The short: 3.5/5 ✦. A solid character-driven time-travel sequel, slightly marred by an over-complicated plot.
Bracken is an excellent writer. Her prose is detailed without veering into purple, her characters are well rounded and properly motivated, and her plots are unique and incredibly well researched. In the hands of a lesser author, this duology would’ve fallen apart into a lovey-dovey, historically inaccurate, bland mess.
But it still just didn’t do it for me.
To be fair, like in Passenger, I liked how the exposition was given, in small doses, but for some reason, even though this is the sequel, there seemed to be a lot more of it, and by the end, there were many, many new elements introduced. I have to admit, I was more confused than thrilled or relieved in the conclusion.
There are more characters this time round too, but everyone is in little groups, each with a journey to take. Fair warning: Nicholas and Etta spend 90% of the book apart from each other. (And I feel that Nick got most of the action, despite the POV alternating every other chapter.) I wasn’t terribly keen on their relationship to begin with, but I guessed that Bracken would better develop it in Wayfarer. Kinda hard to do that when they are separated by centuries of time and space. Still, she avoids having them pine (or worse, whine) for each other, though they both desperately want to reunite, and I think because their relationship is largely built on love for the other’s character rather than just appearance or even personality, it makes the scenes where they do reflect on their relationship more grounded. It’s quite destiny driven and “true love” and all that, though, acknowledging that they’ve only known each other a month.
I also didn’t care for Etta’s relationship with Henry; she may have a good heart, but I didn’t believe that instant trust for a second, nor how she ended up viewing her mother. Much of that was told to us, rather than shown. I personally know about having complicated relations with parents, and it was simply unrealistic to me (YMMV, though). And the whole situation with her mother and her goal for the astrolabe just kinda got out of control.
The first half of the book goes fairly slowly and steadily, but the second half is all over the place. There is simply too much going on as Bracken has to tie up everyone’s lengthy thought processes, along with the various plot threads. Character introspection is simply her style, and by and large, it works just fine, but not so much at the end. I’m also sad that a lot more time traveling is done in Wayfarer, but we see less of it, and the time periods are not as richly or effectively described. Again, the accuracy is totally there for us history nerds, but I didn’t feel it.
All that aside, Wayfarer is a perfectly serviceable book in a perfectly serviceable series with a thick, if quavery, plot. Nicholas and Etta’s character development is solid, even for me who hates instalove — their romance did not drive the plot, they each had additional motivations for doing what they did; being together was merely a part of the end goal. And despite the convolutedness, I’m pretty satisfied with the ending. Hard choices had to be made, and Bracken let her characters make them and take on the consequences, but ultimately, there’s also happiness and the promise of new beginnings.
Header image: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken, published January 3rd 2017 by Disney-Hyperion