Ruby Red is written (in German!) by Kerstin Gier and translated by Anthea Bell. It was published in 2009 in Germany and in 2011 in the U.S by Henry Holt. Gier’s website (in German) can be found here.
“Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended—and rather eccentric—family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn’t been introduced to the “the mysteries,” and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesley, watching movies and talking about boys. It comes as an unwelcome surprise then when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past.
She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any century….”
What I Liked:
Okay, so I read the blurb for this book and thought I was in for a terrible time (the whole “best-looking guy” thing…blarg). But I’m actually kind of really obsessed now (sorry for all those modifiers). This book was fun, much more involved and complex than I thought it would be, and not nearly as “swoon over the beautiful guy” as it sounds. In fact, Gideon is kind of interesting, in that he seems to grow attached to Gwyneth really quickly, which sets off all kinds of warning bells about his potential villainy in the next two books (yes, it’s a trilogy). One minute he thinks she’s a nuisance, the next they’re kissing in a confessional booth (okay, not that quickly, but still…). I can’t help but think that something more is going on, but maybe I’m just desperate for a romance that’s more nuanced and interesting than the norm.
It was apparent to me from the very beginning of the book who Gwyneth really is, but the intrigue that is developed because the characters don’t know is really well-done. There’s a sort of mystery quality to this that I really love.
Gwyneth has just the right sort of snark that I really like; she has a really great inner monologue going on most of the time and it is wonderful.
I feel like this is going to be a series similar to Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers, in that it may not be the best in terms of writing or character or plot or whatever, but it is fun, and that’s important (to me, anyway).
What I Didn’t Like:
Like I mentioned above, Gideon seems to really do a 180 in regards to his feelings about Gwyneth in the span of about fifty pages and one time-travel. I’m still hoping that there’s something more going on, but this could be yet another super-quick romance and I am disappointed if that’s the case.
This book was all mystery and build-up, with not a lot of development or revelations, but a whole lot of questions and suspense. Essentially, it’s a set-up for the rest of the trilogy, which isn’t necessarily bad. It just takes an awfully long time for things to happen, and so not much actually happens in this book. Gwyneth doesn’t take a controlled trip back into time until almost two-thirds of the way through the book. It just made it feel much more “hey, this is a trilogy” than most trilogies, if that makes any sense.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Genre: Realistic, Science Fiction, Supernatural, Historical Fiction, Young Adult (yeah, I can’t really decide what it is)
When I could see properly again, I noticed a car was coming around the corner—a real old-timer—and I was kneeling on the pavement shaking with fear.
Something was wrong with this street. It didn’t look the same as usual. Everything had changed so suddenly.
The rain had stopped, but an icy wind was blowing and it was much darker than a moment ago, almost night. The magnolia tree had no flowers or leaves. I wasn’t even sure whether it was still a magnolia at all.
The spikes of the fence around it were gilded at the tips. I could have sworn they’d been black when I’d seen it not a moment before.
Another vintage car came chugging around the corner. A strange vehicle with tall wheels and shiny spokes. I looked along the pavement—the puddles were nowhere to be seen. Nor were the traffic signs. The paving was bumpy and out of shape, and even the street lamps looked different. Their flickering yellowish light hardly reached the entrance to the next building.
Deep down inside me, a nasty idea stirred, but I wasn’t about to entertain it seriously yet.
“We’ll see what kinds of tasks she may be suitable for,” said Mr. de Villiers.
“We have her blood,” said Gideon. “That’s all we need from her. She can come here and elapse every day as far as I’m concerned, and then everyone will be happy.”
What was that he said? Elapse? It sounded like one of those difficult words Mr. Whitman used to confuse us with in English lessons. “In principle not a bad effort at elapsorating the crux, Gordon, but try for a little more elaboration next time, please.” Or had it been elucidating the crux? Well, anyway, neither Gordon nor I nor anyone else in the class had ever heard of it. Except, of course, for Charlotte.
Mr. George saw how baffled I was looking. “By elapse we mean deliberately tapping your time-travel quota by setting the chronograph to take you back into the past for a couple of hours. That prevents uncontrolled travel.” He turned to the others. I’m sure that after a little while Gwyneth will surprise us all with her potential. She is—”
“She’s a child!” Gideon interrupted him. “She has no idea about anything.”
I blushed scarlet. What a nerve he had! And the scornful way he was looking at me! That stupid, conceited…polo player!
Ruby Red definitely was not what I was expecting, and I love it for that reason. The one mar is Gideon, a.k.a the typical handsome love interest, but I’m still holding out hope for a bit more nuance than usual. This is one of those books where I finished reading it and immediately ordered the second from the library. It’s looking to be a fun trilogy and I’m excited to read the rest.
You can buy this book here: Ruby Red
Coming Up Next: Saturday & Sunday, Summer of Redwall; next Wednesday, The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix