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3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  5,965 ratings  ·  598 reviews
Guy Kay’s first contemporary fantasy is a tour de force—and his bestselling novel ever. Fifteen-year-old Ned Marriner accompanies his photographer father to Provence,where he is shooting images for a glossy coffee-table book. As Ned strolls along roads walked by Celtic tribes and Roman legions, he discovers a very old story playing itself out in this modern world of iPods...more
Paperback, 672 pages
Published October 18th 2007 by Penguin Canada (APB) (first published January 9th 2007)
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Mar 18, 2008 John rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those without access to internet porn.
I'm not sure wtf is going on w/ Kay. He's always had William Shatner-esque tendencies towards the overly dramatic statement. (KHAN!!!) I find it annoying but bearable if the plot and characterization are decent (See his Fionavar Tapestry trilogy for example). Here he introduces a 2nd element that’s equally annoying: wrap the basic story in a wet blanket of obtuse statements. Much of the book is devoted to the characters either thinking or expounding on the fact that they don’t know anything. Fin...more
I can see both sides of the debate people seem to be having about this book. Yes, it's not as rich and deep as his other work. Yes, sometimes it felt like you were trapped in the shallow end of a swimming pool, when you know that, if you could just get there, there's a dazzling, deep lagoon just beyond your reach. If you're familiar with Kay's work, this could be frustrating. But I think it's also clear that Kay wrote this story for his sons. As such, I'm grateful he shared it with us.

It was wo...more
Warning : I am not going to mark it as containing spoilers, because I think all examples I give are vague and do not give away plot points. But they are probably spoilerish about specific details, so if you are very careful about spoilers, better avoid this till you have read it. Though my advice really is: don´t read it.

Back to the book, I should have known better. But in a way I am sort of glad to have read it, despite thinking it is really a quite bad book. There is a spoilerish link to anoth...more
A bit of warning: Guy Gavriel Kay is only my most favorite author in the entire world. Given how many different authors I admire and follow, that's a pretty big honor for me to bestow. His novels evoke a certain range of emotions that no other author has ever been able to achieve, and without a doubt makes it impossible for me to honestly critique any of his books' weaknesses. Ysabel is no different, and if you take one thing from this review, it's that you should read it. Now.

Kay has mostly wri...more
Not at all representative of the general quality of the author's work. If this is your first read with Kay, I understand your rejection, but please try ANYTHING else and give him another chance. This is Evil Twin Imposter Kay, not real Kay, I promise!
My friend Jen once in a while posts a list of words that probably don't exist in German, but should. Here's one: a book that makes you really really happy even though you're making a long list of its flaws as you read it.

A young adult story about two teenagers in the south of France stumbling into an ancient love triangle. Full of old cathedrals, and verbal photographs of the countryside, and family tensions and people coming through for each other.

Let's just preface every point I'm about to mak...more
Reread in February 2010.

Since I first read Ysabel, I discovered all the rest of Guy Gavriel Kay's work and found that, really, Ysabel wasn't anything like the best he could do. I wouldn't say, now, that I loved Ysabel -- I loved the Fionavar trilogy, I loved Tigana, but I only liked Ysabel. The details I mentioned liking in my first review hold true, except that now I wish there was more of everything. The Darkest Road fits an amazing amount of things in 450 pages, enough to make me cry every ti...more
This book is compelling - and it's a YA book, by the way; I don't care what the publisher says - with characters I liked, an unusual approach to the usual YA book Parental Dilemma (for once, the YA tells his parents about his problems; that hardly ever happens), and a plot that I enjoyed. It was a fast, fun read.

And then the ending kind of - um. I'm not exactly sure how, but in the last fifty pages or so, this went from being a four-star book to a three-star book for me; the ending felt simulta...more
Tracey, librarian on strike
Ysabel is the story of a fifteen-year-old Canadian boy who is traveling with his photographer father in Provence, and who trips over a Story, getting pulled into something that has been recurring for 2500 years. Then his father’s assistant is pulled in even further, and the only ones who can get her back are Ned (the boy) and his family.

It read strangely like a boys’ adventure story. Since it’s GGK, it’s an exquisitely written boys’ adventure story, but … it’s almost entirely from Ned’s point of...more
This won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel just a few weeks ago, and since I've liked other stuff Kay has written, I decided to try this as well. I was very impressed. The characters are strong and believable. The situation was contemporary, but also very magical, and the way the characters interacted with the situation and each other was compelling. The resolution was very satisfying and I loved the way it worked. There was a price paid, but it was the right price, and it was very poignant...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Ned and his photographer father are in Provence to shoot a book when Ned sees something he shouldn't be able to see and gets involved in an ancient story he shouldn't have any ties to. But when a member of his father's staff is drawn into the story because of Ned, he's going to do whatever it takes to get her back. I loved the juxtoposition of present and past. More importantly, I liked Ned a lot. He was a teenager caught between childhood and manhood and he knows...more
This was an incredibly evocative novel. I mean that it really gives you a feel for where it is set and makes you want to visit there. This book is a Celtic/Modern Day ghost story set in Aix En Provence, France. The author has obviously spent a lot of time there, not only figuring out where things are and the history, but the feel of the place, how the sunlight makes the castles look in the morning and again at sunset.
I was struck by the amount of history contained in certain regions of Europe. I...more
Guy Gavriel Kay has gotten somewhat away from writing long, complex, interwoven stories and started writing shorter, quicker reading ones. The work suffers a bit simply because Kay is so good at what he does that the books are finished all too soon, you end up wishing there was more there to be had. But because they're that good, you're still really happy you read them.

This is a beautiful fantasy set in the modern day. Most of those come off as pretty hackneyed but Kay makes it work. His beauti...more
Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay.
One thing is, if you like Kay as much is i do/did, stay away from this.
It's a bit like a Dan Brown, with investigation in churches and acheological places in France, or Perez Reverte at best. But not the author of the lions of al Rassan and Tigana, i feel cheated, like coming home and finding my wife in bed with a rugby team. One can't come back from that and be innocent again.
I'm disapointed with you Guy.
The narrator is a teenager and the novel, from start to finish, i...more
When fifteen-year-old Ned Marriner accompanies his famous photographer father to a town in the south of France, he expects some time off from school and a nice vacation. He doesn’t expect to meet Kate Wenger, an American exchange student who he likes instantly. And they don’t expect to meet a man with a knife, who tells them that they have stumbled into a very old story, and they should remove themselves from it if they know what’s good for them.

And so Ned and his family and friends find themsel...more

I just can't finish this book. It started out decently, but about 130 or so pages in it just tanked. The lame "pop culture" references to music and a plethora of trademarked products (iPod, iTunes, Coke) and an attempt to include technology (like the use of "jpegs" a hundred times--nobody I know ever says, "I'm going to send you some jpegs"), come across as either product placement or a lame attempt to be "hip" and play to a younger audience. While the original premise was interesting, once it w...more
Slightly underwhelming fantasy in which a teenage boy on holiday in France gets mixed up in a 2600 year old love triangle.

Two characters from the Fionavar Tapestry show up in this one (which was a trilogy I adored), but remain on the periphery. This, I felt, was a bit of a mistake as having these characters included, along with the allusions made to the events in the Tapestry, only served to highlight that this book just wasn't up to the same standard.

It felt like it was trying to be quite epic,...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3.75* of five
Since there are no 3/4 stars, I've had to round this up to 4. I liked the book very much, and I found reading it very easy. I like the PoV character, Ned, and found his development from adolescent smartass to postadolescent smart youth involving.

Apparently this book winds up a series of books about its semi-immortal characters, doomed to replay and replay their ancient passionate triangle through millennia of time. The accidental instrusion of Ned, his aunt, his uncle-by-mar...more
Bending The Bookshelf
Growing up as a fantasy fan in Canada, Guy Gavriel Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry was almost required reading. Fortunately, it's also one of my all-time favorite fantasy sagas, so the requirement was more of an invitation. If you've never given it a read, I urge you to go out and grab yourself a copy as soon as possible.

Anyway, I drifted away from Kay for a while, and then made the mistake of drifting back with Sailing to Sarantium. Not that there's anything wrong with that book - it's actually qui...more
it seemed, at first, as if prayers had been answered. my immediate thought, that this novel would more closely resemble the motifs of fionavar, seemed vindicated. ned, the 15-year-old protagonist, was interesting enough (although i felt that GGK was a bit too glib with his time-dated references to googling and ipods and coldplay), and in classical fashion the reader is drawn immediately into the story (again, more in the way of fionavar than in the style of his “historical” novels. that is to sa...more
Ysabel is an amazing story that, in typical G.G.Kay style, blends the past and the present - and does it beautifully. Reading Kay's prose is such a treat - it's so beautiful and effortless, and the plot is fascinating and original. I always feel that his characters are living, breathing human beings. I didn't have quite the visceral reaction to the ending of Ysabel, that I did with Lord of Emperors (I sat on the bathroom floor and cried for hours, but maybe I shouldn't include this personal stor...more
I was disappointed and frustrated by this book. I usually really enjoy this author. His other books take place in Medieval settings. This one took place in the present, with echoes of a story from the past. The problem was that he put a lot of energy into describing the present. He mostly did it by endlessly describing minutia of present day life and describes in great detail how the character downloaded songs from the internet, and then put his running clothes on, grabbed his i-pod and couple o...more
This feels to me to be a more realistic "harry potter". IF there were magic in the world hidden from most people, I feel more it would take the form of this than a society which so isolates itself it doesn't even know how "muggles" live. Another way it parted from the cliche is that our main character has a fairly good family and it naturally becomes a family affair to help in the quest of this book. The boy experiences a true coming of age through the experiences of the book and we come to appr...more

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite authors and I ended up loving this book. It was poignant and Kay's favorite themes of love, sacrifice, and loss resonate in this contemporary fantasy.

I will say that it took me awhile to get into this book; I think I was a little put off by the main protagonist, Ned, who is a teenager. But the supporting cast is superb and both Ned and Kate felt like real teens, even in the unusual circumstances in which they found themselves.

Not all questions are answer...more
Jeremiah Genest
Well Kay continues to not be an author I can take from my youth. He fails with choosing a 15 year old protagonist. The plot is basic and he never sells me that the south of France is important. Add to it an unnecessary appearance of two of the main characters from Fionavar (and tying up a loose end from that series) that comes across as fan fiction and I'm left wondering why I bothered to read this.

It might have made a good short story.
I very much liked this book. Being a fan of Kay's from way back, i was unsure what to expect...and was nicely surprised. Celts and Romans merging the past with the present...characters that were simple yet likeable. Not one of Kay's more intense and involved books...but i think it's the simplicity of the story, wrapped up with history and the geography of Provence, that made it hard to put down.
This book had a great premise, but turned out to be pointless. I couldn’t connect with the characters nor could I feel much sense of impending doom. It was hard to care about Melanie being “lost” when she was merely a ‘cute’ hyper-organized assistant. I don’t know where GGK was headed with this book – was it supposed to be a YA romance? Historical fiction? Family issues evoked and resolved? It’s as if he tried to do all of those without really accomplishing anything.

It also appeared to me he wa...more
Ysabel is what Harry Potter could have--maybe should have been. Deeper, more believable. Rooted in history and mythology.

Ned is at once more believe than HP and yet still a little too good to be true.
R. C.
The author sets up a stark contrast that seems to be easy to read as a message of "Modernism rules!"

The characters he creates to stumble into the fantastical are teenagers who have iTunes allowances. Their "googling" skills advance the plot. (He used it so much, I wondered if the author was paid by Google to include the term.) By five pages into the book, I hated the protagonist and was uncomfortably aware that I was supposed to like him. He had every normal teenage feature meant by the author...more
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Beyond Reality: YSABEL: Finished Reading (*SPOILERS*) 33 43 Jan 23, 2014 05:33PM  
ELEVEN READERS CL...: Ysabel-Critical Assesment 1 11 Jun 07, 2012 05:36PM  
ELEVEN READERS CL...: Ysabel Update 5 (pages 405-506) 1 6 Apr 06, 2012 09:01PM  
ELEVEN READERS CL...: Ysabel Update 4 (pages 303-405) 1 3 Apr 06, 2012 07:57PM  
ELEVEN READERS CL...: Ysabel Update 3 (pages 204-303) 1 4 Apr 05, 2012 06:10PM  
ELEVEN READERS CL...: Ysabel Update 2 (pages 105-203) 1 2 Mar 31, 2012 03:02PM  
ELEVEN READERS CL...: Rationale 1 8 Mar 08, 2012 05:27PM  
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Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical periods, such as Constantinople during the reign of Justinian I or Spain during the time of El Cid. Those works are published and marketed as historical fantasy, though the author himself has expressed a preference to shy away from genre categoriz...more
More about Guy Gavriel Kay...
Tigana The Summer Tree (The Fionavar Tapestry, #1) The Lions of Al-Rassan The Darkest Road (The Fionavar Tapestry, #3) The Wandering Fire (The Fionavar Tapestry, #2)

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