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A Riddle in Ruby

(A Riddle in Ruby #1)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  253 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Ruby Teach is a thief-in-training and a keeper of secrets—ones she doesn’t even know of herself. She is the daughter of a smuggler and pirate, and has been learning how to swindle and steal and pick the most complex locks for as long as she can remember. But a collision with aristocratic young lord Athen sends her spinning into chaos. Little did she know that her whole lif ...more
Hardcover, 425 pages
Published September 22nd 2015 by Greenwillow Books
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Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  253 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Saruuh Kelsey
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
((4.5 stars))

EXACTLY what I wanted, needed, and have been looking for in MG fantasy all year. Thank you, A Riddle In Ruby.


Thank you, A Riddle In Ruby, for bringing the magic back to middle grade fantasy. I've read a slew of MG fantasy this year, most with ships and pirates as is my thing, and they've all been pretty good. But not amazing. None of them had the spark for me, that magic I've been looking for.

This book did.

A Riddle In Ruby is a fun, high stakes adventure. It starts off on a ship
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What I Loved:
While I was initially intrigued by the premise for A Riddle in Ruby, I did not expect to it to be so completely fascinating and cool. Alternate histories are an interesting concept, and I love the focus on colonial Philadelphia for this one. There are mixtures of the Royal Navy, pirates, magical chemistry (or chemical magic, depending on how you look at it), and societal struggles. Kent Davis does a masterful job at world building in this first book while still leaving more to be di
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

My 8yr old munchkin and I both read A Riddle in Ruby. It was a fun read with action packed, suspenseful, intriguing storylines and well developed, fully fleshed out characters. Here is munchkins review:

A Riddle in Ruby was a fun reading experience for me. There were plot twists in the story that made it suspenseful and would make you want to read the book more! Ruby is curious, stubborn, and always ready for adventure. She is feisty and never backs down. Lord Athen is a good fighter, an
Maria Tag
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This book is to be read over and over and over and savored. I couldn't get enough of it. It is a swashbuckling adventure that captivated me to the end.
The plot: Wow, the plot and the story itself are so complicated that I can't really tell you a lot about it! I can tell you the main theme is that Ruby's father's boat is captured, and her, Cram, and Athens are on the run.
Positive content: A very good book, and it has good lessons about family and friendship.
Negative content: Ruby isn't a saint.
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For full review please go to:, Twitter @camartinez and Facebook "5 Girls Book Reviews"

REVIEW BY: Michaela, age 11 years, 3 months


I LOVE this book!!! If you like fake pirates, impostors and people who turn in to objects, then you will also love this book!

My favorite part is when Ruby meets Lord Athen because she is scared that he will find out that she was dressed up as a boy and trying to rob him and he cut her under the eye.
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Three of many reasons to love this book: steampunk, an awesome protagonist, and a refusal to dumb down language for kids. I wish more books that used interesting and challenging vocabulary like this one were around when I was a kid reading juvenile literature. The world Davis creates is such fun to dive into and I will happily follow these quirky characters into the next two books. It also had me laughing out loud in places and, though it took me a few chapters to settle into its rhythm, I was d ...more
Jul 13, 2015 rated it liked it
I loved this book and would have given it more stars... except for one thing. There are three pages that focus on finding out the gender of one of the characters. Surely there is another way to figure that out without needing a semi-nude scene in the book. What kind of picture is this painting in a child's head? Completely unnecessary.

Conclusion: Good characters, character interactions, magic and world building. Unnecessary information and scene.
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wheeee! I enjoyed every minute of this adventure and am eagerly awaiting the sequel. A capable and relatable set of heroes, high stakes and mysteries around every corner makes this fabulous fun. I found myself laughing out loud as well as making my signature really-worried-face. Right up there in my favorites with The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place or Snicket's "All the Wrong Questions." Can't wait for book 2! ...more
Samantha B
Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was delightful! And I read it in such small and mixed chunks that I'm still not entirely sure what I think.

But: I love Athen. And Henry. I don't know why I like Henry so much, I just do.

Honestly, though (view spoiler)

All the secret societies are MY JAM. Although I'm still confused about the difference between Tinkers and Chemysts (is there one? are they the same? am I mixing things up? (the
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Move over, Harry Potter. There's a new kid in town: Aruba Teach.

In "A Riddle in Ruby," Kent Davis creates a world that one ups JK Rowling's Harry Potter. If you doubt it, read this book and find out for yourself.

A deliciously surprising, stunning page-turner set in an alternate-history 1700's. The Revolutionary War is turned on its head here: not as we know it but between warring powers of a very different kind. Gear beasts, sea scapes, heroes and heroines, mice & cheese (!), and an underground
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was the book that made me realize that I love steampunk. I will gobble it up! Truthfully, the books in this series are the only steampunk that Iʼve read so far, but the concept is beyond awesome. I want to explore this genre more. A really crazy and exciting ride to open a trilogy!

Full review here:
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the idea of this book, I just felt that it was a little bit confusing because the author kept switching perspectives. I didn't realize this until later on in the book, so that was probably why it was slightly confusing. ...more
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Adorable little alchemic alt history adventure, though sometimes there's not quite enough description and I get a bit lost, esp with the cross-dressing and confusion of pronouns. ...more
Erik This Kid Reviews Books
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Synopsis- Ruby Teach is a thief [in training]. Her tutor is a master of disguise. Her father is a pirate. They all live [part-time] on a ship with her father’s crew, giving rides to rich people while transporting cargo. (They are fake, “for show” pirates.) But when young Lord Athen Boyle comes aboard, he isn’t looking for a good time. He’s looking for a fast ship. At sea, though, they realize that they aren’t fast enough when a royal ship overtakes them. Ruby, Lord Athen, and his serving-boy are ...more
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
This wasn't an enjoyable reading experience. I didn't like the main character. I know she's only thirteen, but she didn't have much common sense. I did like Lord Athen. The surprises involving this character were nice, but I should have seen them coming. I was disappointed that more of the story didn't take place at the Invisible College. That was an interesting setting, and it's the best part of the book, in my opinion. ...more
May 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I liked it. A grand adventure on the high seas and through an alternate Philadelphia. Friendships are formed and tested. Cool gadgets are used.

that said ... it's a little long. More kids would be as to get through it if 25% were cut and I don't think the storytelling or world building would have suffered over much.

So ... four stars for me. Three for the kids.
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was an entertaining book. A little thick on the suspension of disbelief at times, but overall fun. It was very refreshing to read a book intended for a younger audience (early teens) that does not treat the audience as stupid.
Feb 04, 2015 added it
Shelves: middle-grade
Indies Introduce New Voices nominee. Withholding review until April 2015.
Janelle A.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
extremely exciting and a very good book. there better be a second book.
Anita McDivitt Barrios
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, middle-grade
Ruby's little better than a street urchin when she's dockside, pick-pocketing and swindling marks with Gwath, her favorite member of her father's ship crew.

But her mother, who she can barely remember, left her a legacy she must unravel, once others begin to seek it -- and her, as its keeper -- out.

In a world with alchemical magic, called chemystry, she quickly gains a protector -- Lord Athen, who is anything other than what he seems.

But he's no match for the Royal Navy and their automaton creatu
Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*
Nov 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-recommended
Davis, Kent A Riddle in Ruby, 425 pgs. Green Willow (Harper Collins), 2015. $17.99. Content: Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG (gender bending) Violence: PG (fighting scenes)
Ruby is a young girl who is learning to be a thief, natural for a daughter of a pirate. When her father goes missing she goes searching for him, but her city isn’t the colonial Philadelphia we are familiar with, in her world there is an type of magic called Alchemy. She meets a young Lord name Athen, who has a big s
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Actual rating: 4.5.

Well written, with refreshingly new and intriguing world building. The writing demonstrates command of the world the story creates and deftly weaves a the tale into it. Very interesting.


“Sparking fire. The wheel. The written word. Each changed the rules of our world forever. I have newly met a sister to these titans. Her name is chemystry. —Sir Francis Bacon, 1626, Invisible College, London”

“The practice of chemystry is not all sprays of fire and ripping of battlements
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
The setting of the book is important because it is a main part of whats going on. The setting is crucial to understanding the book; without the setting the book is gibberish. I can't figure out the setting so I can't figure out whats going on. It leaves me confused on whats happening.

When I read this book I feel puzzeled. The book doesn't convey ideas that well. I am very confused on what was happening. I also feel it is a good book but I don't know whats happening. I am quiting this book becaus
Ruby Samson
Mar 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know why I didn’t rate this book sooner, this is my favorite book of all time. I have read it far to many times to count! I love the suspense of the different villains trying to capture Ruby. I am in awe with all the characters and love the way they are written with their depth and description. Although it was a little hard to understand it at first, once I got into the book things started to come to light. The entire books deals with friendship and betrayal and the entire book goes into ...more
Teresa Osgood
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ruby lives on a fake pirate ship on the coast of colonial America, in an age ruled by Tinkers and Chemists and their astonishing devices. She's also an apprentice thief, but even her considerable lock-picking skills aren't enough to save her when the Crown captures the ship, and absolutely no one on board turns out to be what they seem. Ruby and her tenuous allies are very interesting characters, and their well-drawn world is fascinating. I look forward to learning more about Ruby's riddles. ...more
Flora J
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: middle-graders, steampunk fans
2.5 stars. I don't read middle-grade fiction as often as I used to. A Riddle in Ruby was a leap for me - and while it was not a bad book, it just wasn't for me. Filled with pirates, steampunkism, mystery, adventure, and capped off with a headstrong heroine, it would appeal to anyone. The prose is thick with complicated words and phrasing. There are twists and turns. I can even say it's well-written...

Well-written, clean, but not my type.
Hannah Belyea
May 21, 2019 rated it liked it
After her father is arrested and his crew eliminated, Ruby reluctantly teams up with an arrogant young Lord and his servant to figure out just what the law is looking for, and how it all relates to an apparently powerful secret she holds - one she is completely unaware of. Davis is sure to draw in fans of mystery with this witty adventure. Just what is it about Ruby that has everyone seeking high and low for her?
First off, the world is captivating. That's about the only thing I liked about this novel. The characters all fell flat for me, especially the main character, Ruby. The plot was very slow and not much actually happened. Although I did not particularly enjoy this book, I do have to say that the last 120 pages were better than the first 300. ...more
Jason Cole
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Solid Debut

A Riddle in Ruby is a solid debut for author Kent Davis, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. With fast-paced action, a great supporting cast of characters, and a feisty young heroine, this book kept me reading. More, Mr. Davis' impressive world-building -- with an alternate version of colonial America where alchemy and science have world-changing magical impact -- kept me thinking about his alternate history even when I wasn't reading the book. The book's action m
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Kent Davis has spent most of his life making stories. He is a fantasy writer, game designer, actor, playwright, teacher, improvisational comedian, and vocation collector. A Riddle in Ruby marks his fiction debut.

He and Chris Organ are the two geekomatics behind the Epic RPG tabletop gaming system. Kent's theatrical, film, and television credits as a short, bald man include an array of concerned fr

Other books in the series

A Riddle in Ruby (3 books)
  • The Changer’s Key (A Riddle in Ruby, #2)
  • The Great Unravel (A Riddle in Ruby, #3)

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