Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book Review: Ruby Red

I'm Sarah. Sometimes I check the backs of closets, just in case there really is a portal to Narnia... and I am an Anomaly.

Most who know me, know that I love to read. But lately I've been having trouble finding good books. I start one, get like fifty pages in and then I'll be all "FORGET THIS!" Recently there seems to be a startling number of bad novels that masquerade as good ones, so I came up with rules that help me predict whether I will like or dislike a book. If the main character's name has something to do with food— generally it's a "no", especially if the food is delicious and the character is a boy. The rules help me determine whether a book is one that I will devour and then hold every other book up to. After reading a good story I usually won't be in the mood to read anything else unless it's similar— like if it's written by a German author or, even more-so, if it's been translated by Anthea Bell. That's actually a marvelous segue into my topic for this blog: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier. Translated by Anthea Bell!

I suck at writing synopsis, they usually end up three pages long with a lot of "and the guy, not the first guy the other guy, like... does this thing and then all this stuff happens". I'll just post the synopsis found on

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.

Now, before I discuss what I thought of the book, I should mention that YOUNG ADULT AUTHORS ROCK! I went through a phase where I thought "Ah well... I am an adult now, I must appear enlightened and smart and read big people books." Yeah. That was dumb and it didn't last long. I ended that phase by picking up another novel from the YA section called The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a highly recommended read. I read The Girl of Fire and Thornes cover to cover with extreme speed and happiness. It reminded me of why I read YA books— they are exciting! They're less likely to be pretentious and better yet, less likely to be BORING. These books are engaging and fun, and they often inspire and ignite my imagination much more than adult fiction. I think YA books like Harry Potter might have changed the way adults read. It seems that more and more people, no matter their age, are reading books based on what the story is about and not what age group it's meant for.

Ruby Red is amazing. It's was a story I couldn't stop thinking about and one that I would pick up to read even if I only had a few seconds. I loved the main character of Gwyneth. I thought she was so real and so likable. I also loved that the teen angst, which can sometimes be a little heavy-handed and obnoxious in some YA books, didn't have as big a presence and because of that the characters weren't weighed down. They were able to shine as real people.

There is a trend appearing in time travel books like Ruby Red. Lately, alot of authors are explaining time travel as a 'gene' instead of something you achieve through an object or contraption of some kind. Usually, the traveler cannot choose how many years backward or forward they will jump. I think this trend began with The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, but I'm only guessing. I saw the movie once on a plane trip and cried my eyes out the entire I could be wrong about that. I feel the 'gene' is a great way to explain time travel and it definitely adds to the depth and interest to the story. It sets the protagonist apart and makes them much more interesting and 'special' for lack of a better word. It also creates a sense of urgency and an instant bond between the reader and the protagonist. I sometimes find myself worrying about the next time the character will suddenly just disappear. Then I worry about just how they will explain their sudden disappearance when they get back. I think it's a smart way to make the reader feel something for the character. It allows us to relate to them. This is also something I noticed in Myra McEntire's Hourglass, another book I really enjoyed this winter.

The pacing is extremely well executed. The story doesn't move so fast it seems corny, but it also doesn't move so slow as to make you feel that the entire book is about describing the character's 'pensive" eyes.

Another thing I loved about Ruby Red is that it has a very strong villain. Any adventure story worth it's salt has GOT to have a strong villain...and it's a bonus if said villain has superpowers and may or may not appear harmless at the beginning. :)

Gier writes great characters. I liked almost every one of them, which is definitely saying something. Not only does Gwyneth have the gene for time travel, but apparently she can also see ghosts from the past. It's a cool and weird combination, especially when you think about how strange it would be that the character can travel to their present at any moment, it's a much deeper story angle than just seeing ghosts. The whole ghost thing could have felt so overdone and tired, given the fact that many of today's popular novels seem to be following the 'supernatural' trend. But the author handles it well and gives Ruby Red a fresh believable feel that I really appreciate. Gier gives us so much story in this first novel, but she also knows how exactly how much to hold back. I can't wait until the next book comes out!

I want to say more, but definitely don't want to give the story away. I definitely think it's worth your time and even if you don't like it, I think Gier's story crafting skills will be very evident. For those who have already read Ruby Red the sequel Sapphire Blue will be released October 30th 2012, which in my opinion is long too long to wait!

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Netherland said...

Ruby Red is a story that instantly captivates us and sparks our imaginations to roaring life as we read on in wonder at the possibilities a time travel gene presents, thinking of all the extraordinary sights and events such a biological improbability would place at our fingertips. While the plausibility of organized time travel sends our minds spinning, we are also given a heavy dose of reality with this extraordinary notion, a complicated century-spanning mystery rising to the forefront to illuminate the dangers of such an activity when any one person's minute actions could greatly affect the outcome of events both past and future. Such an ability also raises some intriguing questions for us as readers-can we trust what we're seeing and experiencing in the present with Gwen, or are things unfolding according the the plans of others who have defied the time barrier before her, orchestrating and manipulating things to see their desired outcome achieved? We find ourselves willingly drawn into the splendid chaos with Gwen, breaching the fictional plane to lock minds with her as we attempt to shed the bonds of normalcy to which we are so accustomed and embrace the impossible.

Anonymous said...

I loved it. I finished the first and second book in a few hours. It was beautifully written and their was no gaps or super awkward moments that made me not want to read it. I fell in love with the characters except for the aunt and Charlotte. They are a pair of witches. I was always think about it. I loved the fact that unlike most books it didn't clump scene together and it was all flowing and made since. I hope you will read it. It was a teenage point of view of what no one would want. To be thrown back in time with out any experience. I say it is a must read. Gwen if i was her i would have punched a lot of people in the face. I think this my second favorite series.