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Book Review & Giveaway: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Title: Ruby Red (original title Rubinrot – Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten)

Author: Kerstin Gier

Genre: Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Historical, Young Adult

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (US)/Arena (Germany)
Publication date: May 2011 (US)/January 2009 (Germany)
Hardcover: 324 pages

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.

Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Edelstein Trilogy

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher/Publicist

Why did I read this book: I have heard nothing but praise for Ruby Red, from very trusted sources on the interwebs and in real life. Naturally, I had to give the series a shot (especially as I am a sucker for time travel stories in any capacity).


Gwyneth Shepherd has grown up in her beautiful, sophisticated cousin Charlotte’s shadow – Charlotte is perfect at school, perfect at home, and, most importantly, perfect on a genetic level. Though both Gwyneth and Charlotte are descendents of the Montrose line – an elite lineage of time traveling women who belong to a secret order called The Guardians – Charlotte is the one born on the right day and has inherited the so-called time traveling gene. From birth, the perfect Charlotte has been destined for greatness and groomed for her inevitable first journey through time (an unpredictable lurch that takes place around 16 years old), given extensive lessons in fencing, foreign languages, etiquette, and history. In contrast, Gwyneth is a perfectly normal girl destined for banality, which is just the way she likes it. Making decent grades at school and with a number of good, close friends, Gwyneth doesn’t envy the scrutiny her perfect cousin is subjected to by their family (although she does get frustrated with Charlotte’s snootiness every now and then). The Montrose family is crazy enough, with an endearing aunt that receives visions of the future and Gwyneth herself with the ability to see and converse with ghosts.

As such, it comes as quite the surprise when one afternoon it is Gwyneth, not Charlotte, that travels a century into the past. Unprepared and frightened, Gwyneth finds herself thrown into a dangerous, tangled world of secrets and a dizzyingly complicated timeline of family drama. Mistrusted and condescended to by the other members of the order, including her handsome (if infuriating) time traveling partner, Gideon de Villiers, Gwyneth hardly knows what to believe – but she knows there is more to the Guardians and their secrets than they tell her. As the twelfth and final traveler to close the mysterious circle of travelers and their signets, Gwyneth is the Ruby and thus portended to be immensely powerful (even if she doesn’t know it yet). With a generations-old conspiracy afoot, it is up to Gwyneth to put the pieces together, come into her own gifts, and decide who to trust.

The first novel in a previously published German trilogy, Ruby Red has already amassed an impressive international following, with newly minted eager English language fans clamoring for the next two translations as quickly as possible. I can’t say I blame them; as far as trilogies go, Ruby Red is one of those first novels that does not tie things together or play well as a self-contained novel. Much more of an introductory piece with a few twists thrown in along the way, Ruby Red sets the stage for revelations to come. That’s not to say that Ruby Red is without merit; as it stands, the first book in the Edelstein trilogy is frothy and enjoyable fun. From a plotting and mechanics of time travel point of view, I loved the idea of travelers inheriting some trait, the adolescent/pubescent quality of time traveling, and the manners in which the Guardians have tried to harness and control their leaps through time with a specific device. I wish there was a little more background and detail given as to how this particular device was made, or how Sir Newton would have been able to predict the birth date of a time traveler (as it stands, this reads as pure hokum), but perhaps that will be covered in another book. I also thoroughly enjoyed how crazily entrenched time travel is in each of these characters’ lives – future elder siblings live in the past, grandparents meet their relatively close in age and appearance descendents, and so on and so forth.1 There are also a few “twists” in this book alone, although your mileage may vary as to the efficacy of said twists (the big one, for example, is predictable and apparent from the prologue of the novel). That said, the story moves along briskly with never a dull moment, and the revelations – obvious or not – are good fun and help propel the story along at a speedy pace.

On the character front, things are a little more muddled as the narrative voice was kind of frustrating, although I don’t know how much of that is because of translation/language barriers. As a heroine, I found Gwyneth to be incredibly annoying because she is, essentially, your typical blank page/self-insertion heroine who is ONLY special because Destiny Has Foretold It To Be So (granted, this is something of a personal preference, so not everyone will feel the way I do). As it is in Ruby Red, Gwyneth has all the depth and conviction of a tepid water filled inflatable kiddie pool. But, perhaps that’s the point. After all, Gwyneth is not supposed to be special; she’s supposed to be perfectly mediocre (i.e. she makes decent grades but is not particularly intelligent, she has no skills or interest in…well, anything). That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with normal or ordinary characters – I’ve read a number of “normal” characters and have loved them to bits, usually due to some wicked fun narration. Unfortunately, Gwyneth’s voice is undeniably immature, rife with exclamation! points! and jokes that might seem funnier in a younger protagonist (though she’s supposed to be a sixteen year old, Gwyneth feels much younger). But perhaps I’m being unduly harsh and her character will be fleshed out in future books. To be fair, by the middle of this first book Gwyneth manages to toughen up a bit and pulls her weight, and I loved that she is able to stand up to Gideon and call him on his superiority complex (even though, OF COURSE, the whole time she’s thinking about how hot he is). Perhaps there’s hope for her in future books as she comes into her own.

By far, the more interesting characters for me were Gwyneth’s family, both past and present. Cousin Charlotte has her entire life stripped away from her in one fell swoop, and while Gwyneth’s reactions to Charlotte’s feelings are dull-witted, I’m very interested to see how the cousins will relate to each other in subsequent books. Of course, there’s the romance angle with Gideon de Villiers, which is as predictable as paranormal YA romances come (Gwyneth thinks he’s so dreamy despite her anger with him, he thinks she’s a silly girl but is attracted to her, fast forward 200 pages and they are kissing and it’s, like, OMG ELECTRIC). On the flip side, Gideon’s grandfather, the secretive and likely villain de Villers is a wonderful addition to the cast, and I’m excited to see what nefarious plans he may have afoot.

Despite some character misgivings and a degree of plot predictability, I did enjoy reading Ruby Red and blazed through the book in a single sitting. This, plus the interesting new take on time travel and hope I have for more complexity in future books means I’ll definitely be sticking around for the sequels.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:

I FIRST FELT IT in the school canteen on Monday morning. For a moment it was like being on a roller coaster when you’re racing down from the very top. It lasted only two seconds, but that was long enough for me to dump a plateful of mashed potatoes and gravy all over my school uniform. I managed to catch the plate just in time, as my knife and fork clattered to the floor.

“This stuff tastes like it’s been scraped off the floor anyway,” said my friend Lesley while I mopped up the damage as well as I could. Of course everyone was looking at me. “You can have mine too, if you fancy spreading some more on your blouse.”

“No thanks.” As it happens, the blouse of the St. Lennox High School uniform was pretty much the color of mashed potatoes anyway, but you still couldn’t miss seeing the remaining globs of my lunch. I buttoned up my dark blue blazer over it.

“There goes Gwenny, playing with her food again!” said Cynthia Dale. “Don’t you sit next to me, you mucky pup.”

“As if I’d ever sit next to you of my own free will, Cyn.” It’s a fact, I’m afraid, that I did quite often have little accidents with school lunches. Only last week my pudding had hopped out of its dish and landed a few feet away, right in a Year Seven boy’s spaghetti carbonara. The week before that I’d knocked my cranberry juice over, and everyone at our table was splashed. They looked as if they had measles. And I really couldn’t count the number of times the stupid tie that’s part of our school uniform had been drenched in sauce, juice, or milk.

Only I’d never felt dizzy at the same time before.

But I was probably just imagining it. There’d been too much talk at home recently about dizzy feelings.

Not mine, though: my cousin Charlotte’s dizzy spells. Charlotte, beautiful and immaculate as ever, was sitting right there next to Cynthia, gracefully scooping mashed potatoes into her delicate mouth.
The entire family was on tenterhooks, waiting for Charlotte to have a dizzy fit. On most days, my grandmother, Lady Arista, asked Charlotte how she was feeling every ten minutes. My aunt Glenda, Charlotte’s mother, filled the ten-minute gap by asking the same thing in between Lady Arista’s interrogations.

And whenever Charlotte said that she didn’t feel dizzy, Lady Arista’s lips tightened and Aunt Glenda sighed. Or sometimes the other way around.

The rest of us – my mum, my sister Caroline, my brother Nick, and Great-aunt Maddy – rolled our eyes. Of course it was exciting to have someone with a time-travel gene in the family, but as the days went by, the excitement kind of wore off. Sometimes we felt that all the fuss being made over Charlotte was just too much.

Charlotte herself usually hid her feelings behind a mysterious Mona Lisa smile. In her place, I wouldn’t have known whether to be excited or worried if dizzy feelings failed to show up. Well, to be honest, I’d probably have been pleased. I was more the timid sort. I liked peace and quiet.

You can read the full excerpt HERE.

Rating: 6 – Good


We have ONE copy of Ruby Red up for grabs! The contest is open to residents of the US only, and will run until Saturday August 13 at 11:59PM (PST). To enter, simply leave a comment here answering the following question: If you could travel back in time to any era, where and which period would you choose? Only ONE entry per person, please! Multiple comments will be disqualified. Good luck!


Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle US, nook, google, kobo, and sony

  1. Although I should note that from a plausibility perspective, LOTS of golden time travel rules are broken, i.e. A time traveler should never come into direct contact with oneself in the past or future. I love rules being broken…so long as it all works. We shall see.


  • Rhiannon H.
    August 10, 2011 at 12:36 am

    If I could travel back in time, I would travel right to the summer of 1975. Nixon was still in office, rock n’ roll was amazing, and america was very patriotic for the 200 year Anniversary of the country. I’ve always felt I belonged there and any other time doesn’t fit my personality 8)

  • Amy Kathryn
    August 10, 2011 at 5:38 am

    I just finished reading Great Journey: Americans in Paris so I would have to choose France in the 19th century. I know who to look up and hang with!

  • Julia
    August 10, 2011 at 6:04 am

    I would love to see an original production at the Globe Theater. Anything Shakespeare, preferably The Tempest or Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  • Tina
    August 10, 2011 at 6:09 am

    If I could travel back in time, I would want to travel to Ancient Egypt. I know it wasn’t the best time period to live during, but I would be interested to see all of the artifacts and monuments (that have been lost or damaged) in their original state. I don’t know if I could handle witnesses the mistreatment of slaves, though.

  • Angie J
    August 10, 2011 at 6:34 am

    I would travel to WWII Germany. I would love to know what my German grandmother lived through during this time. She doesn’t talk much about it.

  • Mallorie
    August 10, 2011 at 6:42 am

    For me it would have to be Victorian London – I’m obsessed!

  • Alishka Babushka
    August 10, 2011 at 6:55 am

    I would definitely go back to the Antebellum era – pre Civil War. LOVE that time period.

  • Laura D.
    August 10, 2011 at 7:01 am

    I think I’d like to see ancient Athens. I’d like to see what it was supposed to look in its heyday. 😀

  • MarieC
    August 10, 2011 at 7:34 am

    I would love to see the Gilded age of New York. Wouldn’t be interesting to see The First Four Hundred?

  • heather
    August 10, 2011 at 7:39 am

    being a former archaeologist who studied roman and medieval britain, it feels weird to say regency england. but i’m going to say it anyways. fascinating bit of society then!

  • SaraO @ TheLibrarianReads
    August 10, 2011 at 7:52 am

    I’m going back to Renaissance Italy…Florence in particular. To be alive during that time of inspiration and rebirth would have been so cool. But I’m only going back if I can be wealthy…because there was a lot of plague and the slums would not have been fun…lol.

  • Heidi
    August 10, 2011 at 9:06 am

    I hate to be second to bat here, but I’m going to have to go with Heather to Regency England. I’d love to say otherwise, but I just can’t lie to myself here…read too much Austen!

  • Lauren
    August 10, 2011 at 9:31 am

    One era? Regency England….or, maybe Victorian….oh, no Rome, def. Rome….or maybe Vikings?

    I don’t know. But I do know I want to read the book! ~ L

  • Scribe Kira
    August 10, 2011 at 10:14 am

    paris, france when the Eiffel tower was being built. i would love to visit paris one day and i can’t imagine a better time than when its most famous icon was being constructed…. 😀 😀

  • Emily Thompson
    August 10, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Renaissance Italy all the way! There’s just so much culture and discovery that went down there, that to be a part of it would be amazing. 😀

  • MeganS
    August 10, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Revolutionary-era America would be my choice. A tense time period, but one I’m endlessly curious about what it was like to be living in the thick of!

  • Rebecca LB
    August 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Twelfth century France, for sure. So many documents were lost from the Middle Ages! I’d love to know what life was really like…also, I could use my French, German and Latin.

  • Kaethe
    August 10, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    As much as I love time travel stories, I don’t think you could pay me to travel back to any other time. Most of human history has been horrible. Can I try the future instead?

  • Maya S
    August 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    If I could, I would totally go back to Regency England. I’ve spent waaaay too much time reading about it- I want to live it!

  • Emily
    August 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I’d like to see Gilded Age New York. Flash and drama!

  • Martha M.
    August 10, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I just finished All Clear by Connie Willis so now I’m very curious about the London blitz during WWII.

  • Lori Strongin
    August 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I’d been wanting to read this book, but now I’m on the fence as I’m a sucker for strong narrative voice and it sounds like the MC’s just falls flat. But still the premise sounds really interesting, so I’ll give it a shot!

    As for favorite historical period to time travel to? Definitely Renaissance Italy. I want to hang out in all the masters’ studios and watch them create their masterpieces. Especially Michelangelo, as he was the diva of his day!

    Thanks for the giveaway op!


  • JenP
    August 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I’d also love Renaissance Italy. Or Victorian England.

  • Ashley
    August 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Oh that’s a tough question – I think I would travel to Meiji Japan.

  • David Vidaurre
    August 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I would love to travel back to Weimar when Goethe lived there and all the great writers and minds of Europe stopped by to pay him a visit.

  • Natalie H
    August 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I would travel back to Times Square on V-Day of World War II… such an iconic moment in the history of our country & it must have felt like you were a part of something so much bigger than yourself (plus I’m a total World War II buff)

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    August 10, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    I would travel back to the time of King Arthur and Camelot. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book. Tore923@aol.com

  • Carly Waid
    August 10, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    I think if I could travel back in time, I would travel to the 1920’s. A flappers lifestyle is so fascinating to me.
    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!
    -Carly Waid

  • Susan Laura
    August 10, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I would time travel to the late 1890’s, early 1900’s — lots of changes going on but it was still a time of transition. Would love to read this book!

  • Chris Bails
    August 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    I would love to travel to London is late 1800’s. From different authors I have read I would have loved to been around in that era. I love the fashion, the parties, and the men just seem fantastic. I would have been fun to be rich in the era also.
    Thanks for the giveaway and the chance to win.

  • Bigfoot24
    August 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    With all of these amazing events and time periods in history, you want me to pick just one? 😉

    If I have to choose just one, I guess it would have to be Russia in the time of the Romanovs in the early 1900’s. I would love to be able to be a spectator of the wealth, pomp, and elegance of the Royal Family at the time.

  • Jen B.
    August 10, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    I wouldn’t want to go anywhere to stay. I like my time period, thank you very much. But, I would love to see the building of the Pyramids or the Aztec Empire or the battle of Waterloo. But only as an observer!

  • Jill
    August 10, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Victorian London. I love history, but to be without too many modern conveniences would just be too depressing 😛

  • Eselpee
    August 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    I would like to time travel to many times and places – you all had great picks!!

    Right at this moment – if a time machine popped up – I would choose the early 20th century b/c I think it would be a great time for adventuring all over the world. I could trek to the top of the world (with Alexandra David Neel), Eurasia (with Marguerite Harrison), the dark continent (with Delia Akeley), South America (with Annie Smith Peck), and pave a few of my own paths.

    However, tomorrow is a different day and is full of different choices!

  • Kate & Zena
    August 10, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    As long as I can take all my medicine with me (and that’s quite a few), late Victorian London!

  • Missie
    August 10, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I saw this at my place of employment (bookstore), and ultimately decided not to pick it up at that time. When you mentioned the narration/characterization issues, I double-checked: sure enough, the translator is Anthea Bell, whose translation work I just can’t get into. I’ve read or tried to read several works (by different authors) that she translated, and I guess I just don’t like her style.

    But just for fun: I think I’d like to visit Regency England or Imperial China (if I could temporarily look Chinese).

  • Maureen
    August 11, 2011 at 3:49 am

    I would travel back to the time of the Revolutionary War. I live near where Washington crossed the Delaware so it is interesting to imagine what the area was like back at that time.

  • Debbie
    August 11, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Just one? Aztec civilization, pre-Cortez. So much fascinating culture that was lost.

  • Elizabeth
    August 11, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I would love to go back to London during the time of the Napolionic wars. I would love to be a spy ala Scarlet Pimpernel. 😀

  • Julie Witt
    August 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I would definitely go back to Ancient Greece! That’s my favorite time period so it would be so great to go there and see all of the art and meet the old Greek heroes 🙂

  • Judy
    August 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I would choose to go back to Stratford-on-Avon during Shakespeare’s time – no question in my mind. The mystery of who wrote his plays has driven me crazy for years – I want to know for sure who that amazing writer was!!!

  • Brittney
    August 11, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I think I’d shoot for the Bootlegging-Prohibition 1920s in the US – such an interesting atmosphere!

  • Roxy
    August 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I would love to go back and be part of King Henry the VIII’s court. I’d dance and eat and dance and eat some more.

  • Tatiana C.
    August 11, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Ugh…its a tie between Egypt during the time of the Pharaohs, and Europe during the Middle Ages.

    This is if all the plague and slavery didn’t exist, lol.

  • Deserae McGlothen
    August 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    If I could travel to any era, I’d love to see what America was like in the 20s. It might not have been the best place for African-American females (cough, cough), but it seems so glamorous in black and white films. I would like to see it for myself, I guess. I’m that kind of person.

  • Lexi
    August 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    If I can be disease free, then Britain right after the Romans left.

  • John
    August 11, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    I’ll go back precisely 30 years, to late summer of 1981, and you can drop me in Washington State.

    Bill Gates, head of a small, little-known company named Microsoft, had recently signed a deal with IBM to supply their new “DOS” operating system.

    The US was on the edge of the biggest peacetime economic expansion in history. I’d use my knowledge of the future to climb to the top in Microsoft, buy up developing technology (including good portions of the internet, starting about 10 years later), become a billionaire, and help make the world a better place.

  • Priya
    August 12, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I would love to travel back to the 60s. It’s the complete opposite of everything I am, but I think it would be so fascinating to live in that revolutionary time period and experience all the changes that made America what it is today.

  • Candice
    August 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I think ancient Greece would be pretty neat to travel to. Just a sight-seeing trip though. Definitely wouldn’t want to permanently stay there.

    Also, I am all about going to visit the great American west, discovering the Rockies and the Grand Canyon. Talk about some adventure.

  • bookworm134
    August 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    If you could travel back in time to any era, where and which period would you choose?

    I would love to see the Library at Alexandria! So I guess the year 1AD would do just fine…

  • Shiloh
    August 12, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    ancient Egypt, because I read Mara Daughter of the Nile when I was 11 and instantly loved it!

  • Teresa N
    August 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I think I would choose to be one of the earliest pioneers heading out the American (or Canadian!) western frontier. Either that or extreme time travel to the Americas before european contact.

  • morganne
    August 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    mmm probs ancient Greece or Rome. Or both. 🙂

  • AEKZ2
    August 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I’d like to experience the 1960s in Southern California.

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  • Lisa Richards
    August 14, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I also love time travel and have since I read “The Man Who Folded Himself” over 40 years ago. This book was so awesome and I highly recommend it to any who love this genre.

  • Karen Romero
    April 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    I would love to go back to the middle ages in Great Britain, maybe around the 6th century. I want to know if King Arthur actually excisted.

  • Catherine
    July 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    England. That’s certainly where.

    That’s easy. But, oh–here comes the hard part. My dearest wish is to travel in time.

    Not to dance with Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) or speak with Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility) or meet Jack and Rose(Titanic) or have tea at Downton Abbey (Downton Abbey) but because I would belong. For once in my life I would be where I should be. And I should have lived as an upper class lady anytime between 1775(maybe a bit too early) and 1915 (a bit earlier is better though).

    But if I must choose a time period (an exact one) I suppose I must choose 1810-1820. The regency period.

    1890-1915 is my second choice.

    Though again, truly I’d be overjoyed as long as I didn’t go before 1775 and I didn’t go beyond 1915. Most of the 20th and all of the 21st centuries are simply horrible to me.

  • Rachel S.
    June 20, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    The Roaring Twenties!

  • Morgan W.
    August 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    If I could travel back in tie I would very much like to go to the end of the 18th century and meet Jane Austen. She is fascinating; a woman who authors half a dozen amazing books even though she know she will get little to nothing monetarily for them. She is an inspiration to writers everywhere.
    But if I could travel in time in any direction I would want to travel to the future just to have a peek 🙂

  • Marie
    October 29, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Omg i read the book so often i just love ot. I read it in english and in geman and bothi find are sooo awesome! The other books are also soo great and i love them so much!
    The kobie is also not too bad….

  • Abril
    December 28, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Is Gwyneth the same as Gwendolyn?

  • Anonymous
    January 27, 2017 at 8:33 am

    I absolutely loved these books!

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