Friday Review: Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this historical fantasy, Kay once again takes us on a journey through time. Fifteen-year-old Ned Marriner is in Aix-au-Provence with his celebrated photographer father. Edward Marriner is photographing local places for an upcoming book. While his father and his assistant, Melanie, are working on shooting the exterior of a cathedral in Aix, Ned decides to explore the interior of the old church. There, he meets an American exchange student and they both encounter a stranger who warns Ned to stay away from what is going on. Ned, of course, doesn’t listen and discovers a skull and bust of the stranger in an underground grotto, as well as a mysterious carving of a woman on a pillar where someone has left a rose. Ned begins to find himself drawn into a centuries-old love story as well as discovering the magical heritage of his own family. When Melanie is pulled into the story as the personification of the woman Ysabel, and there is reason to believe she may never be recovered, Ned and his friends and family determine to find a way to bring her back, even if it means going up against two powerful rivals.

I have seen reviews that say this is not one of Kay’s best works. I don’t agree. I found it, like everything else I have read by this author, to be enchanting. His stories pull me in and surround me. The detail of the area around Aix (Kay lived there for a time) is meticulous, but doesn’t get in the way of the story. The fantasy elements are woven into Ned’s story well. The story of the centuries old battle between the Roman Phelan and the Celt Cadell over Ysabel is tragic yet fascinating. Ned’s coming to terms with his family heritage of magical ability and rediscovering his estranged Aunt Kim and her husband unfolds with all the alternating bluster and confusion that a fifteen-year-old might feel. The ending is perhaps a little predictable, but a happy ending is never a bad thing, no matter how much you’ve seen it coming.

All in all, I enjoyed this book as I have all of Kay’s works that I have read. Anyone who enjoys historical fantasy wrapped in a modern setting will probably like it, as well.

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I have a new story up here on the site. “Leaving Well Enough Alone” is set in the world of my urban fantasy series, The Yo-Yo Files. It is set in the town in Massachusetts where I live, and involves an old inn, a ghost, and a local urban legend. It’s free to read here on my site.

Want something new to add to your 2021 reading lists? Might I suggest one of my books? I have written science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy stories. There are novels, novellas, and shorter pieces to fit everyone’s reading time. There are even some free stories, both here on the site and in other places. You can go here to find out more about the books I have published. They are available on Amazon, Smashwords, and most ebook retailers. Thank You!