Title: Ruby Red (original title Rubinrot – Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten)
Author: Kerstin Gier
Genre: Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Historical, Young Adult
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (US)/Arena (Germany)
Publication date: May 2011 (US)/January 2009 (Germany)
Hardcover: 324 pages
Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!
Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Edelstein Trilogy
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher/Publicist
Why did I read this book: I have heard nothing but praise for Ruby Red, from very trusted sources on the interwebs and in real life. Naturally, I had to give the series a shot (especially as I am a sucker for time travel stories in any capacity).
Gwyneth Shepherd has grown up in her beautiful, sophisticated cousin Charlotte’s shadow – Charlotte is perfect at school, perfect at home, and, most importantly, perfect on a genetic level. Though both Gwyneth and Charlotte are descendents of the Montrose line – an elite lineage of time traveling women who belong to a secret order called The Guardians – Charlotte is the one born on the right day and has inherited the so-called time traveling gene. From birth, the perfect Charlotte has been destined for greatness and groomed for her inevitable first journey through time (an unpredictable lurch that takes place around 16 years old), given extensive lessons in fencing, foreign languages, etiquette, and history. In contrast, Gwyneth is a perfectly normal girl destined for banality, which is just the way she likes it. Making decent grades at school and with a number of good, close friends, Gwyneth doesn’t envy the scrutiny her perfect cousin is subjected to by their family (although she does get frustrated with Charlotte’s snootiness every now and then). The Montrose family is crazy enough, with an endearing aunt that receives visions of the future and Gwyneth herself with the ability to see and converse with ghosts.
As such, it comes as quite the surprise when one afternoon it is Gwyneth, not Charlotte, that travels a century into the past. Unprepared and frightened, Gwyneth finds herself thrown into a dangerous, tangled world of secrets and a dizzyingly complicated timeline of family drama. Mistrusted and condescended to by the other members of the order, including her handsome (if infuriating) time traveling partner, Gideon de Villiers, Gwyneth hardly knows what to believe – but she knows there is more to the Guardians and their secrets than they tell her. As the twelfth and final traveler to close the mysterious circle of travelers and their signets, Gwyneth is the Ruby and thus portended to be immensely powerful (even if she doesn’t know it yet). With a generations-old conspiracy afoot, it is up to Gwyneth to put the pieces together, come into her own gifts, and decide who to trust.
The first novel in a previously published German trilogy, Ruby Red has already amassed an impressive international following, with newly minted eager English language fans clamoring for the next two translations as quickly as possible. I can’t say I blame them; as far as trilogies go, Ruby Red is one of those first novels that does not tie things together or play well as a self-contained novel. Much more of an introductory piece with a few twists thrown in along the way, Ruby Red sets the stage for revelations to come. That’s not to say that Ruby Red is without merit; as it stands, the first book in the Edelstein trilogy is frothy and enjoyable fun. From a plotting and mechanics of time travel point of view, I loved the idea of travelers inheriting some trait, the adolescent/pubescent quality of time traveling, and the manners in which the Guardians have tried to harness and control their leaps through time with a specific device. I wish there was a little more background and detail given as to how this particular device was made, or how Sir Newton would have been able to predict the birth date of a time traveler (as it stands, this reads as pure hokum), but perhaps that will be covered in another book. I also thoroughly enjoyed how crazily entrenched time travel is in each of these characters’ lives – future elder siblings live in the past, grandparents meet their relatively close in age and appearance descendents, and so on and so forth.1 There are also a few “twists” in this book alone, although your mileage may vary as to the efficacy of said twists (the big one, for example, is predictable and apparent from the prologue of the novel). That said, the story moves along briskly with never a dull moment, and the revelations – obvious or not – are good fun and help propel the story along at a speedy pace.
On the character front, things are a little more muddled as the narrative voice was kind of frustrating, although I don’t know how much of that is because of translation/language barriers. As a heroine, I found Gwyneth to be incredibly annoying because she is, essentially, your typical blank page/self-insertion heroine who is ONLY special because Destiny Has Foretold It To Be So (granted, this is something of a personal preference, so not everyone will feel the way I do). As it is in Ruby Red, Gwyneth has all the depth and conviction of a tepid water filled inflatable kiddie pool. But, perhaps that’s the point. After all, Gwyneth is not supposed to be special; she’s supposed to be perfectly mediocre (i.e. she makes decent grades but is not particularly intelligent, she has no skills or interest in…well, anything). That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with normal or ordinary characters – I’ve read a number of “normal” characters and have loved them to bits, usually due to some wicked fun narration. Unfortunately, Gwyneth’s voice is undeniably immature, rife with exclamation! points! and jokes that might seem funnier in a younger protagonist (though she’s supposed to be a sixteen year old, Gwyneth feels much younger). But perhaps I’m being unduly harsh and her character will be fleshed out in future books. To be fair, by the middle of this first book Gwyneth manages to toughen up a bit and pulls her weight, and I loved that she is able to stand up to Gideon and call him on his superiority complex (even though, OF COURSE, the whole time she’s thinking about how hot he is). Perhaps there’s hope for her in future books as she comes into her own.
By far, the more interesting characters for me were Gwyneth’s family, both past and present. Cousin Charlotte has her entire life stripped away from her in one fell swoop, and while Gwyneth’s reactions to Charlotte’s feelings are dull-witted, I’m very interested to see how the cousins will relate to each other in subsequent books. Of course, there’s the romance angle with Gideon de Villiers, which is as predictable as paranormal YA romances come (Gwyneth thinks he’s so dreamy despite her anger with him, he thinks she’s a silly girl but is attracted to her, fast forward 200 pages and they are kissing and it’s, like, OMG ELECTRIC). On the flip side, Gideon’s grandfather, the secretive and likely villain de Villers is a wonderful addition to the cast, and I’m excited to see what nefarious plans he may have afoot.
Despite some character misgivings and a degree of plot predictability, I did enjoy reading Ruby Red and blazed through the book in a single sitting. This, plus the interesting new take on time travel and hope I have for more complexity in future books means I’ll definitely be sticking around for the sequels.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
I FIRST FELT IT in the school canteen on Monday morning. For a moment it was like being on a roller coaster when you’re racing down from the very top. It lasted only two seconds, but that was long enough for me to dump a plateful of mashed potatoes and gravy all over my school uniform. I managed to catch the plate just in time, as my knife and fork clattered to the floor.
“This stuff tastes like it’s been scraped off the floor anyway,” said my friend Lesley while I mopped up the damage as well as I could. Of course everyone was looking at me. “You can have mine too, if you fancy spreading some more on your blouse.”
“No thanks.” As it happens, the blouse of the St. Lennox High School uniform was pretty much the color of mashed potatoes anyway, but you still couldn’t miss seeing the remaining globs of my lunch. I buttoned up my dark blue blazer over it.
“There goes Gwenny, playing with her food again!” said Cynthia Dale. “Don’t you sit next to me, you mucky pup.”
“As if I’d ever sit next to you of my own free will, Cyn.” It’s a fact, I’m afraid, that I did quite often have little accidents with school lunches. Only last week my pudding had hopped out of its dish and landed a few feet away, right in a Year Seven boy’s spaghetti carbonara. The week before that I’d knocked my cranberry juice over, and everyone at our table was splashed. They looked as if they had measles. And I really couldn’t count the number of times the stupid tie that’s part of our school uniform had been drenched in sauce, juice, or milk.
Only I’d never felt dizzy at the same time before.
But I was probably just imagining it. There’d been too much talk at home recently about dizzy feelings.
Not mine, though: my cousin Charlotte’s dizzy spells. Charlotte, beautiful and immaculate as ever, was sitting right there next to Cynthia, gracefully scooping mashed potatoes into her delicate mouth.
The entire family was on tenterhooks, waiting for Charlotte to have a dizzy fit. On most days, my grandmother, Lady Arista, asked Charlotte how she was feeling every ten minutes. My aunt Glenda, Charlotte’s mother, filled the ten-minute gap by asking the same thing in between Lady Arista’s interrogations.
And whenever Charlotte said that she didn’t feel dizzy, Lady Arista’s lips tightened and Aunt Glenda sighed. Or sometimes the other way around.
The rest of us – my mum, my sister Caroline, my brother Nick, and Great-aunt Maddy – rolled our eyes. Of course it was exciting to have someone with a time-travel gene in the family, but as the days went by, the excitement kind of wore off. Sometimes we felt that all the fuss being made over Charlotte was just too much.
Charlotte herself usually hid her feelings behind a mysterious Mona Lisa smile. In her place, I wouldn’t have known whether to be excited or worried if dizzy feelings failed to show up. Well, to be honest, I’d probably have been pleased. I was more the timid sort. I liked peace and quiet.
You can read the full excerpt HERE.
Rating: 6 – Good
We have ONE copy of Ruby Red up for grabs! The contest is open to residents of the US only, and will run until Saturday August 13 at 11:59PM (PST). To enter, simply leave a comment here answering the following question: If you could travel back in time to any era, where and which period would you choose? Only ONE entry per person, please! Multiple comments will be disqualified. Good luck!
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- Although I should note that from a plausibility perspective, LOTS of golden time travel rules are broken, i.e. A time traveler should never come into direct contact with oneself in the past or future. I love rules being broken…so long as it all works. We shall see. ↩