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Ysabel Hardcover – Jan 9 2007

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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: 23.1 x 15 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #341,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By S. Nolke on Jan. 26 2007
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Terrence Findlay on Feb. 11 2007
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A reader on Sept. 7 2007
Format: Hardcover
Kay is a graceful writer, polished and fluent beyond words. I own all of his previous books (except for his poetry collection) and there is not a weak one in the bunch. I didn't think he could write a lesser book but unfortunately he has with Ysabel. His prose is as liquid and elegant as ever but Ysabel is still lacking.

The book concerns Ned, a 15 year-old who accompanies his father, a famous photographer, and the latter's crew to Provence in southern France to shoot pictures for a coffeetable book. While wandering aimlessly around a medieval cathedral built atop older ruins he and Kate, a visiting American girl, meet a strange man and are drawn inexorably into a rite over 2500 years old. The narrative unspools from there to a somewhat disturbing and bleak ending which is partly reminiscent of Kay's first novel, The Fionavar Tapestry but then the story in Ysabel is obliquely connected to Fionavar.

The problem lies with the fact that this book is set in the modern world, which Kay is not as skilled at evoking. The two teenage protagonists (not to mention a number of the adults) spend significant portions of the book having relatively inane conversations heavy with slang and iconic terminology. iPods, Google, iTunes, Coldplay, yo, Eminem, majorly uncool; Kay drops these words like a pre-teen anxious to establish hipster credentials on a playground. Obviously, since the two main characters are teenagers, Kay has to walk a fine line between making them act like typical vacuous teens and bright, well-read, intellectually curious people but his efforts are hollow. The romantic tension between Ned and Kate, is also sometimes unbelieveable. Another problem lies with Ned's mother, a doctor working in the Sudan at the start of the novel.
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