like they didn't all feel as distinct as they did in Passenger.

I love Etta, I loved that she had something she was so passionate about. The violin wasn't just a hobby to her, it was her dream. And I also found Nicolas fascinating. Their relationship gives us one of very few mixed-race relationships in historical YA, and the "time-culture" clash between their different eras and values was fascinating. A character in the second book who I shall not name turns out to be one of the funniest characters in the series. And I think that the most interesting character, with the best development over the series, is Sophia.

I am going to have the discuss the ending of Passenger here: Etta is badly wounded, and sent through a portal to who-knows-where-and-when (we know from the second book it's Texas, 1905, but we didn't know that then). It would likely take a miracle to save her. Even if she didn't die instantly, thus collapsing the passage, she would likely bleed out before long? But her mother says she's alive because she thinks so? And Nicholas is convinced by that? As we find out in Wayfarer, she was in the middle of nowhere of Texas, and dehydration would have got her even if the bleeding didn't. It's not clear how long she was there when she's found, but it seems to have been a while. While I liked much of the book, I just feel like the ending required a little to large of a grain of salt to swallow for my tastes.

I recommend this series to people who like time travel stories, and anyone with an interest in music.

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