The Ruby Red Trilogy (Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue, Emerald Green)
Square Fish (9781250060433)
I will start off by saying that these are YA books meant for the ages 13-15, and that I am nowhere near that age. I had difficulty choosing what stars to give, because I did read all of them and as you will see, there are parts I was impressed with as much as there were parts I certainly was not. I also kept in mind I am not within the age group it was written for. But I ultimately decided on 2,5 stars instead of 3 because I read Kerstin Gier’s other series as well. The Silver Trilogy is for the same age group, but I enjoyed it immensely more, and that decided it for me.
I think Kerstin GIer did a great job of setting up her world. Time travel is far from easy to keep straight, and you need a good plan laid out before you can start writing a coherent trilogy about it, in which you would like your readers to be able to follow you. The travel plotlines were well thought out, and quite elegantly crafted. It is easy to keep straight where everyone is, even when in the third book past, present and future begin to blur together because the travellers criss-cross through the years. That may seem easy enough, but it certainly isn’t.
There were also some plots I really did not care for or thought were not well executed. How Gwyneth is portrayed as a character, for example. I myself have never been a girly girl, perhaps because I read too many gritty fantasy novels. Although I really liked A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, The Selection series by Kiera Cass doesn’t do anything for me, admittedly. All the cat fights in the ballgowns over a guy no one is even sure of… It’s not my sort of thing. It played a part in this trilogy as well. Not the ballgowns during the time travel, I have a fondness for the 18th and 19th century, and I liked that the bulk of travel happened during that period. And I have nothing against a girly lead character per se. I liked it in Rebel Belle, and also in The Silver Trilogy. Silver, though, is also clever, self-sufficient, and she can pack a mean comment when she needs to. I do object to a lead character who is almost purposefully written als dimwitted.
Gwyneth has grown up knowing about time travel and she wrongly believed her cousin to have the gene. Kerstin Gier does a decent job of explaining why Gwyneth would know none of what has been going on, as the cousins have bad blood between them and the secret society around the time travellers keep everything very tight lipped. But Gwyneth is still portrayed as someone who cannot even remember a name long enough to put her annoying cousin in her place. After so many years of being put down by someone, I certainly would be able to remember something for five minutes just to spite her. This level of adequacy remains the same throughout the entire trilogy. Admittedly, it takes place in a relatively short span of time.
She never owns herself. She constantly needs her friends, family and Gideon (for whom the word frenemy was invented, surely) to tell her what is what during whatever mood swing she is experiencing. When she by herself, nothing comes out of her mouth and she shows no initiative unless prompted by others to do so. Adding to that, Gwyneth is constantly described as a girl that only thinks of movies and pop culture and giggles with her friends. She does not actually do any of these things during the books. It just falls in between: is she, or is she not? We get no exposure either way. There is no character development. That she was on the right side of who to trust seems to me quite accidental and again based on who her closest family members were. (On a sidenote: I do like that you never definitively know who is on whose side, it kept me guessing for a long time about some people.)
And then I get to the part I disliked the most. I am not 16, but what I remember of that age is that I was every bit as flippantly back-and-forth with my heart as Gwyneth. Even though right now I find it incredibly annoying to read, it’s written for teenagers who are experiencing the exact same thing. I can certainly forgive the trilogy that. It’s what you do at 16 and we all know it. But Gwyneth’s moodswings are wholly dictated by Gideons actions or even mere presence. There are a few passages that speak explicitly to the idea of women as fickle creatures, unable to be their own persons, and to be honest, Gwyneth does nothing to discredit that idea. Despite the fact that the books are trying to give the exact opposite message. I find that part unforgivable.
Gideon’s character is clearly written to up the ante, and thus becomes nothing more than (at worst) a prop for Gwyneth’s emotions or (at best) a caricature. He is hot one moment, cold the next, without enough motive behind those decisions. He distrusts Gwyneth, quite logically considering what he has always heard. He then explains that he has deceived her, but subsequently comes clean to say he has never deceived her but has deceived her by pretending to deceive her. And then everything is forgiven and great and they live together happily forever. LITERALLY. I cannot fully explain how wrong that feels to me, no matter how much I keep in mind that these books are written for girls ages 13 and up.
Gideon was always meant to be perfect, despite the warning that the De Villiers men are trouble and it always ends badly. As the threat is never made good on, it falls flat and the entire plotline with it. The arrogance of the De Villiers men about their lack of respect for women is never adressed when the end resolves itself and does so happily. It doesn’t matter when you are in love, apparently, and have just decided to spend literal eternity together. When you don’t use a plot, don’t put it in the book.
This trilogy has left me quite unsatisfied, and with some serious questions about character building. But it is true that the mystery remained interesting throughout the series and that the time travelling plot has been executed quite beautifully. And that last epilogue just explains it all about Mr. Bernard. I loved mr. Bernard. And I do think that girls between the ages of 13 and 15 will read this and really like it and think nothing more of it. For me, not so much. If you want to read something from this author, read her series about Silver. It’s a later series and the characters are up to par with the plot in that one. I never reviewed it, but I would rate that one at a solid 3,5 stars.