December 26, 2015
A Riddle in Ruby by Kent Davis
A Riddle in Ruby
by Kent Davis
If you were lucky enough to get a book store gift card yesterday for Christmas, consider buying A Riddle in Ruby.
When I met Ruby, my first thought was Oliver Twist. Ruby was clearly perpetrating a scam. Pretending to be gravely injured while trying to pick a lock. I was certain that her accomplice was also her master, forcing her to break the law.
But it quickly become clear that things are much more complicated than that. Gwath is her senior in age as well as her teacher. He is also the ship’s cook. Ruby has grown up aboard the Thrift were her father ferries passengers across the ocean, telling mock pirate stories and pretending to be something he is not. In fact the whole crew pretends to be pirates and the whole thing gets on Ruby’s nerves.
Until one day when their only passenger is young Lord Athens and his man-servant Crum. A Royal Navy vessel is in pursuit. Athens is sure that they are after him but Ruby’s father seems certain that it is his daughter they want. He orders the pair into hiding.
It is truly impossible to summarize this story without giving it away. The world is every bit as complicated as Hogwarts and Harry Potter but it isn’t a contemporary story. This piece of colonial fiction portrays a world that never existed but . . . if it had? Wow.
Alchemy called chemystry has altered the face of society. Lights can be lit and food can be cooked if only you can afford the service. Chemysts have built cities on top of cities, occupying the sunlight expanses above while Ruby and her ilk lurk below, struggling to make a living in the shadows.
When Ruby realizes that she is the one everyone is looking for such doesn’t understand. At first she thinks she has something that they want but then she realizes that it goes much, much deeper.
Whether it is Ruby posing as a boy or Lord Athen posing as Lord Athen, few characters are who they initially seem to be. The world is delightfully complex. Things aren’t so complicated that they are confusing but they are definitely complex enough to support a series. The characters are equally complicated — doing what they think is best at the time only to discover that they’ve made a dreadful mistake. They often find themselves in situations where there is no clear-cut good choice.
Pick this one up and share it with the young fantasy lover in your life today.