Friday, January 23, 2015

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Publication Date: May 10, 2011
Publisher: Henry Holt
Series: Gemstone Trilogy #1
Pages: 336
Genre: Fantasy
Synopsis: 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.

Review:  Ruby Red was originally published in German, titled Rubinrot.  Since its international release, it has amassed a large following and high praise.  While the idea of time travel is spectacular, I have some issues as far as the writing and plot go.

This book is more of an introductory to a series, setting up for the following books, with a few twists and turns sprinkled throughout. Don't get me wrong, it is immensely enjoyable and delighting, but from a plotting and proficient writing standpoint, I have some problems with.  I love the idea of time travel, probably because I may be slightly obsessed with Doctor Who, and the way Kerstin Gier presents it as a genetic mutation of sorts is quite clever. However, I do wish there were a little more information on how the chronograph (the device used to control the travelers leaps through time) was created and how Sir Isaac Newton supposedly predicted when the future time travelers would be born.  And while it is apparent that the travelers visit past travelers and family often, there never seems to be anyone from the future stopping by in the present.  

The plot itself is fairly predictable and the plot twists can be seen from a mile away.  It does move along quickly, never pausing a moment, always capturing your attention.  The revelations, obvious or not, are fun either way and aid the story by keeping it moving along.  The story is not complex, though well organized.  The writing seems simplified, easy to read, though I do wonder if this is because it was translated.  

Gwen, the main protagonist, is supposedly the normal, average teenager.  Well, until she suddenly begins to travel backwards in time uncontrollably.  Gwen is a typical, blank heroine, the kind that makes it easy to 'self-insert' yourself into her life.  She has about as much conviction and depth as a teaspoon, though I hope that improves as the series progresses.  The most significant issue with her is that she thinks, talks, and acts more like a twelve year old than a sixteen year old.  This changes a little when she is dropped into a secret world full of mysterious societies in which she doesn't know who to trust.  She does toughen up a little and manage to become more substantial as a character.  

But by far, the most interesting characters have to be Lucy and Paul, the overly secretive and rebellious time travelers who stole away with the first chronograph right after Gwen was born.  Maybe it is just the air of inscrutability that surrounds them, but they are the ones I am most eager to learn more about.  As for the characters that are present more often, Gwen's best friend Leslie takes the win for the spunkiest, most loyal friend there is.  They have one of the most genuine best friend relationships I have ever read, to the point where I expected Leslie to betray Gwen simply because she was too good to be true. Charlotte, on the other hand, is a complete and utter nightmare. She is narcissistic and self-absorbed, though admittedly a strong character.  

The romance between Gideon and Gwen is evident from the beginning, but I think their relationship evolves too quickly.  It jumps too soon from 'I'm not sure I like you at all' to 'wow he is so dreamy'.  As for Gideon, he is a decent character, though I am waiting to see how he grows in the following installments before I make a serious judgment.  

Despite the transparent plot and my misgivings about the mechanics of the writing, I happily recommend Ruby Red.  It has a decently original take on time travel, and I anticipate further excitement and more complexity in the future books, which I definitely will be reading, and soon.

3 Keys


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