Friday, January 12, 2007

Ysabel

...by Guy Gavriel Kay.
Viking Canada.
ISBN-13: 978-0-670-0431-7.
Jacket illustration by Greg Banning.

A gift from my Tech-Child.
I gulped it down last evening.
I will have to read the book twice more to order my impressions.
At the moment I waver in a state of comme ci, comme ca.

Kay is an internationally known, best-selling author. He's won the Aurora twice.
I much admire him, yet - at first read - I am vaguely disappointed in this story.
Perhaps because I don't particularly care for contemporary YA and 15 year-old hero's "coming-of-age".
Perhaps because I can see the inclusion of at least one character - a self-described geeky female exchange student - as a clear device to conveniently provide necessary information.
Perhaps because the book isn't long enough.
I am afraid Kay has either been devoured by the minimalist monster or suffers from a dominant, goose-killing editor.
The rich tapestry of words is missing, and with it the connection with myth and magic.
I could accept that cold runic in The Last Light of the Sun, but not here, in spite of the demands for language commiserate with a young protagonist's POV, and I am left with the impression of a tale superficially told and scenes lacking in substance.
One of Kay's underlying philosophies is to explore the connection between myth and reality, magic and the mundane - the shadow that walks beside me.
A little too much time spent on ipods and cell phones and not nearly enough on the myths.
Granted, on my second read through, I may change my mind.

35 comments:

Carla said...

Is this one based on myth and/or history, and if so which ones? Is it time-travel?

Bernita said...

No time travel, Carla.
The story is set in the vicinities of Aix-en-Province, "where the borders between the living and the dead are most vulnerable."
A love triangle set up at the time of first Greco-Roman contact with the resident Celts is re-played,re-incarnation after re-incarnation, until a descendant, the young protagonist resolves the tragedy.
Except for the central myth, I believe the general historical facts are researched and real.

Jaye Wells said...

I was shocked when you said that was a YA novel. The cover is beautiful, but doesn't scream YA to me.

Bernita said...

Neither does the story, exactly, Jaye, in spite of the age of the central character - yet it could fairly be called so.

Thomma Lyn said...

Hi, bernita -- just wanted to say I discovered your blog this morning, and I'm enjoying it a great deal. You've got a new reader here! :)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Thomma. I am delighted to see you.

Steve G said...

A YA novel. Never read one, unless it was when I was a youth a long time ago. Don't know if they had them back then. It would have to be a gift for me to take a gander. At the moment I'm reading Treasure of Khan. Cussler's new novel that's joint effort with his son, Dirk. Not pushing me forward as much as I would like, but a decent read.

Bernita said...

"Don't know if they had them back then"

They did, Steve - they just didn't always label them as such.
But I can see ALL the "Anne" books tucked entirely away in the juvenile fiction section, if they were marketed today.

That's a nice title, btw.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'll bear your review in mind when I look at this one. I have loved Kay sine the Fionavar Tapestry, but haven't found his following books to be as good.

Bernita said...

My favourite of those that follow, Written, is " A Song for Arbonne."
You will be pleased to know then, that Kim and Dave from "The Finoavar Tapestry" are characters within this novel and the protagonist is their nephew.
I would have preferred they have a larger role than they do.

Anonymous said...

Like jaye, I think the cover is beautiful. However, this blog is about as close as I'll get to the book.

Bernita said...

Fantasy elements aren't for everyone, I know, Anon.
However, here I am comparing Kay to Kay and through the focus of my own taste.
He writes VERY well.

spyscribbler said...

I'm curious ... if you're disappointed, why read it 2 more times? What's calling you back?

writtenwyrdd said...

Kim and DAve are in a Song For Arbonne? I'd better reread it. I missed that, although I thought the world was probably the same.

Bernita said...

I tend to gallop through a book on first go, Spy, to get the story arc.
I need to read it again to separate what are simply my preferences and to correct any hasty impressions.
And the third time is to think and enjoy the elusive - because, like Kay,as pragmatic-feet-on-the-ground as I am, I suspect/yearn for the reality of myth and magic.
And I want to absorb how he twitches the veil.

Bernita said...

No, no, Written, in Ysabel.

raine said...

I'm not into YA, but you make him sound very interesting. I may have to check him out...
Something very pagan about that cover too. :-)

Rick said...

Reading the post the first time I didn't catch the author's name!

I'll give it a pass, since I have no interest in i-pods or cellphones; I much prefer Kay's parallel-history worlds.

Also, I wonder if Kay had trouble adapting his usual rich style to the requirements of YA, where the the story is usually supposed to move along pretty quickly.

A young protagonist does not always a YA make. YA fantasy author Tamora Pierce was one of my beta readers; her first thought was YA due to Catherine's age, but once she read the ms she ruled that out.

Robyn said...

'A coming of age story.' A question- what constitutes her coming of age? It's been my experience that stories of boys becoming men can feature sex but is most often about honor and keeping one's word in difficult circumstances. Most of the girl tales seem to be about losing her virginity. That always bugged the fire out of me. Losing one's innocence doesn't necessarily have anything to do with sex.

Which leads to all those woman finds her 'fulfillment' only through cheating on her mundane husband with a young hottie who makes her One With the Cosmos regularly. But that's another rant.

Bernita said...

This is the first book of Kay's I would call YA, Raine.
Think the cover is meant to be, considering...

I can answer the question about pace better after I re-read it, Rick.
Some passages that might resonate to a younger reader I might find tedious.
Still, I think this is deliberately YA.

Bernita said...

The protagonist is not a "her," Robyn, in spite of the title.

While there are intimations of sexuality, there is no sex in "Ysabel."
The puting away of childish things is deeper than that.

writtenwyrdd said...

Jeez, I need more coffee this morning. Thanks for the clarification!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

"The rich tapestry of words is missing"...I can now see where the book I'm presently reading, belongs.

You love that rich tapestry....LOL...to me it is laborous...I've been whining...like...geez, get on with the action

anna said...

He or at least his publishers should receive A+ for the cover
and title. As for rereading to find hidden treasures the only problem with this is the only books I ever want to reread are already brimming with treasures.

Bernita said...

And I'm thinking... like geez...where did this either/or - all or nothing - attitude come from?

Think that word pictures and action are not incompatible, Bonnie - cause I've seen Kay do both at the same time.

Bernita said...

Kay always has treasures, Anna.

Rick said...

Bernita - my earlier post was maybe a touch misleading. I'm sure the book is intended as YA; what I wonder is whether attempting to adapt to YA requirements undermined Kay's usually rich prose style.

Bernita said...

I wonder about that, Rick.
I don't know.
It may be an evolution, deliberately chosen.
But last night I felt I was looking at black and white photographs.

Candice Gilmer said...

I find it interesting that fast paced is more considered YA market, I was not aware, since I write with a fast pace in my tempo anyway.

(Rick said that, I do believe)

Maybe I'm in the wrong market. :) lol... ;)

Gabriele C. said...

I think I'll give that one a pass. Gate stories between this world and a Fantasy realm aren't my thing. Much as I love Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy I could never get into Otherland, fe. Give me the Fantasy world undiluted. :)

Bernita said...

There is a perception that YA needs to be fast paced, Candice. Competing distractions, I suppose.
I doubt that Rick meant fast pace was exclusive to YA.

It's not so much a fantasy world, Gabriele.
Rather, Kay explores the concept of the past intruding physically unto the present to demand an ending.
I think you might like it.

spyscribbler said...

"And I want to absorb how he twitches the veil."

Geezuz, Bernita. Sometimes you're so darn good with words it kills me. I hope you're using that voice in your writing. And it better sell, soon, because I want to read it!

Bernita said...

Spy, I thought that sentence sucked - but thank you.

Zoe Winters said...

hey, i saw you post on Miss Snark's blog. The writing world is a very small one. :)

Bernita said...

Nice to see you, Zoe!