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Ysabel Paperback – February 5, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Roc Trade; Reprint edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451461908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451461902
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Well written, interesting, excellent story.
LakerzPhan
Still, this is a great read, and if you enjoy Kay, or are looking for something uniquely different, then I highly recommend that you read "Ysabel."
DaddyD
I felt like the author was trying a little too hard to be "cool".
LMB

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Indy Reviewer VINE VOICE on February 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A one sentence summary of Ysabel sounds unnervingly like the rote formula of some very, very bad pulp fantasy: a vacationing 15 year old in the South of France comes of age as he gains magic powers, works with his family, and becomes a hero. But Guy Gavriel Kay is at the height of his own powers here, and breaks out by weaving a powerful tale of love and revenge as he slowly reveals the truth - some of which will unexpectedly delight longtime fans. In general, this is his best since Song for Arbonne. A couple of minor nitpicks, but a solid 5 stars.

First, the nitpicks. The beginning part of the boy-becoming-man plotline here isn't original and in fact makes the first part of the novel drag a bit, as Kay seems slightly out of his element in dealing with both the narrative of a fifteen year old and a modern setting. Maybe kids grow up quicker now, but protagonist Ned Marriner seems a bit too mature even before what Kay calls the last day of his childhood. Kay's attempts to integrate modern technology and society actually distract from plot advancement at times and in a few years will badly date this book, even if his ruminations on how technology has changed things can be interesting. And finally, there are some minor and a couple non minor characters that could have used more stage time.

However, once Ned becomes fully engaged in the bigger picture, the book takes off. Kay settles comfortably into meticulously researched history as to why certain things are transpiring - in this case an age old struggle of barbarians versus civilization in which neither has a monopoly on good - but really hits his stride with the exploration of love and revenge and their effect on innocent bystanders. The ensemble cast supporting Ned is generally well developed and very believable.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Rania Quereshi on September 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
I've read all of GGK's novels. I own most of them and will happily admit that I re-read them at least once a year. Certain passages in the Sarantium Mosiac are etched in my mind - pieces of prose that truly transport me to another time and place, to another reality that I know and love.

I scarcely know where to begin my critique of Ysabel. So little of it made sense. The dialogues perhaps were what irked me most. I wondered, about a chapter in, if GGK had switched genres and had written this for teenagers. Where was the delicacy, subtlety and wit that he had perfected in the dialogues in the Sarantium Mosaic? That we saw the sweet beginnings of, in Lions?

About a third of the way into the book, what began to annoy me were the coy 'who-are-you', 'stay-out-of-this', 'best-if you-don't-know' conversations that Ned had, over and over. It did nothing to build suspense, added nothing to the plot and was quite frankly, clumsy all around.

I was also frustrated by the repeated history lectures that Kate constantly had to give. Now, I am a reader who is greedy for historical novels, which is why I revel in GGK's other novels. He has a gift of re-creating worlds within context of the rich historical past in Spain, Byzantium and France. Somehow this was sadly missing in Ysabel. Instead of recreating Provence's volatile past in a more evocative manner (flashbacks, perhaps? To allow us to get to know both the history and Ysabel herself?), all he's done is create know-it-all Kate, and rendering his hero to a nothing more than a stereotypical, ignorant North American teenage tourist. All in order to bring us, his readers, up to speed with Provencal history. Clumsy, clumsy narrative.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Kseniya Slavsky on February 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book that swallowed my weekend. I opened in on Saturday morning and put it down, finished, on Sunday night. I've missed Mr. Kay's work and this book happily joins its predecessors on my shelf.

I have read all of Guy Kay's novels and can, therefore, compare. This is very different fare from Lions, Tigana and Sarantium. Ysabel lacks that sweeping scope, the feeling of a story that will stay with you forever and characters that burn their way into you heart. Ysabel sweeps 2,500 years of history, but it is not an epic. It looks at that history from the outside. On the other hand, though I worship the three works above, I do not hesitate to admit they are not told as concisely as they might have been. Some parts drag and that takes away from the momentum of the phenomenal stories lines. Ysabel is all story; all motion. I was on the edge of my seat throughout. It is exciting, a little scary, completely engrossing. The true mark of Kay's talent and precision here is that he did not just shift from a character-driven story to a plot-driven one. Not at all. The characters are vivid. Their image is instantly before you. They are instantly complex. You do not like or dislike anyone absolutely, but take them as they are in all the shades of gray. A shameless honesty, there. There is no barrier to knowing them and getting into their heads. I cared for them all, even the more peripheral personages.

Beneath it all and all around is the history. I loved the history. The description of Provence as dripping with it is wonderful. Every inch of land is saturated with stories. All the stories are exciting and intriguing. All are worth telling. All are Real.
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