Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended – and rather eccentric – family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn’t been introduced to “the mysteries,” and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesley. It comes as an unwelcome surprise when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past.
She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any century…
Warnings: gun violence, physical violence (stabbing)
A time-travel novel with a protagonist who is suddenly thrust into the mysteries of her secretive family, Ruby Red has an interesting set-up with a mystery plot, a secret society and an arcane knowledge trapped at the core of it. Gwyneth had never intended to be the Ruby Red, and thus was never trained to be a time traveler, unlike her cousin Charlotte, the darling of the family. However, now that the gene has been expressed in her, she is dragged into the intrigues of her family, and the society they belong to, who don’t trust her, but want to use her. Meanwhile, she and her friend Lesley are investigating all that they can, and Gwyneth is also being warned not to trust anyone, including the other time traveler of her generation, Gideon.
The story, on the whole, feels a bit incomplete or more of a primer. About half of the book is about Gwyneth still being in the dark and hidden from the other side of her family. Then when the actual ‘mission’ starts, there are still only cursory introductions to the other characters. Gwyneth’s real parentage is obvious from the prologue, so even that isn’t really a reveal, though it is treated as such in the epilogue. But where this book excels is the world-building and construction of its canon: it has a neat set-up of hidden secret, waiting to be unveiled and forces trying to get to it, and forces trying to prevent others from getting to it. There are other elements that feel like they don’t tie into the main storyline, yet, but are obviously meant for the sequels. Granted it is a quick read, but I felt the ending was a bit abrupt, and rushed, and yet it did make me eager to read the next.
The characters in the book are also well-written. Gwyneth is a bit naive, but humorous and vivacious as a protagonist. She adjust remarkably well considering the situation she is in, and keeps relevant things close to her heart. While this doesn’t really have a romance, her crush on Gideon and his hot-and-cold attitude obviously points in that direction (as does one trip into the past); I was glad it didn’t go for an insta-love but I don’t know if I ship them yet. Additionally, the narrator, Marisa Calin does an excellent job with Sophie’s voice, bringing out her personality so well, and does an amazing job with the other character’s voices as well (even though her voice is too high for male characters, the personality she imparts to each is a commendable job)
Overall, an entertaining start to the series with a charming protagonist, and an awesome audiobook narrator.