Wayfarer (Passenger #2)
By: Alexandra Bracken
Publication Date: January 3rd 2017
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 awakens 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 travelers 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.
Last week I read Passenger and talked about how it was mostly just kind of meh…how there were some good parts to the story, but on the whole I didn’t think it was great, just entertaining. And yet, I decided for some reason to read the second book in the series, Wayfarer. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I just got more meh, with sides of disappointment, drama, and sappiness.
We start the book with our two love interests separated, two characters recovering from near-fatal wounds, and the thing they were searching for mysteriously gone. Well, it can only go up from there, right? Wrong, because this is no part of this book where the plot turns into anything that could be described as ‘compelling’. Wayfarer suffers from the same issue as Passenger, a disjointed and not very grounded plot. But it’s exaggerated somewhat. For one, Alexandra Bracken feels less compelled to describe places like the Winter Palace or the Vatican Catacombs, despite the absolutely relentless dashing about through time and space. And second, we’re now following two sets of characters, which makes this all the more confusing.
Yep, you read that right. Etta and Nicholas spend the ENTIRE BOOK separated from each other, with one or maybe two places where they meet. There is no romance, aside from one or the other of them being moody about not seeing the other/thinking they’re dead/thinking they’re a traitor/etc. And this is *after* we’ve finally confirmed that they are in no way related. It’s disappointing, to say the least.
And, to make things somewhat worse, they end up paired with two characters who should have died but somehow haven’t, if for no other reason than they’re too annoying to just not include. Nicholas, for some reason I still don’t grasp, felt it necessary to save Sophia’s life after one book of her being racist to him and also being a greedy, power-hungry idiot who is solely responsible for losing the treasure. And then Etta finds out that Julian Ironwood, Nicholas’ idiot half brother and childhood bully, somehow managed to avoid dying as well, and then she thinks it’s a good idea to take him along on her ragtag, seemingly pointless journey. Their only purposes seemed to be to add drama to keep the plot moving, if sluggishly, and to be annoying. OK, turns out Sophia is also the token LGBTQ+ character, but this doesn’t redeem her any. In fact, it kind of makes her treatment of Nicholas in Book One even worse–her hate of him was explained away as being maybe not about racism, because she blamed Nicholas for her fiancé Julian’s death…but since he didn’t die, and she didn’t care about him in the first place, and she straight-up admits it, then there really is no excuse for her behavior. The fact that Nicholas even tolerates her, let alone voluntarily travels with her, is baffling.
But frankly, the dual nature of the book isn’t the most annoying part of the plot. What’s really just bothersome to me is that BOTH sets of characters are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, without point or purpose. In the beginning of the book, Nicholas’ sole objective is to find Etta and be with her forever. Then that shifts to killing his evil grandfather, and then to not dying, and then to destroying the astrolabe. Whereas Etta decides at first to just go with her newfound dad and the Thorns, and then after picking up Julian like a stray burr, she decides that they need to fix the timeline, and then she’s deciding to get to the astrolabe and protect it from all of the people like Nicholas who think it should be destroyed. *sigh* It’s hard to keep track of who is doing what, or why they’re doing it, or where they’re off doing these things. And ultimately, it feels like there isn’t actually all that much going on with the plot. Besides drama relating to Sophie and Julian being annoying, that is.
Also, this is where I’m going to point out that Nicholas should have been the MC, because at least he’s somewhat interesting as a character. Etta is just straight up not at this point.
I’m also going to grumble, because in Wayfarer the author decided that the Ironwoods weren’t really doing the job as big bad characters, and tossed in another vaguely terrifying thing about Shadows and someone who has eaten the other astrolabes. This irks me, because as much as the plot desperately needed something to spice it up, tossing in an ambiguous evil character who makes exactly two appearances felt gimmicky and extraneous. It was another thing to keep up with, in a confusing and not very compelling plot, and the entire presence of that plot point annoyed me.
And then we get to the end. *Takes deep breath* if you still want to read this book, stop now, because I will spoil things.
Now, at some point during the book, Nicholas developed a moody and masochistic bent to him, one symptom of which was a compulsion to destroy the astrolabe, and thus any chance of seeing his darling Etta ever again. The big battle happens, people die, Nicholas destroys the astrolabe, and then goes off to mope around in the Revolutionary War. I saw this coming, I shrugged, and then thought about Philip Pullman’s Amber Spyglass and how I did actually like that kind of bittersweet ending. Then I noticed there were about fifty more pages left, and my heart sank. Because OF COURSE there was going to be a horrifically sappy ending, where some group of chosen ones that included Nicholas and Etta were going to still be able to time travel, and see each other despite all odds and any sense of possibility, and it was going to be revoltingly happy-ever-after. I almost saved myself the trouble of reading those last fifty pages, but did, just to be able to confirm to you all that I was right, and it was fairly revoltingly sappy, and that Alexandra Bracken couldn’t even give me the satisfaction of an ending that was bittersweet and where someone died. She just HAD to pour on the sap instead.
At this point you may think I hate this book, which is not correct. Do I dislike it? yes . Do I question my own masochistic tendencies in finishing it? Also yes. But it was entertaining, if for no other reason than to read, with a kind of fascination, exactly how much drama could be produced and still not really make the plot interesting. So no, I don’t quite hate it?
Would I recommend it to someone else? I wouldn’t go that far.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.