Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay
Toronto: Viking Canada
ISBN 10 0-670-04321-4
ISBN 13 978-0-670-04321-7
Ned Marriner is a fifteen year old boy spending his summer in Provence while his father, a famous photographer, is taking pictures for a coffee table book. While his father is taking pictures of the cathedral in Aix, Ned meets Kate Wenger, and American teenager studying in Aix. Together, they discover a hidden crypt and meet a mysterious and dangerous stranger who will awaken, unbeknownst to Ned, strange powers in the boy.
After this encounter, Ned becomes embroiled in a two thousand, six hundred year old story that features Celts, Gauls, and the deadly choice a woman, Ysabel, made then.
Ysabel is a disappointing book that is more a history and geography lesson than a story. After the the grandiose epic of the Sarantine Mosaic, this book is shallow and light of story. It became obvious, early in the book, that Kay spent some time in Provence and decided he was going to write a story in that setting, which, again, is what dominates the book. His choice of protagonist –a teenage boy– was also surprising, and made it difficult to relate. The ending is also disappointing, and almost a clichÃ©.
All in all, Guy Gavriel Kay just doesn’t do modern well.