Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

4 02 2009

americaysabel_sEarlier this year, I read The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett and in it was one of the best quotes about reading I’ve ever come across:  “‘Can there be any greater pleasure,’ she confided in her neighbour, the Canadian minister for overseas trade, ‘than to come across an author one enjoys and then to find they have not written one book or two, but at least a dozen.'” I’ve had this feeling, this great pleasure, many times – and most recently with Guy Gavriel Kay.  I’ve mentioned his novel, Tigana before, it was the first novel of his I read this past fall – and I loved it.  It was long and engrossing and rich, the characters were well developed and interesting, the plot was complicated without being convoluted, the story was sweeping and grand without losing detail.  I was head over heels butt crazy in love.  And Mr. Kay has written almost a dozen books.  *Swoon*

Ysabel is the second book of Kay’s I’ve read, and I am even more impressed with him than I was before.  Ysabel is a completely different story than Tigana, set in France, in the present day.  This book is less than half the length of Tigana, but no less detailed and developed.  When I started reading, I’ll admit I was skeptical, a fifteen year old boy isn’t necessarily the most sympathetic or engrossing character (especially one who likes Coldplay), but I quickly grew to care for Ned.  There are still fantasy elements – from the book jacket: In this ancient place, where the borders between the living and the long-dead are thin, Ned and his family are about to be drawn into a haunted tale, as mythic figures from conflicts of long ago erupt into the present, changing – and claiming – lives – but the story is more about Ned growing up and discovering who he is during insane circumstances.  The basic plot itself isn’t revolutionary, in some ways it reminded me of the Diana Gabaldon books, with history and fantasy all rolling together, but Kay excels at tempo, unfurling the story deliberately, keeping the reader constantly wanting more.  I was torn between wanting to finish the story and not wanting the book to end – always a good sign in my opinion.

I’m sure there will be plenty of people who don’t like this book – if for no other reason than it has a fantasy sticker on the spine at the library.  I would recommend trying it out despite that – you may find out you like fantasy when it’s as well done as this.  Now I’m off to decide which GGK book I’m going to read next.

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