WAYFARER (Passenger #2) - by Alexandra Bracken
Published: 2017 - Disney Hyperion
Genres: Young adult / romance / science fiction / fantasy / historical fiction
Triggers/Content Rating: Violence.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta wakes up alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected - Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master's heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta's past could put them both at risk. Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travellers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min, who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives. As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable ... and might just run out on both of them.
You know that feeling when you read the first book in a series - or specifically a duology - and don't like it, and yet you have this niggling feeling to read the sequel anyway?
That's how I felt about this duology. Passenger fell flat for me in nearly every way and I didn't have high hopes for Wayfarer. But I was proven wrong, and this book blew away my doubts from literally the first chapter. It's a thousand times better than its predecessor.
Everything is up a notch. The dialogue, which didn't make an impression on me in the first book, is now rich, immersive, witty, and bursting with characterization. Every character's voice is incredibly potent, and you are sucked into each personality whenever they open their mouths.
The descriptions are gorgeous - reminiscent of Sarah J. Maas' writing voice. Every scene is incredibly vivid, emotive, and enticing with extraordinary detail. The setting - or rather, settings - are characters in themselves, and the different places the characters visit are well-imagined and consuming. Everything stands out.
I'm torn about the writing. On one hand, there are all the amazing points I've mentioned above, but it still has its shortfalls:
It is repetitive. It's also incredibly melodramatic, and Bracken draws out characters' thoughts for paragraphs on end - using as many adjectives as she can. Yes the story is action packed and fast-paced for the most part, but it has contrasting moments too that become unbearable. It just isn't concise at all.
Similarly, it's over-descriptive. Beautiful language, but occasionally overdone. And the language is also very, very close to becoming flowery. I don't like flowery language, so this was a pain. I just found myself longing for simplicity.
“Because one moment in life does not define a person," Li Min said. "Without mistakes and misjudgments we would stagnate. It is no shameful thing to be beaten when outnumbered, not when you were brave enough to try. Nor is a scar or injury something to despair over, for it is a mark that you were strong enough to survive.”
“I'm not... I'm not without a heart,' he heard Sophia say, her chin raised, eyes straight ahead. 'I'm not. I just don't have the luxury of being soft. I am trying to survive.”
The action is overwhelming and thrilling. There are a ton of terrific fight scenes, and the characters are always on the go. It is exceptionally entertaining - my heart was almost always racing - and at the end it gets even better: everything reaches a crescendo, everyone clashes, there's bloodthirsty violence and gut-wrenching tragedy and confrontation, and it's a knockout finale in every way.
But the plot has its issues. Maybe it's just really intelligent, or maybe I'm just dumb, but it feels extremely overcomplicated. At the end of the book I still don't know exactly how things worked out or what the specifics of Bracken's time travel system are. To me, it just feels complicated and confusing. Like her writing, I think it could be simplified.
“It is no shameful thing to be beaten when outnumbered, not when you were brave enough to try.”
Sophia is definitely my favourite character, and Julian, Li Min, and even Rose are equal in second place. They are so passionate and have real, tangible personalities, and I adore, adore their interactions with the other characters. They light up every single page they're on. Even Nicholas and Etta, although overshadowed by them, are much more vivid in this sequel. Everyone becomes human, and everyone feels so much more real.
The character development is superb. Especially in relationships, everyone and everything is dynamic. People grow, people change, people see others for who they really are and grow in their understanding of each other. It's spectacular to watch, and I particularly love the depth and growth of Nicholas and Sophia's friendship and Etta and Julian's friendship; they're written masterfully.
There's a lot of diversity in this book, which is written so well. Nicholas is African American (and we get to see more of his struggle as society in that era refuses to accept who he is), Sophia is a lesbian, Li Min is Chinese, and there's also a subtle LBGT romance. All in all, I think Bracken does an amazing job of representing different people and cultures.
Wayfarer might have flowery language and an overcomplicated plot, but its secondary characters, dialogue, and heart-pounding entertainment and action make up for it.