Note: This contains slight spoilers for Book One in this series, Ruby Red, but none for this book, the second in the trilogy.
In Ruby Red, sixteen-year-old Gwyneth Shepherd, called Gwen, discovers she has inherited the time-travel gene that enables – indeed, requires – frequent forays into the past. (See my review of Ruby Red, here.) A “chronograph” developed by a secret society of “Guardians” allows time travelers to control their travel so that they do not fade in and out of time inconveniently. Gwen is joined in her travels by Gideon, 18, who has been traveling for two years now.
According to the annals of the Guardians, there are to be only twelve carriers of the time traveling gene ever, and Gwen is the twelfth. This creates a great deal of plot tension, since no one knows (1) why there will only be twelve and (2) what happens when the Twelfth “closes the circle” as predicted, or even (3) what is meant by “closing the circle.”
Moreover, Gwen has another “gift” as well: she can see and hear dead people. This is no “Sixth Sense” phenomenon, however; these dead are cute, friendly, and generally just people or creatures who refuse to die once and for all, for various reasons. In Sapphire Blue, Gwen happens upon the ghost of a dead gargoyle named Xemerius, who decides to stay with her as a companion, since she is the only one who has seen or heard him in centuries.
Gwen, her best friend Lesley, and Xermerius engage in various strategies to get to the bottom of all the mysteries (such as the whyfor and whereabouts of two missing time travelers from the past), even as Gwen continues to time travel, AND proceeds to fall head over heels for Gideon. Gideon, however, is something of a cipher himself: one minute he can’t resist Gwen, and another, he is hostile and suspicious of her. What’s going on?
Discussion: There is plenty of levity to lighten the sometimes complex plot proceedings: the first time Gideon really goes at kissing Gwen, she observes that she has mutated into a human blancmange (or pudding), and a very humorous passage ensues due to her turning into the equivalent of a formless blob. And at an 18th Century soiree, Gwen gets besotted on the punch, and decides karaoke is in order. Gideon has to stop her before she segues from “Memory” in Cats to “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story! (Fortunately the rest of the guests are also so punch-drunk – literally! – they don’t notice that they are hearing Andrew Lloyd Webber 200 years ahead of time….)
Evaluation: There is a lot to like in this series, especially when the author eschews the complicated plotline related to the Guardians and the Twelve and sticks with the main characters from the present and their interrelationships. The bits about the secret society and how the members go back and forth and form enemies and alliances were a bit confusing for me – it was hard to keep track of who did what to whom in what century. On the other hand, I found the parts about Gwen and Gideon and Lesley and Xemerius just delightful.
I liked the first book, Ruby Red, better: it is less convoluted. On the other hand, this one has a lot more comic aspects. I look forward to the third book in the series, Emerald Green, especially since the ending of this book leaves everything pretty much unresolved.
My recommendation? Because the plot is complicated in places and the first two books don’t actually end anyway, I would suggest getting the third and then reading them altogether!
Published in the U.S. by Henry Holt and Company, 2012