Thursday, June 02, 2011

Reader's Diary #719- Guy Gavriel Kay: Ysabel

Best known for the Fionavar Tapestry, perhaps I should have started my Guy Gavriel Kay experience there. As it was, Ysabel somehow made its way onto my shelf and after reading it, I will never read another of his books again, barring some Clockwork Orange head-vice torture.

I don't take good care of my books by the way. Dust covers are immediately sent to the garbage as soon as a book crosses the threshold and I'm a brutal dog-earer. Dog-earing is actually my way of coding the book so I can go back and review it later. A dog-ear at the top of the page indicates I really liked something, and a dog-ear at the bottom means I really did not. If, when it's time to review it, I can't find the awesome or offensive passage, it clearly was just a passing fancy and not worth a mention anyway.

This is the first time ever that I turned down no corners. And there were a LOT turned up.

Let's begin with the forced history lessons:
"Why Greeks?" Ned asked.

First thing he'd said over lunch. He wasn't even sure why he'd asked.

Oliver Lee smiled at him through pipe smoke. "It was the Greeks who founded Marseille, about 600 B.C. Called it Massilia..."

Bleah, blah, blah. Even Dan Brown worked in a history lesson smoother than this.

Then there's the problem with the whole "He wasn't even sure why he'd asked" thing. Ned, a Canadian teenager visiting France, has found himself part of some weird repeating history love-battle thing, oh and also that he has some weird supernatural powers. If it sounds like I don't have much of a grasp on the story, well neither did Kay. Ned gets intuitions that he just can't explain on every other page.

And the characters? Looks like Ned's going to have a love interest in a fellow tourist, a girl named Kate from New York, but soon after she's just tagging along, completely unnecessary to the plot, yet still there.

The plot! Good God, how could I forget that? If you know, please tell me. So freakin' silly. So annoyingly dumb! A member of Ned's father's work crew (he's there as a professional photographer) goes missing. Ned explains that she has been transformed into some ancient Celtic lady named Ysabel, and of course no one goes to the police. Of course, Ned's Doctors Without Borders mother comes back from Sudan only to have no real importance to the story either. And poor Kate, she's with this crazy family for a few days and her family doesn't seem to give a rat's...

Aggggh! This is so ridiculously bad. I had to force myself to finish. One of the worst books I've reviewed in 5 years of running this blog.

(There, feels good to finally get that off my chest.)


Barbara Bruederlin said...

It sounds brutal. I shall definitely walk quickly in the other direction if I see this one coming.

Unknown said...

I remember reading ... most of this book I think? It was back in the bookclub (Silverbirch or something like that) days of highschool. I agree - it was tedious. Possibly one of the worst books I've read/tried to read.

Meytal Radzinski said...

That's a really interesting way to dog-ear your books. That way, by scanning the tops of books, someone can probably generally recognize whether or not you thought a book was good or bad...

Jules said...

I also read this book, earlier this year. According to Guy Gavriel Kay fans I talked to at a book convention, this is his worst book ever. Two asked me why I choose to read it!

I also couldn't get into the book, the writing and the voice of the "teenager" made me cringe - it may not have been the worst book I ever read, but it was not the best.

Steph said...

Oh wow. Well, you and the other comments just helped me cull my tbr list. My boss loved this book, as have others in the store, so I felt it was something I really should read. Now, I'm pretty sure I won't.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: Well, if there's one thing I learned from the book. Actually, there wasn't.

Rachelia: And how did the others in the bookclub feel about it?

Biblibio: They could, you're right. They'd also figure that I've been banned from many libraries.

Jules: It's encouraging to know that even some of his fans don't like it. Maybe I won't need a Clockwork Orange device after all.

Steph: But your boss would certainly disagree with us, so you never know.

Lahni said...

Ok, I totally agree with you about this book but I was sent another one by Kay from the publisher and so felt I had to read it and I LOVED it. You really should give him a second chance. I just don't think he's cut out for YA. BTW the one I just read was Under Heaven and I couldn't put it down.

Buried In Print said...

Ridiculously bad? Hunh. I liked it well enough. I do remember thinking that parts of it felt a little old-fashioned, stylistically, the prose a bit nuts-and-bolts-ish at times. But I thought Kate's character was strong and I appreciated the way that her relationship with Ned did (and didn't) develop. Too bad you didn't enjoy it more.