Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rereading Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier (translated by Anthea Bell)

Ruby Red (Precious Stone Trilogy, #1)I first felt it in the school canteen on Monday morning. For a moment it was like being on a rollercoaster when you're racing down from the very top. It lasted only two seconds, but that was long enough for me to dump a plateful of mashed potatoes and gravy all over my school uniform. I managed to catch the plate just in time, as my knife and fork clattered to the floor.

"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."

I read this one a while ago and enjoyed it, but for whatever reason I traded it in, so I had to order another copy. Ruby Red is an immensely popular book in Germany, and I can see why. The main character is kind of funny, and although the book is light, it's really entertaining and a great combination of things: of time travel, mystery, and romance. The mystery element is very strong, as Gwyneth doesn't have much idea of what's going on; it just suddenly turns out that she's the carrier of the time travelling gene, upending everyone's lives. I do think the book could have focused a bit more on Charlotte's reaction. It must be awful to have been groomed and prepared for something for your whole life, only to find out that you don't get to do it, that there's been a mistake and it's your cousin who's the time travelling one.

Gwyneth's narration though is very chipper, cheery and matter-of-fact even when she's down. Despite the author's being German, the tone of the book is very, very British, although I can't really say whether that's because of the style of the original German or the translation. Probably a bit of both.

 The whole plot idea is quite good, although for such a short book there's a fair amount of information dumping and almost too many different plot-lines. There are several great supporting characters, and many lovely settings in the present and in the past. As the book progresses, there's more adventure and action as well, with the annoying Gideon de Villiers. That is, of course, my least favorite element, although he's okay as a character. I have a feeling that Gideon gets more annoying (if such a thing is possible) in Sapphire Blue.

Gywneth is another teen with a chronic case of being unable to tell the adults in her life anything. When she first travels back in time, rather than telling her mum immediately she puts it off and puts it off. Whereas right after it happens she calls her best friend Lesley, who is slightly more sensible and wants Gwyneth to tell her mum right away. Of course, Gwyneth does not follow this very good advice.

There are a whole bunch of really weird parts in the book, such as Gwyneth's third time travelling back, and what happens there. Time travel itself is just a very odd paradox. It seems all right on the surface, but then you start thinking about the circles going round and round and it gets rather disorienting and confusing. Basically, don't overthink it. I think humans in general find the concept really fascinating though; it appeals to something in us.

Much of the book's events started coming back to me as I read, but not all of the specifics. I remembered the beginning sections of Ruby Red very well though. It's not a great book or anything, but engaging enough and pretty fresh.  The whole book is cloaked in mystery and historical detail (including period clothing), and there are plenty of secrets, betrayals, and action-packed sequences. I would highly recommend it to fans of many genres: historical fiction, mystery, science fiction, and time travel novels. I have a copy of the final book, Emerald Green, but have yet to acquire one of Sapphire Blue. Soon, hopefully.

322 pages.

Rating: ****

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