Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier, for Timeslip Tuesday

Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier (Henry Holt 2011, YA, 336 pages)

16-year-old Gwyneth lives with her mother and siblings on the top floor of the family's ancestral home in London. Living beneath them in grand style are her grandmother, her aunt, and her polished and beautiful cousin Charlotte, the special one, the one the family assumes has inherited the family ability to travel through time.

But it is ordinary Gwyneth who finds herself time-travelling, and who finds herself in the midst of a conspiracy stretching back centuries--a secretive organization of Guardians wants Gwyneth to fill a crucial role in their machinations. Plunged into mysteries, caught between two different factions among her time-travelling kin, and accompanied in her time-travelling by the insufferable (but very handsome) Gideon, Gwyneth must decide (with too little information to make it easy) just whom she can trust.

This is great fun! The twists and complexities of the plot make for fast reading--along with Gwyneth, the reader has little clue at times what's happening in the larger scheme of things, but things roll along nicely before too much doubt creeps in (sometimes I have doubts when reading about centuries-old mysterious cabals of mystic-ness, but not here; at least not until I closed the book). And in large part this momentum comes from Gwyneth. She's a great narrator--matter-of-fact, observant, and entertaining.

Those who read time travel stories for the excitement of exploring the past won't find that emphasized here. Time-travel, in Gwyneth's world, is controlled by a device operated by the mysterious society. Her first few solo timeslips are the classic "gah I'm in the past and totally unprepared and what the heck do I do experiences," but once her family finds out what's happening, the Guardians determine the location and time period of her travels (giving the wardrobe folks the opportunity to prepare suitable clothes). It also helps make time travel less awkward for her that she's mainly meeting her own family, or members of the organization--no pesky explanations needed!

Anyway. Like I said, it's great fun, it's fast, and and it will (probably) leave you wanting the sequel (it had something of the same feel to it as, for instance Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White). It may also leave you annoyed with the sexist pig Guardians and doubtful about the way Gideon's eyes are described (I am tired of boys with exceptionally lovely eyes).

Ruby Red was written in German (that's what I thought was the German cover at right, but it's actually the Norwegian one...). The translator, Anthea Bell, is the same one who did such a good job with Inkheart (she's also the translator of Asterix--here's an interview with her in which she talks about that).

I don't know if I would have picked up on it if I hadn't known the author was German, but Gwyneth reminded me strongly of a German girl who was my best friend years ago, more than she reminds me of my English friends and relations. Did anyone else feel the same thing?


  1. I've heard a few other people talk it up on Twitter, but I had no idea it was German. It sounds good to begin with, but that makes me want it even more!

  2. This sounds like a great book. I've heard a lot about it. And your review is making me want to read it. Thanks.

  3. Just got my hands on this. Can one ever get tired of boys with beautiful eyes? Not I! That's my husband's best feature (big round green eyes with long dark lashes...)

  4. Psst - don't look now, but I think that's the Norwegian cover.

    And Amazon.de have two other books, Saphirblau (Sapphire Blue) and Smaragdgr├╝n (Emerald Green). Wonder how long it will be before they're available in English....

  5. I actually had this book in my hands last week when I was in the store but I put it back because I didn't want to pay $20+ for a YA book that I wasn't sure I'd like. Time travel stories are so hit and miss and I don't trust most blog tour blog posts. ;) However your review, plus the comparison to Paranormalcy has made me rethink my hesitation. I might end up with this book in my collection some time in the future.

  6. I really enjoyed this one, as a good, light read, a good time travel story. The only thing that really bugged me is that so much is left hanging and nothing resolved because it's a series. (I always feel cheated when series do that.) But of course I'm going to check out the next book when it comes out! I enjoyed it.

  7. I think the unresolved-ness bothered me very little because it was so light and fun--I appreciated the characters, but am not all clenched up inside waiting for resolution!

    And thanks, viz the cover, RM1(SS)!

  8. I bought Ruby Red on a whim, as there was mention of time-travel and a cute guy-what more would a girl want in a book? So I was quite happy when I discovered the writing to be above par of the usual YA novels and much more addictive. This book kept me up all night reading, emersed in the world of Gweneth and Gideon, an unlikely team pulled together by fate and a mother's lies.

    Together, the pair travel through time to collect blood from the rest of the time-travellers to complete the Circle of Blood. However, not all time-travellers are happy to donate samples of blood, and there is more than time-travelling dangers at play, for someone wants to stop Gwen and Gideon from closing the circle.


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