#1: Ruby Red

Main Characters:

Gwyneth Shepherd – Our time traveling protagonist.

Charlotte – Gwyneth’s cousin.  Everyone thinks she will be the time traveler, but it turns out they were wrong.  She’s trained her whole life to be the traveler; learned all about the past.  But when Gwyneth travels, Charlotte’s mom freaks out, Charlotte is upset, and it looks like there might be/have been something between her and Gideon, the other traveler.  After the initial few chapters, we don’t see much of her.

Gideon – He is of the male line who travels.  He is a little older than Gwyneth and doesn’t like that she doesn’t take orders from him or that she isn’t prepared for the traveling.  He does like her, at least a little, since the book ends with him kissing Gwyneth.

Grace Shepherd – Gwyneth’s mom.  She’s also hiding something about Paul and Lucy.  She helped Paul and Lucy escape to the past, in the past, but we don’t know exactly what Grace is hiding.  We only know that she didn’t want Gwyneth to be involved in the whole time conspiracy thing.  She also has a severe dislike of Saint-Germain and she warns Gwyneth to not trust anyone.

Glenda – Charlotte’s mom.  She’s extremely angry that Charlotte isn’t the Ruby.  And she thinks that Grace set the whole thing up and has ulterior motives for the way everything turned out so far.

Lady Arista – Charlotte and Gwyneth’s grandmother.  A very prudish and strict woman, with a severe outlook on everything.

Maddy – Gwyneth’s great-aunt, who doesn’t have the time traveling gene either but seems to be in Gwyneth’s corner and helps us understand a little about things early on.

Lesley – Gwyneth’s best friend.  She helps with research on all the new things Gwyneth needs to know.  She also helps cover for Gwyneth when Gwyneth unexpectedly starts to travel.  She also firmly believes in Gwyneth’s ability to see ghosts.

James Augustus Peregrine Pympool-Bothame – a ghost at the school that Gwyneth can see and talk to.

Mr. Whitman – a teacher at school and a member of the secret time traveling society.

Falk de Villiers – Gideon’s uncle of some sort.  He’s also Grand Master of the Lodge of Count Saint-Germain and he thrusts Gwyneth into traveling without really explaining much.

Dr. Jacob White – and another severe character.  He has an awful bedside manner and is really just plain mean.  He is a member of the Inner Circle of the Lodge and a medical doctor who pushes Gywneth around.

Thomas George – the most sympathetic member of the Lodge, so far, to Gwyneth and what she faces not having been educated properly for what lays ahead.

Madame Rossini – the costume designer for the travelers.

Count Saint-Germain – the man in charge who founded the secret society, with an agenda, and not above threatening Gwyneth.

Miro Rakovzy – a friend of the Count’s.  And mentioned in one of the scenes that Gwyneth witnesses, when she sees herself and Gideon together in the past.

Margaret Tilney – another time traveler.  Lady Arista’s grandmother.  She won’t give Gideon her blood for the machine, but she agrees to negotiate with Gwyneth.

Paul – Falk’s brother.  He and Lucy ran away, in the past, to the past, with the chronograph to stop what ever will happen once fully activated.

Lucy – Grace’s niece.  She runs away with Paul – see above!

Locations:  London.  the more important issue is the times:  present day, way back when St. Germain was around, and a number of other years in between.

Main Premise:  So, there is a line of men and a line of women who can time travel.  St-Germain figures something out, and figures out that a machine, called the chronograph can help regulate the traveling, which manifests when about 16 and requires the person to travel for the rest of their lives.  But, the original chronograph was stolen by Lucy and Paul to prevent something.  And that pissed off the Lodge.  The Lodge found another and restored it, but to get the circle to close they need a drop of blood from each of the travelers (each assigned one of 12 jewels).  So Gideon has been going back in time to get the drops.  But when Charlotte turns out not to be the traveler, Gwyneth has to help but she is warned by her mother that it might not be the right thing to do even though the lodge believes it is.  Gwyneth begins to travel with Gideon and she meets the Count and is threatened by him.  They also get attacked. They think that Lucy and Paul are behind it, but that is not proven. Additionally, when Gideon and Gwyneth travel to see Margaret, and they encounter Paul and Lucy, Paul and Lucy don’t seem to be behind it. In fact, they believe that stopping the chronograph from being completed is what is best.

Other Important Things to Remember for Later: For starters, Gideon and Gwyneth are kissing in a church when the book (abruptly) ends.  In the prologue, Paul and Lucy talk about needing to be there for a young girl, but they say that they didn’t abandon her they just made it safe for her for the next few years.  Mr. Bernard, the housekeeper is a little weird, but I think he knows more and is more involved then it seems.  Aunt Maddy has visions and she had one about Gwyneth – and a sapphire egg which cracks, a raven chick hatches out of it, there’s a huge clock tower that Gwyneth is sitting on.  during her last travel before telling her mom, she runs into herself and Gideon – fighting over the Count and his friend (and she sees herself kiss Gideon).  Glenda is royally pissed about Charlotte not being the ruby.  The Guardians were trying to track down the midwife to confirm parts of Grace’s story about Gwyneth’s birth.  When Gwyneth travels into the past while at the Lodge, she is told to touch nothing, but she steals a key. Gwyneth can see Dr. White’s son who died, Robert.  They group of men in the Lodge (because women’s can’t be officially part of it) question what about Gwyneth makes her special – and I think that there might be something special about Gwyneth’s mom too (Maddy has visions, Gwyneth can see Ghosts… maybe mom has some ability too that lets her have the feeling that the Count is bad…). Gwyneth doesn’t know where the chronograph is kept since White and his cohorts think that Grace is up to something and has given Gwyneth all sorts of secret instructions since Grace helped Paul and Lucy escape.

The Count states the following after meeting Gwyneth:  Ruby red, with G major, the magic of the raven, brings the Circle of Twelve home into safe haven.  And he seems to think that he should have meet Gwyneth before.  He also is angry when he asks Gwyneth what is so special about her and she says she doesn’t know.   Gideon has gotten blood from all but Elaine, Margaret, Lucy and Paul to put in the new chronograph.  Paul tells Lucy and Gideon that he and Lucy know the truth about the Count’s motives.  Lucy tells them that Gwyneth in particular must never meet the Count.  And Lucy knows that Gwyneth has the magic of the raven (Gideon says that the magic of the raven is just a myth).  And Lucy tells her to talk to Grandfather and ask him about the Green Rider.  And finally in the Epilogue, when Paul and Lucy are talking about who Gwyneth looks like – it really seems that they might be Gwyneth’s parents… but I could be wrong.

The poem that seems important:  “The first pair Opal and Amber are, Agate sings in B flat, the wolf avatar, A duet – solutio! – with Aquamarine.  Mighty Emerald next, with lovely Citrine.  The Carnelian twins of the Scorpio sign, Number Eight is digesto, her stone is Jade fine.  E major’s the key of Black Tourmaline, Sapphire sings in F major, and bright is her sheen.  Then almost at once comes Diamond alone, whose sign of the lion as Leo is known.  Projectio! Time flows on, both present and past, Ruby red is the first and is also the last.

The Male line of descent: Lancelot de Villiers (Amber); William de Villiers (Agate); Count Saint-Germain (Emerald) Jonathan de Villiers (Carnelian) and brother Timothy de Villiers (Carnelian) their sons Gideon (Diamond) and Paul (Black Tourmaline), respectively.

The Female line of descent:  Elaine Burghley (Opal); Cecilia Woodville (Aquamarine), Jeanne de Pontcarre (Citrine); Margaret Tilney (Jade); Lucy Montrose (Sapphire) and Gwyneth (Ruby).

And when Gwyneth’s mom repeats the poem, she say that there are 12 numbers, 12 travelers, 12 gems, 12 musical keys, 12 zodiacal ascendants and 12 steps in the process to make the philosopher’s stone.  They call the circle that will close once the chronograph has all 12 people’s blood, the circle of blood.

A few of the time traveling rules here:  can’t go back before 1590 and can’t go back within your own lifetime.  Can’t go forward.  Can’t keep going back uncontrolled either and the chronograph helps control the traveling.  The chronograph sets max and minimum times to travel – 30 mins to 4 hours.  You can’t take the chronograph back in time with you or you can’t ever get home (why?  I have no idea…) and the chronograph can be moved or taken places though so you can travel back in time to the place you need to be.

Review:  The pace of the book was world-class sprinting pace.  Time traveling stories are a challenge for me.  And I didn’t realize that would be the main driver in the plot here.  But, the story and the mystery was strong enough that the time traveling didn’t overpower things.  And there is still a whole lot of mystery to be solved.  It is currently, for now at least, noted that this is the first in a trilogy.  All three have been published in German (wishing I could read Deutsch right now, because I don’t want to wait until October to get Sapphire Blue) so the story is presumably finished.  Unless these take the Moral Instruments or Immortal series paths to doom and turn into a train wreck of extended series beyond what was originally planned.

There seems to be a decent base built for both a budding romance between Gwyneth and Gideon, as well as the plot twists and turns that are presumably coming.  Although I am not sure the author has grasped the ability to be subtle with foreshadowing.  If I were the editor, the first 4 or so chapters would have been 1 – since we knew from almost page one that Charlotte wasn’t going to be the traveler.  It seemed to give, what turned out to be a fast paced book, a really slow start.  And it lowered my expectations of the plot and what the author might be able to pull off.  Then again, maybe that’s why the second part of the book was more enjoyable – I expected less.

It was also clear from the beginning that this installment was a teaser – all set up for what’s (hopefully) coming in books 2 and 3.  I know with a series you have to start somewhere, and we need to be introduced to the world, the characters and the rules of what ever para/super-natural phenomenon that we are dealing with, but for a book that set up so much plot, it would have been nice to get a little more character development as part of that set up.  Instead, Gideon really dislikes Gwyneth and is all about Charlotte and then all of a sudden on the third (or so) meeting is kissing Gwyneth?  A little too fast, without enough interaction or development of any relationship or tension between the characters.

And then, there’s the fact that there was no ending to speak of.  Except all of a sudden in the middle of a chase scene, the book ends.  I HATE THAT!!!! Most stories – even ones where there are not stories within stories (e.g., Harry Potter) have a natural point where a break between books isn’t quite so abrupt.  But books that are split into multiples just for the sake of being a series…. grrrrrrr!!!!!  Some might argue that this particular point was a natural break in the story, but if so, then I don’t think there should be an epilogue – not when there is another coming.  I don’t like epilogues in books in a series (with a few exceptions) that are not the last in the series.  If there’s the need for an epilogue in one of the earlier installments, then the book didn’t end in the right place.  It’s just my opinion.

Readers looking for the next Clary/Jace, Bella/Edward, Luce/Daniel love story won’t be satisfied here.  At least not with the first book.  This isn’t about the love between the two travelers but about the mystery and the traveling with the potential for a little romance thrown in.  The next book/two books might change that, but for now, this is more about the action and the time traveling than the undying love across lifetimes.  And that’s ok with me.  Too many of latter have become clones of one another or have turned into awful attempts to take completed stories and stretch them into too many more installments and the stories have then been ruined.

On the positive side, I am looking forward to the continuation of the plot.  The mystery of the chronograph and the Count’s plans is enough to make me eager for the next installment.  I just hope that the translation of the third doesn’t take too long – because I really want to see how this ends!

And I will end with this little plea to the publisher:  get a better cover for the second installment.  The first cover here in the US was eye catching and screamed “Pick Me UP!!!!”  and the one on amazon.com for Sapphire Blue – just another picture of a girl in an old fashioned dress.  There’s not much appealing about it, and if I hadn’t read the first, the cover wouldn’t make me pick up the second.  (Yes, I am totally a judge what book to buy based on its cover kinda gal!)

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