by Kerstin Gier
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.
Ruby Red was a fun time travel book with quite a bit of heart behind it. I enjoyed reading about Gwen’s time travel adventures as her family comes to realize that Gwyneth is the time traveler they have all been waiting for, instead of Gwen’s cousin Charlotte. And with Gwen’s discovery of who she is comes quite a bit of danger and excitement. Or, in other words, everything I love in a book.
I think the thing that impressed me most about Ruby Red was how well the time travel was explained. I love time travel stories, so it can be quite frustrating when one doesn’t really bother to explain how time travel works in that particular world and just waves it all away. Not so in Ruby Red. There’s a quite complicated timeline, extra special powers as well as time travel, and well-kept record books that really help build the time traveling world. The rules of time travel in Ruby Red have clear rules: you can’t travel without your own lifetime, you can’t go to the future, etc, and they’re all explained reasonably well.
I really enjoyed Gwen as the central character. She’s fun, humorous, and adventurous, though understandably nervous when her time traveling starts . She’s a time traveler because of genetics, and she has to deal with the hand that’s been given to her. And then we learn all about these extra abilities on top of time travel that certain people have–telekinesis, seeing ghost, etc. AND throw in a secret society? I’m sold.
That being said, as fun and adventurous as Ruby Red was, it wasn’t without flaws. Now, Ruby Red was originally written in German and later translated into English, so I have no idea if my complaints are with Gier’s writing or with the translator, but either way, it did distract from the story. First, I thought the story read much younger than the character’s ages. At times it seemed a bit juvenile, more on the verge of upper middle grade than young adult, though I think that part got better as the book went along. Also, some of the writing was just awkward, which I’m assuming was the result of the translation.
However, my biggest complaint is I didn’t really feel this book had a story arc of it’s own. I really did feel it was just setting the stage for the adventure to come later. And as much as I’m looking forward to that adventure, as a reader, I really could have used more in this book. For the first half, all that happens in Gwen goes to school and realizes she’s the time traveler in the family. The second half picked up with some adventures, but it didn’t really feel like a complete story to me.
Final Impression: I enjoyed Ruby Red as a fun time-travel adventure story. I thought the way time travel was explained in this book was well done and I really loved the characters. Some of the sentences were awkward, whether from the original writing or from the translation, but it was still enjoyable. However, my biggest complaint is that this book really only feels like the beginning of the story, and doesn’t feel like a book in it’s own right. However, I’m excited to read the next book in this trilogy. 3/5 cupcakes.