Time-travel, romance, ghosts. Just another day in the life of Gwen – at least it has been since Gwen discovered that the time-traveling gene that runs in her family has been unexpectedly passed down to her. Now she is being pulled into a secret and ancient society known as The Guardians, a group of men and women with ties to her family, her past, and now it seems her future. Among them is her male time-traveling counterpart, Gideon, who she might consider incredibly attractive if he wasn’t so annoyingly clever and bossy. There are twelve documented time-travelers, each represented by a gem. Gideon is the eleventh, represented by the diamond. Gwen is the twelfth, the Ruby.
Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red was originally published in 2009 but didn’t make it to American bookshelves until 2011. Why the delay? Someone had to translate it into English from the original German. Good thing they did too or else American readers would have been deprived of an interesting story with a captivating world filled with mystery and wonder. The book is an interesting blend of science fiction, the supernatural, and (of course) the obligatory love triangle, this time featuring reluctant time-traveler Gwen, the handsome and talented Gideon and Gwen’s beautiful cousin Charlotte, the member of her family who was supposed to inherit the time-traveling gene according to the experts in the secret society.
Unfortunately for Gwen, it’s she and not her picture perfect cousin that has this special ability, which means she’s the only one who holds the key to the secret the Guardians have been searching for the last 500 years. But can Gwen trust the members of this shadowy group? That’s one of the big questions of Ruby Red. Gwen struggles not just with the shock of her new found abilities and how to control them but also with the fact that she’s no longer in control of her life, feeling more like pawn in a game that began generations before she was even born.
There’s a lot in this book to engage various types of readers. The sci-fi/fantasy elements harken back to the high points of the Harry Potter series, bringing together ancient myths, historical figures and alluding to a culture of which the rest of the world is completely unaware, while the romance will be more welcomed by enthusiasts who liked similar aspects of the Twilight and Hunger Games series.
Like most YA fiction, Ruby Red is the first book in a trilogy. While this can be seen as a positive in that it allows the story and characters to evolve over a longer stretch of time, it also may leave readers a little wanting by the end of this first volume. Instead of serving as its own stand-alone story like the first Hunger Games or Twilight books manage too, this novel is very much the first chapter of an ongoing saga, so instead of finding closure after finishing its final pages, readers will more likely be searching the library catalog for the next volume, entitled Sapphire Blue. Is this a bad thing? Not necessary. Just remember: reader be warned. If you read the first book in this time traveling trilogy, odds are that you’ll be reading the second and the third in no time at all.
Reviewed by J.J. CLP-Beechview