What other reviewers said is true; Ruby Red is not a novel, just the beginning of one. It's not that it ends in a cliffhanger--it doesn't--or that it sets up a sequel too obviously. It's that nothing happens, there's no arc, just a slow build-up and then a prologue. Imagine the Hunger Games ending before Katniss stepped in the arena or when she's in but only just begun. Imagine Pride and Prejudice ending with Jane's sickness.
The time travel mystery seems overwrought so far. Gwyneth, a 16-year old time traveler, somes some spirit and intelligence, but needs the assistance and is therefore apparently bound to an organization of a bunch of sinister old men, a few women, and her fellow time-traveller, an older boy. At this point it doesn't seem like she's making many choices. This is not pure time travel. Visions, ghosts, telepathy, and apparently alchemy and magic all play parts in this world.
The reader's voice and style were metallic and mechanical to my ears, a little grating and not a great choice for a dramatic narration in the voice of a teenaged girl.
There are obvious differences in structure, but they weren't my main concern. Narration switches from Sookie's to other characters' perspectives, and we jump around in time a bit, neither of which I remember from other books. Still, when we were in Sookie's chapters the voice was definitely the Sookie I've come to love.
The real problems are plot and pacing.
There's a mystery or two around Sam that is resolved in the most rushed and ridiculous way. That plot just makes no sense, and I think it wouldn't have taken that much to close some of the holes in it.
Sookie's romantic situation also goes through certain changes without much import of romance or of loss, and that was disappointing. She's always had grace (Miranda Lambert take note) in painful situations, but here a lot of what must be painful and what must be happening in her heart is just not covered. Is she supposed to be numb? Aren't these basically romance novels? The denouement especially has a lot of shortcomings, and I stopped the book a couple of times in disbelief.
It might make more sense if I had the last novel fresh in my head. I remember liking it less than this, so I'm not about to go back, but if you haven't started this yet, maybe re-read the last book to get your head in the place Sookie's head is in before starting this.
Johanna Parker is fantastic as always. I look forward to listening to more books of hers. Despite the shortcomings in the middle, I listened to most of the book eagerly and am glad I revisited Bon Temps one last time.
These rich women's identites are totally tied up with their men and their china, and they're boring, and they don't get much better over the course of 13 long hours. Everybody repeats their past mistakes, their parents' mistakes, everybody's waiting for a convenient savior. It's hard to say characters are stiff for a romance novel, but they really aren't real. I can't believe I still have 40 minutes of this bloody book to listen to, when it could have been over several times already, sparing us a lot of the mystery that isn't a mystery at all, many stupid decisions, and a ton of china talk.
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