Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier Review

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier is a book that I read during the summer, but I knew that I wanted to produce a review on it. All of the novels that I usually talk about are my absolute favourites, getting five-star ratings and endless recommendations. This novel is a bit different - I liked it but I didn't exactly love it. I wanted to produce a review where I could really unpick the novel and carefully select the things I enjoyed and those that I didn't, rather than blindly singing its praises for ten minutes, and so I thought it'd be interesting to share my thoughts on this novel with you.

First published as a German trilogy, Ruby Red was translated into English and soon became a hit with YA readers. This book has received a lot of recognition and has equally been praised, so I was definitely eager to read it. Being a mixture between contemporary, historical fiction and some fantasy, this novel featured all of my favourite genres and elements and so was a recipe for success.


"Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for travelling 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."


A common feature of young adult fiction is that the main characters are developed and incredibly detailed, whereas secondary characters don't receive as much detailed. I feel as though this was flipped in Ruby Red, with us seeing many different sides to characters, such as Gwyneth's mother and Lesley, whereas Gideon and Gwyneth both seemed quite one-sided in their thoughts and actions. However, I hope that they will develop throughout the trilogy and I'm looking forward to seeing how their characters alter and react when faced with new situations.

Gwyneth is your average 16-year-old girl, quirky and spunky yet with an element of vulnerability. Her character is an exact embodiment of the trope of the main character thinking they're ordinary but aren't, yet for once I actually loved how this was portrayed. Seeing the normality of her life at the start of the novel provided an evident juxtaposition to the time travelling scenes later on. It really helped to show how she was just a young girl thrust into a new world, yet still had to deal with the regularities of life. Despite being the 'chosen one', her character is supposed to be mediocre - her grades are average, she has no particular skills and nothing stands out as being unique or special about her. However, this worked in favour of the storyline, and although I'd usually hate it when the main character is plain and boring, it enhanced the story and its plotline in this case.

Gideon is your typical YA romantic interest, although our main character actually shows more of an anger towards him in the beginning. The budding romance between them is typical and fairly expected, but I quite like how his character was portrayed and the dimension he'll bring to the novel. He came across as quite stubborn and rule-abiding in certain parts of the book, but I'm hoping that his character will loosen up and relax throughout the rest of the trilogy.

Charlotte is the snooty, goody-two-shoes cousin of Gwyneth who is portrayed to be quite jealous and sanctimonious, yet I actually feel quite sorry for her. She had been prepared for time travelling for the entirety of her life, and so to have all of that taken away in an instant - and by her cousin - I can really sympathise for. Despite there being a clear barrier between her and Gwyneth, I hope their relationship develops and they become closer throughout the trilogy, as Charlotte ultimately has all of the knowledge Gwyneth needs to help her.

Time Travel

Time travel was the pivotal element of this novel, yet I felt as though the explanation we were given was somewhat simplified. This definitely helped in terms of understanding it (unlike The Square Root of Summer, for example, which completely lost me with its detailed scientific reasoning behind time travel) but at the same time it felt as though there would've been major repercussions of the actions of both Gideon and Gwyneth that were brushed aside to not complicate the story. For example, the cell phone being used while in a different era would've likely caused a ripple effect and drastically changed both the past and the future, yet these minor elements were completely ignored.

Aside from this, I enjoyed how time travelling was presented throughout the novel. The concept of it being instilled in your DNA is unique and definitely intrigued me, and I loved how more fantasy elements were incorporated into this aspect of the novel to make it seem less scientific and factual. Since Gwyneth was new to the world of time travelling, we got to learn all about it as she did, which helped with understanding and meant that I was never confused. I'd personally love to know a bit more about the history of the device they use, as well as how Isaac Newton was able to calculate the birth dates of the time travellers, but it's possible that these will be explored in the rest of the trilogy.

What I Liked

I found that this novel was a great introduction to the trilogy, providing us with any necessary information and a detailed history that'll hopefully guide us throughout the other books and give us a flavour of what to expect. This book was primarily an exposition, spending a lot of time introducing the characters and premise of the storyline before anything actually happened. This meant that once the action did kick in, we understood everything well. However, at times it did feel as though we were treading water and not making any progress, having to surpass over half of the novel just to get into the main plot and action.

Another great thing about this novel is how any information and concepts that we needed to understand were creatively implemented, unlike in other novels where it can seem to be a droning history essay. Conversations were used often to raise our awareness of the more important features, which I much preferred rather than simply being told the facts. The glimpses of London in different eras were also fascinating, with the elaborate descriptions giving us an interesting insight into how things have changed.

What I'd Change

One thing that I'd change about this book is the amount of action and drama within it. Although it was great as an introduction to the world and for providing an insight into the characters and concepts, I wish that more would've happened in relation to the plot progression. The book had a slow, almost leisurely pace, with there being no major dilemmas or much action until the very end. I think that this trilogy would've hugely benefitted from being one large book, as we would've received much more action without having to wait for the next novel, plus I didn't feel as though the cliffhanger was large enough to anticipate an entirely new book. Having said this, I expect that the second and third books in the trilogy will be filled with much more drama and action, considering they don't have to spend time setting up the world and characters, so I'm looking forward to reading these.

I also found that the plot was fairly predictable in places, with the main twist of this novel being quite obvious from the get-go - I even think it was hinted at on the blurb. However, since this twist came so early on, I can guarantee that there'll be more surprising ones littered throughout the rest of the series, hopefully which are less predictable and anticipated.


This book is definitely split between being a historical fiction and a contemporary, with the balance between Gwyneth's regular life and time travelling being perfect. Although there was potential for a more sci-fi approach, I much prefer how this novel handled the topic of time travel, and instead we were presented with much more mystery. There was lots of intrigue and speculation around the different families, societies and all of the history behind what was happening, which definitely attracted me and gave the book an adventure-like feel to it. There were some elements of romance in this novel, but for the most part, they felt forced and only there to fill the criteria rather than to enhance the plot. However, as Gwyneth and Gideon get to know each other better, I'd expect this to develop and be furthered throughout the series.

One thing that I found about this series is that it'd probably be more suitable for a middle-grade audience, despite being labelled as a YA novel, as I found it to be quite young and watered down in places. This definitely isn't entirely negative, as it helped us to see the plot progression much easier and witness what was happening, but it lacked the complexity and challenge that I wanted. A lot of the dialogue between the teenage characters seemed a lot younger and immature, as well as some of the concepts being over-simplified, meaning I feel as though this novel would be appreciated much more than someone who is younger than myself.

Overall Opinion

In conclusion, I found this book to be a great introduction to the storyline and world of Ruby Red, preparing us for some hopefully exciting twists and revelations. The mystery is still prevalent at the end and so is really intriguing me to read Sapphire Blue, however, I'd hope that it had more action and intrigue than this novel. I'd definitely recommend this book if you're in it for the long-haul, but if you're just wanting a quick read that'll tie up any loose ends, this book may not be for you.

Thank you very much for reading this review and I hope that you enjoyed it! I really enjoy reviewing books so if there are any others that you'd like to see me mention then make sure to let me know down in the comments. I'll see you next Sunday with a new post, so goodbye for now!

Love from Daisy x

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