Friday, August 24, 2012

Review of Ruby Red by Kirstin Geir

I don’t normally read YA Literature but this book was a gift – so I read it with the proviso that if it didn’t grab me, I wouldn’t persevere.  The opening chapter was pretty odd, all telling and dialogue which didn’t make much sense. However, the next chapter was better, and I was surprised at how Gwyneth grabbed my attention as the concept of the story started to be explained.  Seeing everything through Gwyneth’s unique perspective was funny and charming in places – however, I pictured her in my head at about eleven, when in fact it turns out she’s sixteen!

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte, not only gets A+ grades in all her school assignments, but she is also being groomed by her family to travel through time. Charlotte has apparently inherited the Montrose family gene which, once mature, can be harnessed and directed to complete the great mission of the time travellers.

Gwyneth and Charlotte live in a house of women, her Grandmother Lady Arista Aunt Glenda, Great Aunt Maddy and her visions, Gwyneth’s younger sister Caroline – and brother Nick. Poor boy, with all these batty women going on about waiting for Charlotte’s dizzy spells to throw her through time, no wonder he’s so flummoxed and gets chewing gum stuck in his hair.

The problem is, it’s not Charlotte who does the travelling – but Gwyneth, and she doesn’t have the benefit of ten years training that Charlotte has. To complicate things further, and frustrate Gwyneth, who certainly never asked for this, no one but Grace, Gwyneth’s Mum, and her friend Lesley, believes her.

Her veracity in question, Gwyneth is checked by ‘The Temple’ to confirm that what she says is happening to her actually is – they have ways.  Gwyneth is then presented with a few problems to solve – other than making sure she doesn’t get run over by a horse-drawn carriage when she appears in the middle of the road in 1850 that is – or being chased through her own house when the servants think she’s an intruder a hundred years before.

Why would Grace lie about Gwyneth’s birth date, and what happened to her cousin Lucy after she allegedly stole the first chronograph?  Then there is Gideon, a time traveller from another gifted family, the de Villiers, who thought he was to travel through time with Charlotte, but now has to make do with Gwyneth instead. 

You cannot help empathising with Gwyneth, who is part of a fatherless family with her two siblings and her mother consigned to the servants’ quarters of their rambling, three story mansion located just behind Selfridges in Oxford Street – which would put its value at around the £5 million mark.  Not a three bed semi then, and yet Gwyneth seems at first to be not welcome but tolerated.

Gwyneth grows into her role as the family great white hope and starts to make demands on the matriarchs who bully her secretive mother. Even in time-travelling families there are conflicts, feuds and secrets.

The philosophy of the historical tradition of time travel was beautifully written, and I became fascinated with the poems and writings of St Germain as if they were real.  It’s well thought out and quite logical – and the precincts of ‘The Temple’ conjured all the mysteries and magic of Hogwarts.

This story would make a great film – and also makes me want to investigate the next two books in the trilogy – Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green. My only criticism is for the English translation from original German they have changed this beautiful cover!

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