Prior commitments prevented me from reading this novel as soon as I would have wanted to. And now that I've finally read it, I wish I could have done so earlier. Typical of Kay, Ysabel stands head and shoulders above most fantasy books out there. Some might disagree, but Guy Gavriel Kay is likely the only writer who has yet to disappoint me. Every time this author releases a novel, I always know that I'm about to plunge into a superior tale. And Ysabel is no exception!

This one takes place in a contemporary setting, namely in and around Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. Kay was living in the area while researching and writing Ysabel, and his firsthand experience ensures an authentic feel throughout the novel. Not surprisingly, the narrative is evocative and the resulting imagery leaps through every page.

Kay took on quite a challenge when he made a teenager the story's main protagonist. Indeed, very few authors succeed at developing believable and genuine teenage characters. Two that immediately come to mind are Robin Hobb and George R. R. Martin. Well, I think that Kay did a splendid job with Ned Marriner, capturing how awkward those years tend to be for young men.

Guy Gavriel Kay is perhaps best known for his thoughful insight into human nature. His characterizations rank among the very best in the genre, and he can somehow convey layers of emotions that few writing today can match. In Ysabel, Kay demonstrates how skilled he is at developing a cast of disparate characters. Understandably, the relationships between the Marriner family members take center stage. And yet, several secondary characters provide depth to a work that already resounds with it.

The author always does his homework, which is evident once again in Ysabel. The pace and the dialogues are perfect. The storylines are convoluted enough to keep you turning those pages well past your bedtime a few nights running!

As a Montrealer myself, I got quite a kick out of all those Montreal references (the Marriner family hails from MTL). I have to admit that it's kind of neat to have a Canadian as the main character of Ysabel. In addition, the narrative brought me back in time, back to when I first visited Provence. For the record, my first experience in Aix was nowhere near as traumatic as Ned's. The highlight for me, if I remember correctly (keep in mind I was part of a Contiki tour) was finding a working ATM!

Although universally acclaimed, or so it seems, at times it feels as though Guy Gavriel Kay remains the most underappreciated fantasy author in the world today. If you haven't had the pleasure already, do yourself a favor and read Kay's brilliant works in which history and fantasy come together and create something only a Kay novel can deliver! Believe me when I say you'll be glad you did!

Ysabel is without the shadow of a doubt one of the books to read in 2007. Be sure to check out the novel's website: www.ysabel.ca

The final verdict: 8.5/10

For more info about this novel: Canada, USA, Europe

3 commentaires:

Meljprincess said...

I can't wait to read Ysabel. I also read about it in my Romantic Times Book Reviews magazine. GGK has an excellent site! Wow...

Anonymous said...

Foul! The number tells me one thing, but the text of the review is practically screaming out something else altogether. Come on, Pat. You can't write a review that praises every aspect of the novel, tell us that Ysabel is "without a shadow of a doubt one of the books to read in 2007," and then go 8.5/10. If it's not a 10, then it's not a 10 ... but you have to say something in the review that indicates why you feel that way. I'm pretty sure that's The Law, even in Canada. :-) (Maybe I'm just more sensitive to this since I write film reviews for a living.) I mean, my best guess is that you've bumped it down based on a subconscious (or conscious) "degree of difficulty" bias. "This thing didn't wow me with Malazan- or Wheel of Time-level complexity, so it can't be THAT great," or something along those lines. So ... what is it? What's not to like?

Love GGK's work, incidentally. I've bought everything since The Lions of Al-Rassan in hardcover as soon as it was available and I often give Tigana as a gift. GGK is one of those authors I trust completely.

Patrick said...

ggk freak: I guess your name says it all!!!;-)

If you have been reading my reviews for a while, you know that I break them down into categories like worldbuilding, characterization, storylines, depth, etc.

While an author may score big in one, he or she may not score as high in another. And then, I have to consider the overall quality of the work and compare it to other novels.

For me to give YSABEL a 10 would mean that I found it as mind-blowing as, let's say, Steven Erikson's MEMORIES OF ICE. Well, as good as YSABEL is (and it's a wonderful book), it's not MoI's equal. If you check what got a 9/10 in the recent past, I gave such a mark to books like VELLUM and RIVER OF GODS, which were excellent on several levels.

Now, YSABEL is great, but in my opinion these two aforementioned books were more ambitious.

Heck, 8.5/10 is a pretty impressive "score" coming from me! Kay remains one of my all-time favorite authors, and YSABEL firmly maintained his position among that group of writers!:-)