Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier – Review

Book Jacket:

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.

You can read an excerpt here.


Ruby Red is a cute, light, unabashedly bouncy adventure that revolves around much more than just a romantic pairing.

With plenty of action and a deft touch of mysteriousness, this book just has an old school sense of adventure about it. Overall Gier does a good job of teasing lots of bits and pieces, hinting at the big picture without being too alienating or obscure – and that is a hard line to walk. I did have a few moments, particularly in the beginning of this book, where I started to get annoyed with the obfuscation (it seemed a bit too contrived in places), but Gier rewarded my patience and slowly earned my trust. I do love this type of pure adventure story, but I was somewhat wary of this book, as adventure stories are so rarely handled well (why does pop wisdom believe adventure plots were made to be stupid?), yet as I went along, and as the shape of this story began to emerge from the fog, I was surprised by just how much I liked where Gier was going and how well she was building her overarching plot (Ruby Red is the first of three, and this trilogy is already a huge hit overseas). So while there were moments in this book I had to power through, in the end I was very glad I did – I really had quite a bit of fun reading it.

This is most definitely a light, frothy kind of book, but as a reader who has a limited tolerance for cutsey, believe me when I tell you that this story is more than just an excuse to flounce through period costume changes. For me, the best part of this book was the intrigue – the mystery of the families and their histories, their cult like society, with its layers of secrecy, and the shroud of mystery surrounding the grand plan. The whys and hows of the jumping back and forth in time are never really dealt with – this book is hardly a science fiction treatise, it’s too busy having fun – but there were very, very interesting overlaps, in terms of past and present and future, and some very, very fascinating clues that hint at the larger picture. There really is a story here, it’s not just a romance – though yes, for the shippers, there is an obvious romantic pairing – but if you’re at the point where the idea of a girl being “inexplicably drawn” to a dark, mysterious boy sends you running in the opposite direction, fear not this book.

Though I have to admit, yes, I did get a little irritated by the requisite love interest, Gideon. I enjoyed Gwyn’s inner snarking at his high handed behavior, and at least she did stand up to him, but in the end she basically falls for him despite the fact that he’s a complete jerk to her. Yes, he’s good looking and I get that he’s supposed to be charmingly irritating, Pride & Prejudice style, but I just wasn’t swooning. I actually found myself far more interested in the other romantic couple of this story – I won’t say who, for spoilers – and far and away my favorite relationship was Gwyn’s with her best friend, Leslie. Together they were just silly fun, in the best sense.

Ruby Red is a book that gallops forward in an entertaining style, and wow did I like the ending. It surprised me, with its abruptness and its substantial yet unexpected reveal, and does it ever work. Gier gives us just enough to tantalize without giving too much away, and it makes for a downright intriguing set up for book two, Sapphire Blue. I’m totally hooked, I admit it.

In the end, this story just has that fun Saturday afternoon flare, with plenty of witty banter, intrepid action, and gorgeous costuming. Yes, it’s light, and yes, it mostly certainly exists to entertain, but I found plenty to entice me further into this story. I really like the family mysteries, the questions about the larger picture and the doubts raised about who the good guys and bad guys really are. This may be pure brain candy, but it definitely is of the rich and chocolaty variety. If you like Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, you should definitely check out Ruby Red.

Byrt Grade: A-/B+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Inge on Goodreads says:

Above all, Ruby Red is tons of fun. Action, adventure, ghosts, sword fights, time travel, and, my favorite, lots of really rad historical costumes and hairstyles. My concerns lie in the love story (I just don’t buy it. Gideon is irritating beyond belief)

Susan Burton for the New York Times says:

The storytelling is fluid, and Gier is both clever and funny: “There was always some horrible thing lurking” in the past — “war, smallpox, the plague.” It’s just that quantum physics isn’t the point. This is a story that builds to the kiss.

The Book Heist says:

The plot, which kept me turning the pages rapidly, was one of most original I’ve come across in the YA genre. Now I know why it’s an international bestseller!