A promising adventure crushed by a suffocating romance. 3/5 stars.
Thank you to Hachette, Quercus and Netgalley for giving me an e-copy of Passenger in return for an honest review.
The blurb: In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.
Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.
This is a story of two parts. One part is a fantastical time-travel adventure motivated by a centuries-old family feud. This layer of the story is wonderful and takes in a range of locations and time periods, each described in evocative detail.
The other part of the story is a romance. One which starts when the two characters lay eyes on each other and pretty much fall in love in that second. And from then on the romance grows until it overshadows and sucks the life out of the adventure plot-strand. As someone who loves a good love story, I say that with a heavy heart. But when there are whole chapters or great chunks of chapters which are devoted to the two main characters thinking about each other and their feelings, rather than actually doing anything… I lost patience.
The characters are a laudably diverse cast who are brave, determined and smart. But while I liked the two main characters – Etta and Nicholas – I felt their personalities failed to flourish because their feelings for each other (so many many feelings, told again and again and again) overwhelmed their individuality. I think the whole book would have benefitted if they had started out as companions who are rightfully wary of each other and then their relationship had been allowed to develop into a romantic one while the adventure stayed in the front seat.
I would like to read book 2 because if the romance were dialled back, there’s potential for this to be a fantastic series. The time-travel element is well-handled and I’d like to see where and when the characters will be taken next.
Overall: if you can’t stand insta-love, you might want to avoid Passenger. However, if it doesn’t bother you and you’re looking for a well-written time-travel adventure, check it out.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul