Original Title: Rubinrot. Liebe geht durch alle Zeiten
Translator: Anthea Bell
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: May 10th 2011
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.
First some thoughts on the translation, then the rest of the review and rating will focus exclusively on my opinion of the English version. German was one of my majors, and I do enjoy reading books in German and listening to German music. I don't, however, really consider myself to be truly proficient -- I'm willing to muddle through the hard parts with only partial understanding. Therefore, I am completely willing to assume many of the differences between the English and German editions are entirely due to my faulty comprehension of the original German and not a testament to Anthea Bell's translating abilities. Bell did an excellent job of maintaining the overall feeling of the book(s). It is still light, fun, and fast-paced. However, I felt like Gwen read a little younger in the English version than the German, making the English version appeal to a slightly younger audience. Additionally, the chauvinism (which was an important though unappealing aspect to many of the male characters' personalities) felt like it was somehow both more pervasive and considered more acceptable in the English version than the original. It made Gideon, especially, a less interesting character to me. I also felt the foreshadowing was slightly more heavy handed, making some of the mysterious aspects a bit more predictable. (Of course, that could also be a result of already knowing what was coming as a reader.) Finally, what, precisely, is so wholly German about the name Gwendolyn that requires it be changed to Gwyneth for English readers to understand? (Oh, yeah, and the German covers are MUCH better!)
Differences in translation aside, I think much of what made Gier's story so successful still shine through in the English version. It has action, adventure, romance, and mystery. The plot moves quickly along, and even if the destination is occasionally predictable, the journey is enjoyable. I like Gwen for many of the same reasons I like Percy Jackson -- Gwen is an average girl. She is smart without being exceptional. She is attractive without causing every male in the vicinity to fall madly in love with her. She has a healthy self image, has friends, and knows how to have fun. She has a loving, supportive and present family. She is wonderfully normal and, therefore, infinitely more relatable to the average reader than many paranormal leads. Gwen has her moments of failing to see things right in front of her (they all do, really), and she makes a few really stupid choices. However, she never crosses the line into the too-stupid-to-live category. (And there is always another character there to call her on it.)
I don't think that Ruby Red is an exceptional or revolutionary book, but I do think it is one of a type of book that is essential. It is accessible, relatable, fun, quick and interesting. It is just the book to bring in reluctant readers, and a fast bit of fluff for heavy readers. It doesn't ask anything of you, but leaves you entertained. My one major complaint is that this is not a trilogy where each part has a nicely tied-up story arc. Each book leaves you dangling from a great precipice, waiting for the next!
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Review also appears on Goodreads; I purchased my copy for Nook from Barnes and Noble.