I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
This was my first “choose your own adventure” book since I read Cinderella: Ninja Warrior almost a year ago. While that one featured better writing, I'd argue that this one was a better “choose your own adventure” - it included both more choices and more endings. Ring of the Ruby Dragon managed to occupy me for an entire day.
In Ring of the Ruby Dragon, you are Chandelle (yes, this is a traditional “choose your own adventure,” so it's written in the second person). Your father is a jeweler, and you've been his apprentice for five years. While on a journey to acquire emeralds for special jewelry for Lord Darkell, you and your father are attacked by a centaur and some winged lions. When you regain consciousness, your father is gone, and all you have are the ioun stones he told you about when you were a child. Each one has magical abilities, but you don't know exactly what they can all do. A young knight named Coren crosses your path, and you have to decide whether to trust in his abilities or head to town and find someone more experienced who can help you rescue your father.
If I counted correctly, the book includes a total of 18 endings. Of those endings, 12 are what I would call “bad,” five are “good,” and one is best described as “neutral.” “Good” and “bad” are somewhat debatable. For example, although Coren was almost always Chandelle's love interest, some routes led to Sir Torbeck being her love interest instead. I thought Torbeck's routes were some of the worst in the book. It was a little disappointing, because I initially found Torbeck to be more appealing.
One of his “good” endings involved Chandelle realizing that she would have to learn not to be jealous of his roving eye. Another involved Chandelle being okay with the idea that Torbeck was a wanderer and might not stick around. Even when things were going well with Torbeck, the ending could still suddenly turn sour – a couple routes resulted in both the loss of Chandelle's father and bitterness between her and her companions. Torbeck's routes were also the only ones that occasionally led to Chandelle accidentally killing everyone.
The first choice in the book turned out to be very important. Depending on which path you chose, you might end up skipping out on most of the book's creatures, characters, and events. As it turned out, I chose the wrong path. Although a good ending was still possible, the story was fairly boring, and Coren kind of annoyed me. Unfortunately, trying to abandon him led to me being enslaved. Several times.
The other choice was much more fun and led to routes with a lot more variety: mermaids, a halfling character named Jancy, Torbeck, a naga (who reminded me of Eeyore), a golden dragon, a couple different kinds of giants, dolphins, a talking door (capable of vaporizing anyone who wasn't truly in love), and more.
As a romance, this book left something to be desired. Torbeck's endings were kind of depressing, even when they were “good.” Coren was boring, and his desire to prove himself as a knight meant he occasionally required a little too much ego stroking (but don't go overboard, or he'll die and you'll end up enslaved). This was published in 1983, and it showed. Chandelle struggled with knowing when to take the initiative. Should she confess her feelings to Coren before he'd made his clear to her? Should she allow Torbeck to make all her decisions for her, or should she trust her own judgment? I was usually pleased with the way some of these decisions worked out, although the stuff with Torbeck...ugh.
While the romance didn't really grab me, I still enjoyed working my way through all the paths and endings. There was surprisingly little overlap among the various routes, so almost every choice led to some new event or character. I doubt I'd ever reread this, but I'm considering putting in an ILL request for another one of the books in the series.
I honestly have no clue how to rate something like this, but I needed to pick a rating for my records. My final choice of 2.5 stars seemed like a good compromise between the story (meh), the writing (mediocre, unless you consider the complex issues involved in creating a coherent "choose your own adventure" with this many possible endings and paths), and the overall entertainment value (pretty good).
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)