Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, translated by Anthea Bell

Stars: 4 of 5

I have to admit that I was spellbound by this book almost as soon as I started it. The prologue has just the touch of mystery that intrigues me and then the story never loosened it’s grip. This is actually one of the quickest books I’ve listened to, finding any excuse to have my headphones in. 

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres, but this one does veer more into fantasy maybe. It’s listed as fantasy, historical fiction, and romance. In Ruby Red, there are two families of possible time travelers. The “gene” for it goes down the women’s line in one and the men’s line in the other, which makes for some interesting possible hookups throughout the generations. I’ll be honest, it does end up as more of a romance with a sci-fi/fantasy twist rather than a sci-fi/fantasy with a romantic subplot. It’s well written enough, though, that I am totally fine with that. 

Okay, there’s a lot of swooning and feeling inadequate, but I feel like the author does a good job of setting up the reasons for this. Our protagonist, Gwyneth, doesn’t just suffer from feeling inadequate around all guys, just the crazy gorgeous ones that had always ignored her in favor of her oh-so-special cousin until her life went haywire at the beginning. I can understand that. I feel like a lot of us have that much more attractive friend or cousin or sister that gets all the attention until one day they don’t. Even when we’re seen that way by one friend or cousin, there’s always another who makes us feel that way too, I think. And Gwyneth is dreadfully behind on everything for reasons well explained and outside of her control. 

Of course, all that is obvious from the beginning because the first few chapters do spend a lot of time setting up how much the families try to prepare the time travelers, only to show how reasonable unprepared Gwyneth is and really let us go on the adventure with her. While I wouldn’t say it dragged on, there were so many intricacies to unpack in this first book that I kept wondering when we were going to get to the “real” story. This is before I realized how much more of a romance it was and thought about how central the love story was to the way it all was told. There could have been more time travel specific intrigue, but it’s clearly a romance at it’s core with a lot of fun stuff surrounding it. 

The setup with Gwyneth’s inexperience also let’s the characters from the men’s line have an aire of mystery that was both fun and annoying at times. I just have to remind myself of how much more mysterious boys were back when I was Gwyneth’s age and the story gets to be more fun. 

The other thing that was surprising fun was the way the method of time travel impacted the way it effected the story itself. There are several leaps through time and rules about when and how to do it. It meant that the story was not so much about how to survive in a specific period, as so many time travel stories seem to be, or even about the effect of changing things in the past. The time travel effects the plot in a way that’s similar to characters having to traverse continents on a mission of some sort. The characters move through time and wear period appropriate things, mostly, but the story isn’t rooted in that. It’s rooted in this whole other mystery that can only be unpacked through time travel. 

Anyway, I loved Gwyneth and her supportive friends and her worried mother and her mysterious love interest and even the little plot twist at the end. I’d had a feeling about it earlier and look forward to seeing how that impacts where the story is going. I really can’t wait to pick up the rest of the series but have a few memoirs to get in before I can return to it. Add Ruby Red to your TBR on Goodreads and check it out sometime! 

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