Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

wayfarerThe Premise: Wayfarer is the sequel to 2016’s Passenger (which I reviewed here); consequently, if you’ve not read Passenger and plan to, don’t read this review. The follow-up picks up the story in the immediate aftermath of the first book, with everyone searching for the Maguffin astrolabe which evil Cyrus Ironwood wants to use in order to reset the timeline to bring his dead wife back. Or something. Modern girl Etta finds herself without traveler Nicholas (remember, they were all in love and stuff in Passenger. What do you mean, none of this rings a bell?). Lots of time travelling, making bad deals with dubious individuals and general disregard for one’s own life ensues.

Thoughts: as always when continuing a series, I was up against it from the start reading this, because I realised I had a very limited memory of what happened in the first book. What I really liked about Passenger was repeated and expanded here; the characters find themselves all over the place, from Carthage to St Petersburg, with several versions of New York along the way. I enjoyed how vividly realised each location and time frame was, and I liked the way that Bracken incorporated versions of real-life historical events into the fictional events of the novel; for example, Tsar Nicholas II feels fairly confident of the Thorns’ ability to protect him from assassination (sad times).  In my review of Passenger, I recall being very excited to have finally found a time travel concept that I understood; in Bracken’s duology, there are passages the travellers know about which take them to specific places and times. Scientifically, it’s probably not the most watertight explanation, but it works.

There’s loads of action in Wayfarer, with surprise appearances of characters everyone thought were dead and lots of combat in different centuries with historically-appropriate weapons. While I could have done with a bit more “previously in Passenger” type exposition, the action-packed nature of the story made it all very exciting. It took me a while to get back into the story and, particularly, to reacquaint myself with the main characters but, once I did, I remembered how much I liked angry Sophie and generally decent Nicholas. There’s less in Wayfarer about the difficulty Nicholas, as a mixed race person, faces in navigating some of the less enlightened eras through which he travels; I found this aspect of Passenger really interesting but, with the main characters splintering off in different parts of the narrative, it was inevitable that these kinds of details would be pushed to the background.

In Conclusion: I did Wayfarer a bit of a disservice; I started reading it just before I received a huge pile of books for Christmas, and so my mind was wandering to shiny new hardbacks while I was reading, which is foolish of me as Alexandra Bracken has continued to tell a really compelling and exciting story that spans continents and centuries. Despite its divergent narrative strands, Wayfarer is a coherent and inventive sequel to Passenger, and the two books together form a really satisfying duology.