A Not-So-Minor Rant Against Trilogies that Shouldn't Be Trilogies: Book Review of Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

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This is a MAJOR peeve of mine that honestly seems exacerbated more each year.  Some books should not be trilogies.

There, I said it, and I see many of you nodding your heads along with me (except you - fine, suffer while waiting for the next book, you're obviously a masochist).  How many times have we started what seems like a perfectly nice book, got emotionally involved with the characters, reveled in the setting, only to have that sickening lurch in our collective stomach when we realize the pages clutched in our left hand are significantly larger than the ones in our right....and there are still some major questions to be answered?!

That's when you know you've been trilogized, a word I've decided means "verb (Canadian origin): to be attacked by a publisher who wants you to pay the hardcover price three times versus once".  It's painful and the lingering resentment that combines with the elation of getting the next book in our hand leaves a bad taste in the mouth, doesn't it?  And heaven forbid the writer has lost momentum or their plot gets a little wonky (*cough* Melissa de la Cruz *cough*), because then we just resentfully eat our M&Ms (hey, you eat your snack, and I'll eat mine, okay?) thinking that if they had just written the whole damn thing into one book, we wouldn't be suffering right now.

The trilogy is particularly hard to stomach in the case of the book I am reviewing here (yes, this is a review, I'm getting to it), Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier.  After reading the CIP and realizing that this book was a translation, I guessed (correctly) that the sequels were already out in German.  Annoyingly, I was right, as the German Wikipedia page on the author reveals Ruby Red came out in 2009 and the two sequels in 2010.  So why the h-e-double hockey sticks aren't all three out in English?

Anyway... the book.  Ever since A Wrinkle in Time and more recently, The Time Traveler's Wife, I've loved the idea of time travel as a fiction plot.  So many possibilities and you usually end up with a really cool historical fiction/fantasy crossover novel in the process that you can market well as a librarian. This cover is gorgeous and makes for an easy sell on the superficial standpoint (but, hey, every little bit helps) - beautiful girl, embossed jewels, all lovely.

Our protagonist, Gwenyth (Gwen), has been brought up in a loving but eccentric wealthy family in a London mansion.  Because she's been ignored by most of the relatives in favor of her cousin, Charlotte, she is a down to earth, movie fiend who spends her time laughing with her best friend about the boys in their high school.

Charlotte is the family favorite because everyone believes she carries their family's gene for time travel, so her whole life has been given to foreign language fluency, riding and fencing lessons, etc.  Whoopsie...it turns out that Gwen is the one who has the gene, which no one suspected because the time traveler was supposed to be born on a certain day and Gwen's mother lied about her birthday, claiming to want a normal life for her daughter.

But there is more to the lie as Gwen begins to realize.  She is introduced to the intimidating Guardians and their offices at the Temple and most of all, introduced to her fellow time-traveler, haughty and handsome Gideon who is two years older and expecting Charlotte to be his companion. Their adventures begin with some rather alarming complications thrown into the mix, and while attracted to one another, there is also a growing mistrust as the adults in their lives (past and present) seem to be hiding something, using Gideon and Gwen for their own purposes.

My main problem here is that if you have to have a trilogy, the first book needs to answer some questions!!!!!  This one poses more questions than it answers, which has driven me up a wall, particularly because there are other good qualities for me to recommend to readers.  I like the writing and the characterization, although Gwen feels a lot younger to me and I get the feeling the publisher and the writer are aiming for a middle school audience, which seems at odds with the protagonist's age of sixteen and the fact that there is obviously meant to be a strong romance plot.  Doubt me?  Take a look at the official book trailer:

Doesn't even the voice sound young?  I'm not saying Gwen isn't lighthearted (it's why we like her so much) and the historical pieces are well-done, but there is an audience piece that feels off to me.  The beginning Prologue is so obvious (really...I'm almost tempted to just say it because my golden retriever even figured out who these two people were right away) yet I'm supposed to believe that no one else has suspected that relationships are not as they seem?  Puh-leese.

Gwen is obviously smart and pretty, but aside from some snogging comments she seems strangely innocent for someone her age who watches as many R and PG-13 films as she's named.  Not being in Gideon's head also leaves us at a loss as to the development of his attraction to Gwen and I'm not sure I'm totally convinced of that either.

Overall, this is a book that I would have liked to have seen encompass all three volumes in one (are you listening, Henry Holt Publishing???!) since I think it would make the actual writing and plot stronger.  Yes, I will get the other books (curse you) but I'm not going to be happy about it.  So there.


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August 17, 2011 3:11 AM delete

In my opinion, The Hunger Games shouldn't have been a trilogy as well.