Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

Ysabel cover“Ned wasn’t impressed” – So begins the novel Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Bored Canadian teen, Ned Marriner, wanders around Aix-en-Provence listening to his iPod, and spending time with Kate, the nerdy and cute American girl he meets on his first visit to Saint – Saveur Cathedral. He also uncovers secrets about himself, his family, the ancient statue in the cathedral garden, and the time-traveler hiding in the baptistery.

Ned’s emerging abilities set him on an adventure through Provence into a centuries old love triangle. On top all that, Ned is also negotiating the uncertainties of relationships, independence, and avoiding the creatures that seem to be stalking him. He also learns what risks he is willing to take for the people he cares about.

From that first line you might think that Ned is a stereotypical teen character, but he isn’t. The tension in the story is brought on by events that are tied to Ned’s strange new abilities, which bring about very real dangers when someone significant in Ned’s life becomes entangled in an ancient myth.

Ysabel brings history and mythical characters to life, it exposes the bloody truths behind this often romanticized region of France, and takes you on an adventure that is quite difficult to put down.

Ysabel would appeal to readers aged 13 and up who are fond of fantasy with strong historical roots, though Kay fans might find the modern setting less enthralling than the rich detail of his previous novels.

You may also want to read the December 2006 review from Quill & Quire, or this detailed and illuminating review from Strange Horizons, which contrasts two readers’ perspectives.

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