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Ysabel Hardcover – Jan 9 2007

3.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Canada (AHC); 1 edition (Jan. 9 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670043214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670043217
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #733,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Kay (The Last Light of the Sun) departs from his usual historical fantasies to connect the ancient, violent history of France to the present day in this entrancing contemporary fantasy. Fifteen-year-old Canadian Ned Marriner accompanies his famous photographer father, Edward, on a shoot at Aix-en-Provence's Saint-Saveur Cathedral while his physician mother, Meghan, braves the civil war zone in Sudan with Doctors Without Borders. As Ned explores the old cathedral, he meets Kate Wenger, a geeky but attractive American girl who's a walking encyclopedia of history. In the ancient baptistry, the pair are surprised by a mysterious, scarred man wielding a knife who warns that they've "blundered into a corner of a very old story. It is no place for children." But Ned and Kate can't avoid becoming dangerously entangled in a 2,500-year-old love triangle among mythic figures. Kay also weaves in a secondary mystery about Ned's family and his mother's motivation behind her risky, noble work. The author's historical detail, evocative writing and fascinating characters—both ancient and modern—will enthrall mainstream as well as fantasy readers. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

In Kay's eagerly awaited new book set mostly in twenty-first-century Aix-en-Provence, 15-year-old Ned Marriner is spending a spring vacation with his celebrated photographer father during a shoot of the Cathedral of Saint-Sauveur. His mother, a physician with Doctors without Borders, is in the Sudan, so Ned and Dad are extremely worried. Exploring Saint-Sauveur, Ned meets American exchange-student Kate Wenger, who knows a lot about the history of Aix. The two surprise a knife-carrying, scar-faced stranger in the cathedral, who tells them, "I think you ought to go. . . . You have blundered into the corner of a very old story." Ned and Kate, then the rest of his family, including the aunt and uncle from England and his mother, are drawn into an ancient conflict with the shades of Celtic spirits. Kay characterizes Ned superbly as he matures amid fantastic circumstances until he is able to make the final sacrifice; reader disbelief is unimperiled, and psychobabble unindulged. Outstanding characters, folklore, and action add up to another Kay must-read. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Guy Gavriel Kay fans, familiar with his works of historical fantasy, will find this work a departure from his typical fare. In Ysabel the characters from a historical past play out an ancient story but they do so in a modern setting. In the process modern day characters become entangled in their age-old drama. Whereas, in past novels, Kay has established a coherent and consistent context for his characters and story based on some ancient culture, in Ysabel, characters from ancient cultures are made to stand out in stark contrast to the modern setting. The fantastic elements that are seamlessly woven into the ancient cultures of Kay's other works stand out boldly against the backdrop of present day Province. Some may find the contrasts too bold. For me, they are the most compelling aspects of Ysabel. I enjoyed moving in and out of the overlapping worlds. Ned's climactic climb up the mountain, passing ever more into another reality, and his subsequent descent to the present world were all the more gripping because of the dramatic transitioning between the fantastic and the ordinary. Lesser writers would be well advised to steer clear of attempting what Kay has so brilliantly achieved here. It is to Kay's considerable credit as a writer that he so skillfully rendered the fantastic even more fantastic than that of regular fantasy fare without collapsing the reader's suspension of belief so necessary to the enjoyment of speculative fiction. Only in the hands of one so thoroughly in control of his craft could this story be told. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Alas, I found this book a bit of a disappointment, perhaps due to the high standards and expectations Guy Gavriel Kay's previous works have set for spoiled readers like me. The central conceit -- a love triangle played out repeatedly over the millennia -- is one GGK has deployed before, and to much better effect, in the Fionavar tapestry trilogy. The callow central character never does acquire a personality. The return of two of the players from that masterpiece of fantasy is a neat little suprise, but in the end only adds to the element of déjà vu (which is not in the least dispelled by the gratuitous interjections of "new media" lingo -- jpegs, ringtones and iPods, anyone?).

More importantly, however, I found myself resenting the continuous express reminders of just how heavily the weight of history was pressing down on the main characters, and how Oh-So-Deep was their emotional bond. I kept wanting to shout: "Don't TELL me, SHOW me!" But at a scant 430 pages, there is simply no time for the book to develop a convincing narrative arc, for the reader to learn about the characters through their actions, their words and their place in a larger story (all hallmarks of GGK's prvious writings).

Nor is there any room for the author to explore the -- here very few -- intriguing side stories and minor characters that usually give depth, texture and volume to GGK's books. Brys the Duid and that boar are random blips on the landscape, so under-developed and ultimately meaningless that one wonders why GGK even bothered with them; the hints at Dave's presence in Darfur are intriguing, but entirely "off-stage", and as a result seem purely gratuitous.
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Format: Paperback
A fantasy/adventure set in the present day Provence area of France.

This was a book with an interesting story line; combining present day people caught up in a millennium old struggle between ancient Celts and Romans.

Although intriguing (and there were a couple of moments of well written, tense confrontations in this tale), this book was not without its flaws. Let me explain...

Early into this novel, I felt there was something about the telling of this tale that did not seem up to the quality of Kay's other novels (and I've read several of this author's works). And then it finally dawned on me; it was the conversations between individuals. Imagine, if you will, being at a live theatre performance where the actors forget their lines and start to improvise on their own to complete the scene; the words and phrases they use ALMOST fit, but not quite. That's how I felt about many (but not all) of the conversations between several individuals in this book; the words and phrases seem almost contrived and a little forced; something just a little off. And I found this perceived 'flaw' to be present throughout this book, thus reducing its overall quality.

An interesting novel, with an intriguing plot that did have some good moments, however character dialogues seemed to lack a realistic, spontaneous flow, thus reducing this potentially wonderful tale to something very average. 2 to 2 1/2 Stars.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Ysabel. I found it hard to stop reading, in fact, and read it in a little over a day--although it's not a long book at all, quite short by Kay standards.

The story was compelling for me, and I liked the characters and the setting (Provence). It was interesting to see a couple of characters back from the Fionavar books. I thought that in many ways Ysabel felt like a continuation of Fionavar: some of the same characters are present, as are similar themes and events.

I think that if a person really enjoyed Fionavar, they will like Ysabel too. But those who disliked Fionavar will likely disklike this book too, because it has the same epic romance feel to it--some might even call it cheese. :)

My complaint about this book is the dialogue. Kay seemed to be trying hard to create a strong contrast between the ancient world and the modern, so he made sure to include lots of mentions of iPods, cellphones and Google, and filled the modern characters' dialogue with TONNES of "likes" and "whatevers." The dialogue was so slang-filled at times that I had to cringe. And it definitely didn't feel like Kay, whose prose is normally lyrical and beautiful.

I also noticed several times that these painful conversations seemed to go on far too long. There were many times when I wanted the story to move forward, but had to instead slog through several pages of characters talking about what had already happened. I think the book would have been improved by having less talk and more action.

But thankfully, it didn't take too long to reach the end of this story, and the end is fabulous, and surprising.

Overall, a good book. I'm glad I read it, but I'm sure very few readers would say it is Kay's best.
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