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Ysabel [Paperback]

Guy Gavriel Kay
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

29 April 2010

Set in modern and ancient Provence, this exhilarating,
moving novel casts brilliant light on the ways in which
history – whether of a culture or a family – refuses to be buried.

Ned Marriner, fifteen years old, has accompanied his photographer father to Provence for a six-week “shoot” of images for a glossy coffee-table book. Gradually, Ned discovers a very old story playing itself out in this modern world of iPods, cellphones, and seven-seater vans whipping along roads walked by Celtic tribes and the Roman Legions.

On one holy, haunted night of the ancient year, when the borders between the living and the dead are down and fires are lit upon the hills, Ned, his family, and his friends, are shockingly drawn into this tale, as dangerous, mythic figures from conflicts of long ago erupt into the present, claiming and changing lives.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager (29 April 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0007342039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007342037
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 228,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Guy Gavriel Kay was born and raised in Canada. In 1974-5 he spent a year in Oxford assisting Christopher Tolkien in his editorial construction of J R R Tolkien's posthumously published THE SILMARILLION. He took a law degree at the University of Toronto on his return to Canada and was admitted to the Bar of Ontario in 1981. Guy Gavriel Kay lives in Toronto

Product Description


"Evocative writing … fascinating characters … will enthrall mainstream as well as fantasy readers."
Publishers Weekly [starred review]

"Ysabel is a pure pleasure to read for fans of history, mythology or pure highspirited adventure. It works on all levels."

"An explorer of history and myths, Kay has a special affinity for the people behind the larger-than-life legends that persist through time. His latest fantasy blends time and place in a crossing of worlds and universal truths. Highly recommended."
Library Journal (starred review)

"Outstanding characters, folklore, and action add up to another Kay must-read."

"Blending historical fantasy and psychological thriller with a paranormal-powered coming-of-age tale, Ysabel will not only appeal to adult fantasy readers but also to adolescents who have enjoyed authors that feature compelling teen protagonists-such as J. K. Rowling and Christopher Paolini."

Kay's Ysabel is a wonderful read for lovers of historical novels, and has all the qualities necessary to turn teenagers on to historical novels, and to history."
Canadian Literature

"Kay's language is poetic and thought-provoking, and his sensitively drawn characters are the perfect complement. This is a mythic tale that will linger in the reader's mind long after the book is finished."
January 2007 Top Pick: Romantic Times

About the Author

Guy Gavriel Kay was born and raised in Canada. In 1974-5 he spent a year in Oxford assisting Christopher Tolkien in his editorial construction of J R R Tolkien’s posthumously published THE SILMARILLION. He took a law degree at the University of Toronto on his return to Canada and was admitted to the Bar of Ontario in 1981. Guy Gavriel Kay lives in Toronto

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit let down 15 Mar 2007
I, too, look forward eagerly to each new GGK book release and the latest was no exception.

However, despite his usual mastery of language and some gorgeous descriptions of the area around Provence, I found it hard to connect with the characters in this book. When you look at the depth of characterisation in some of his other work (The Lions of Al-Rassan or Tigana for example), it really brings home how most of the protagonists are only lightly drawn with the broadest of strokes.

Sadly, the plot also felt a little on the light side - a lot of questions were raised but then many allowed to fall by the wayside and ignored. Perhaps Kay was having too good a time researching in Provence to focus to the level he is capable of?!

Still, that said, it's still an enjoyable read but if this is your first foray into Kay's work, you might prefer to start with some of his earlier works instead to get a true impression of what he's capable of.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read for sunny Provence 26 Jan 2009
I am a huge fan of GGK's work, though looked forward to this book with a little trepidation as I am not such a huge fan of teenage boys! I had recently read Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven (a very different book!), which has a teenage boy narrator, and found it heavy going. But Ned Marriner has a likeable personality, realistic but not annoying, and is a sympathetic viewpoint character. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between him and the adults around him, as he seeks both their support and his independence.

Provence is gloriously depicted, and the rented villa sounds idyllic! Into this paradise come violent events from prehistory, as mysterious figures loom, appear and threaten. There are violent scenes, but things never get as dark as, say, the events of Fionavar. I don't feel this is a bad thing though, as the characters and atmosphere are all as strong as one expects from Kay.

Many readers seem to have been disappointed by this book, and to be sure, it is not in the same class as Fionavar or Sarantium. But Kay is doing something different here, looking at the invasion of the distant past into our modern world, and the effect this has on a couple of teenagers and those who seek to protect them. As such, I think he succeeds admirably in showing how they are all forced to change their assumptions and broaden their horizons, as well as writing a thoroughly compelling story. This book could appeal to a younger audience than is usual for Kay's writing, which can only be a good thing for his continuing popularity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Falls short of the Kay gold standard 9 Sep 2010
Ysabel was a rather mixed experience as I consider Guy Gavriel Kay to be a very talented writer and evocative storyteller. The most enjoyable part of reading this book was the wonderful sense of place and history that it imparts. If you live or have travelled in Provence then the descriptions of sunlight and shadow, architecture and landscape reminds you what is so attractive, for many, about that part of the world. The underlying wealth of history, always a strong point in his novels, is here too - sometimes hinted at, sometime clearly written. Yet the novel never quite reached its full potential for me.

The two biggest drawbacks definitely are the characterization and dialogue. Ned Marriner, the initially reluctant hero, I think is fairly well-depicted as a teenager who is going through growing pains to find his place in the world. The internal struggles of dealing with a successful, and famous, photographer father and an absent but dedicated mother, who works as a doctor in some of the world's more troubled countries, is deftly done in the early parts of the book. However I did not find Ned a particularly engaging character. Perhaps due to his dialogue which largely appeared to be of either questioning others, making rather bad puns and jokes and learning how to flirt with girls. Because Ned is the focal point much of the action and dialogue refers to mobile phones, emails, texts and every day technology. All of which seems to jar against the story line - it reads as self-conscious and uncomfortable, as though the writer thought it had to be included but did so uneasily.

Most of the other characters surrounding Ned are not well-served in the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ysabel 27 July 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having read several books by Guy Gavriel Kay including the wonderful Fionavar Trilogy over a decade ago, I looked forward to reading Ysabel. I was not disappointed. The book engaged from page 1 and the teenage lead character did not put me off at all (he's just not the annoying sort of teenager). The story takes place in the here and now and the south of France is beautifully described and the plot zings along with interesting twists.( I have to own up to taking a while to working out who Aunt Kim and Uncle Dave were...I had a 'duh!' moment when I did! ) I read it twice in quick succession and couldn't put it down either time.I found it beautifully crafted and wanted to read more
If you have read any of Kay's other books you won't regret reading this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better Than I Thought it Would Be 20 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an odd book to write a review for. The number of people and reviews that refer to it as the weakest of Kay's books, or not as good as his other work was almost universal, so I went in not expecting anything stellar, although it needs to be said that even a bad Kay book is going to be better than the majority of other fantasy on the market.

Maybe it is because it took me so long to read it (over 2 months!)but I really enjoyed it, a lot, lot more than I thought I would have done.

The story is that of a young man working in the south of France with his father. But he is drawn into a conflict between two men; not just any men though but two men who have been born time and again over thousands of years, each time to fight one another for the love of an equally ancient woman.

The story is entwined with ancient history and Celtic mythology, a mystery that needs to be solved, and one that becomes more intense as a friend is drawn into it, apparently lost to the world.

In many ways it is very different to all of Kay's other work; most of that is based in fantasy world; worlds that have strong connotations to the real world, drawing on genuine historical situations and twisting them into a slightly different, warped image of what was.

This works in a different way, taking the real world and twisting it slightly, and that is what might make it the least popular of Kay's works.

However, maybe it is being force to linger on it that made me enjoy it more, or perhaps it was just something in the story that appalled to me, but I thought it was up there with the best of Kay.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars She is worth it, always and forever
Guy Gavriel Kay was born in Canada in 1954 and writes fantasy fiction. “The Summer Tree” – his debut novel and the first in his Fionavar Tapestry trilogy - was first published in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Craobh Rua
5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANT!!
Anyone who's read Kay's work before will guzzle this up - best since the Fionavar trilogy [and the intervening books have been GOOD] For anyone who'se not aware, G. Read more
Published 8 months ago by K. J. STEVENSON
1.0 out of 5 stars review of Ysabel
I read Tigana on the recommendation of a friend, and was mesmerised, so immediately bought 3 other Kay books, including this. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mungo
3.0 out of 5 stars Ysabel
I am a great fan of Guy Gavriel Kay, but I was a bit disappointed with the ending. Without giving it away it was a bit convenient and flat
Published 10 months ago by Anthony Wheelhouse
2.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, but bored me
Bought this on the recommendation of a friend (who doesn't usually like books with a supernatural element but who does enjoy science fiction, if that has any bearing on the issue). Read more
Published 17 months ago by Bronwen
3.0 out of 5 stars Not up to his very high standards
While I enjoyed this book, I did not think it was a patch on other GGK novels. It was started while on holiday then put down when I came home and I had to force myself to get back... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Harry McGonnell
1.0 out of 5 stars A real disappointment
I cannot belive that this is from the same author as 'Tigana' and 'Under Heaven'. Those books (and the others I have read .... Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2012 by Georgie
1.0 out of 5 stars Weaker unconvincing novel
I love novels like "Sailing to Sarrantium" or "The Lions of Al-Rashan". So when I heard that this novel had also won prizes, I really wanted to read it. Read more
Published on 30 Sep 2011 by P. Heesterbeek
5.0 out of 5 stars Supurb
I have been a fan of Guy Gavriel Kay's work for a long time, but was initially dubious about "Ysabel" as the blurb made it clear that it was set it present-day 'reality', a... Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2011 by Robert Horton
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy read and a good tale.
I have the kindle version and I noticed that there were a lot of paragraphs starting with a lower case. Read more
Published on 15 Feb 2011 by Keith
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