My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As a sequel goes, this book is much better than a typical second book, but that’s probably because Bracken has avoided a trilogy. Nicholas and Etta begin separated and, while readers know from the end of PASSENGER that Etta is alive, we don’t know where or when she is. Neither does Etta for that matter. Lots of surprises in this installment including Etta meeting her dad, discovering that Julien is alive because he was stranded just like Etta, and the insertion of a mystical Faustian figure in the Belladonna. The travelers take us through early 20th century revolutionary Russia, San Fransisco after the Quake in 1906, Carthage during the Roman siege, and an alternate historical timeline in which Etta’s beloved New York is completely destroyed. Rose’s history is more fleshed out in this book, making her manipulation of Etta more understandable, but not necessarily more acceptable. This book blends Rose’s past, with the Thorns emerging as a force that really exists, with the journeys Nicholas and Etta are taking to try and get back to each other. At the center of it all is the astrolabe, which just about everyone has come to agree must be destroyed to prevent Ironwood, and an even more evil power-the Shadow, from getting their hands on it.
I’m a fan of a happy ending as much as the next girl, and this one delivers. The things that saves it from being a complete saccharine overload is that there is some delayed gratification in getting to the happy ending. I think one or two more deaths would have made it less tied-up-with-a-bow, but Alice stays dead and not everyone comes out of the struggle unscathed. The overall message is also one I can get behind: We can’t rely on others to keep our world free from evil-we have to make the world around us the kind of place we want to live.