Name of Book: Ysabel
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Illustrator : Larry Rostant (cover art)
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Audience: Adolescents – Adults
Summary: Fifteen year old Canadian, Ned Marriner, “blunders into a corner of a very old story” of Celtic and Roman histories and mythologies. In an ancient place, where the borders between the living and the long-dead are thin, Ned and his family are drawn into a haunted tale, as mythic figures from conflicts of long ago erupt into the present, changing – and claiming – lives.
Literary elements at work in the story: A contemporary fantasy novel set in Aix-en-Provence, France. A large cast of protagonists (Ned, his new friend Kate, Ned’s parents, Ned’s aunt and uncle, and his father’s three assistants) are consistently believable. Kay continues his writing style of laying a fantasy science fiction story over a real historic period.…this time the story of the Roman usurpation of Celtic lands from 2,500 years ago in what would become France.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability: This is an intriguing tale of different cultures separated by thousands of years. One, the culture of a contemporary teenage Canadian boy traveling with his dad on assignment to the south of France juxtaposed against the superstitious world of Celts and Romans from a time before the birth of Christ. Lots of “good guys”; male, female, young, old.
Theology: This book can be used to help adolescents understand the concept of salvation by grace in discussing such topics as undeserved gifts and right relationships. It also shows people – young and old – answering the call to love, help and forgive one another.
Further, a connection can be made between this story and the Bible…an ancient writing with characters of long ago that “erupt” into the present, changing – and claiming – lives in a way that is unique to our faith. This could perhaps be a very interesting topic of conversation with young adults.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What gift did Ned discover that he had in this story? What unexpected gifts have you discovered in yourself? How can you use these gifts to glorify God?
- Why were Ned’s mother and aunt in conflict during the story? How was their broken relationship mended? Have you ever experienced a serious disagreement with someone you cared for? What happened to resolve the situation?
- Why did Ned get involved even though he was warned to say out of it for his own safety’s sake? In what ways do you see the characters in this story learning to rely on and trust one another?
- In the final scene with Ysabel, Ned is given another gift…that of understanding his role in the age-old story. Do you think he earned this gift or was it sheer grace that allowed him this resolution? Are there times in your life when you received an undeserved gift? How do you think God was involved in that?
Review prepared by Kelly Hames, MACE, Entering Cohort Fall 2008.
Ysabel by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.