Title: Ruby Red
Author: Kerstin Gier
Published: May 10, 2011
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction
Ruby Red is the first book in the Edelstein series. It follows sixteen year-old Gwyneth who unexpectedly replaces her cousin Charlotte in a secret time travel society when it’s discovered that she has the female time traveling gene, not Charlotte. After being kept out of the loop of the society’s mysteries all her life, Gwyneth has to learn what the rules are of time traveling and her duties as a time traveler. She’s not alone in learning as she has Gideon, the obnoxious male equivalent of Gywenth from another family, to help her learn the ropes of time travel.
Right off the bat, I was confused by what time period the characters in the present were from. They had cellphones and cars, but the way they spoke was formal (ie. lack of contractions) and old-fashioned. Especially in Gwyneth’s family, they used older honorifics like “Lady” when referring to their grandmothers. Her family also had a butler, which wealthier families may still have now, but is something I considered outdated. It was confirmed later that the present timeline is the 21st century, but it was hard for me to make that distinction when the dialogue across the different time periods sounded like it was from the same one. Also, while the older tone of speaking fit some characters, it added a sort of staleness to the conversations between the younger characters.
Even though I was confused with the setting of the story, I continued to read because I was interested to see how time travel worked in this world. It was fun to see how Gier loosely meshed two genres together, science fiction and fantasy, to create a story where a secret society with guardians and traditions defends a practice rooted in science. I liked the concept of time traveling being a gene that only runs in two families in the world and how that holds the two families together through history. However, I wasn’t a fan of Gideon and the romance that was being forced between him and Gwyneth. He really didn’t do much besides annoy Gwyneth, yet it seemed that she was coming around to him mainly because he was attractive
(don’t settle, Gwen!).
In the book, time travel followed the “grandfather paradox”, where anything you do in the past affects the future and can potentially change it. This allowed Gier to string readers with paradoxes that appear to have no end or beginning. Usually paradoxes delight me, but in Ruby Red, they left me feeling a little cheated.
Ruby Red was an engaging read, but the story never fully took off for me. It felt like the whole plot was a set up for the second book. The ending of the book didn’t seem fully developed, which is understandable in some respects because there’s still more to the story, but even then there should have been some type of climax and falling action. Instead, Ruby Red punctuated with a cliffhanger which, to be honest, didn’t leave me that curious to read the next book.
Ruby Red had an interesting premise, but fell flat with its conclusion. It did its job of setting up the story for a series, but failed at being a strong standalone. Something about the tone of the book felt off for me, but it seemed to have an affect on tons of other readers (
this book has four stars on Goodreads!). It just wasn’t for me.