Tuesday, 11 May 2010

FANTASY REVIEW: Ysabel - Guy Gavriel Kaye


Set in modern and ancient Provence, this exhilarating, moving novel casts brilliant light on the ways in which history -- whether of a culture or a family -- refuses to be buried. Ned Marriner, fifteen years old, has accompanied his photographer father to Provence for a six-week "shoot" of images for a glossy coffee-table book. Gradually, Ned discovers a very old story playing itself out in this modern world of iPods, cellphones, and seven-seater vans whipping along roads walked by Celtic tribes and the Roman Legions. On one holy, haunted night of the ancient year, when the borders between the living and the dead are down and fires are lit upon the hills, Ned, his family, and his friends, are shockingly drawn into this tale, as dangerous, mythic figures from conflicts of long ago erupt into the present, claiming and changing lives.


Upon first reading the book back to this tale I suspected something perhaps a little more like Timeline by Michael Crichton, that said however I was more than pleasantly surprised by the way that the tale unfolded. Although some people may say that this could have worked better as a short story the reader would have been cheated of the glorious landscape to which the author has clearly fallen in love with during extended research that clearly shows in the writing style used that paints the landscape in words that would have made even Cezanne weep.

What the reader gets out of this book, is a tale woven with ancient magic and a mystery that keeps them guessing right up to the end of the novel, with a surprise for the conclusion that I think few would even hazard a guess at. Wonderfully written, invocative and perhaps best of all a mystery that presents a landscape that the reader can't wait to explore. If only the photographic representation were possible, perhaps something the publisher could look into in much the same way that Transworld did with The Da Vinci Code. A cracking read by an author that continues to surprise with each new tale with a palette of not only fine colours but flavours and textures to the land to which he writes. The only other thing that this leaves me wondering is how much more magical this tale would be if read in Provance.

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