Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, trans. by Anthea Bell

Not being a big reader of YA, or time travel, or fantasy/alternate realty/insert-concept-here, it surprised me how much I was drawn to this book. But I was.

Before I tell you about this story, here’s a funny detail I noted right off: the translator, Anthea Bell, also translated the last book I read from-the-German, The Stronger Sex. This title is YA where that one was decidedly adult material, but I guess a strong German-to-English translator is the same across the board. I hadn’t really thought about it before. Just as I said about The Stronger Sex, Bell gets full credit for making the translation invisible. If anything, the language here is a little more awkward; but having read that other example of Bell’s translation, I think this awkwardness comes from the original. If I hadn’t known, I wouldn’t have suspected translation issues – I would have assumed just what I have come to feel is a common YA writing issue. It feels a little bit effortfully simplified, if that makes sense. It’s something I’ve encountered in YA before. I guess it’s a reading-level thing. Like in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it bothered me slightly when I focused on it, but the story ended up engrossing me enough that it faded into the background. I don’t read a lot of YA. If you don’t, either, this little issue may irk you as it does me; if you read a fair amount of YA, chances are good it won’t faze you.

Gwen is trying to live a normal teen existence in present-day London, but her obnoxious cousin Charlotte’s destiny is difficult to ignore. Charlotte has inherited the family’s time-travel gene, and any day now, she’s expected to take her first trip. She’s been trained all her life in languages, history, the mannerisms of different periods, fencing, dancing, and music. But when the first uncontrolled time travel occurs, it’s not Charlotte, but Gwen – of all people! – who finds herself in an unfamiliar era. She’s thrust unprepared into a complicated world, and finds herself partnered in adventure with Gideon de Villiers, the time-travel-gene-carrying teen of his own family. He is snotty and bossy… and sooooo handsome…

I enjoyed the intrigue, the plots and codes and ancient documents and secrets and mysteries. I enjoyed the world Gier builds. I even enjoyed, mildly, the juvenile romance. But I didn’t get enough of any of it. I felt like the set-up for the story took 3/4 of the book, and then the story began and –whoosh– please buy the sequel that comes out in 2012. Is this a YA thing? I was frustrated and unsatisfied; but I’m also intrigued enough to seek out Sapphire Blue, the aforementioned sequel. Sigh. I guess she got me.

5 Responses

  1. I love YA and I love time travel, so it sounds like I’d love this book. But yes, sadly, since so many YA books are released in trilogy form, it is no big thing to spend so much of the first vol on set up. Then the next book mostly ignores it, so you find you have to reread the first, and then reread the first two before the third! (Thank heavens YA authors aren’t into tetralogies!) It’s annoying, but probably a necessary way for authors to get guaranteed wages over a three-year period. Or perhaps for publishers to feel like they have a guaranteed stream of income. In any event, I hadn’t heard of this one, and I want to read it now, so thanks for the heads up!

  2. I found it enjoyable but yes, the feeling that it’s only PART of a book was a little offputting, and unexpected for me. Clearly you’re a little better prepared for this aspect of YA; I didn’t quite come in with the background that you have. 🙂 Hope you enjoy! I’d be interested in your impressions if you get around to reading it and commenting back here.

  3. Sequels, trilogies…it’s overwhelming that every book seems to be part of a series. Just give me the story all at once!

    I love reading YA books and this has a lot of the elements that would typically draw me in anyway, so looks like I’m going to have to order this one as well. I love that it’s a translated work and it still is a fantastic read – it’s not often the translation is as successful as the original work. Thanks for putting this on the radar!

  4. Good, glad to help out! 🙂

  5. […] by Gertrude Stein but thought that might be stretching things a bit. So I finally came up with Ruby Red by Kerstin […]

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