Ysabel was something of a surprise. I’m not really quite sure what I was expecting - perhaps more along the lines of Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth, I suppose - but what we get is good Young Adult fantasy. I'm not sure if that was the intended audience, but it's certainly suitable.
However both Ned and Kate, his new friend, are more than a little taken aback when a man appears in the Cathedral, someone who both feels rather threatening and out-of-place. Or perhaps out-of-time. And although he tells them to stay out of his affairs, that seems easier said than done, since Ned feels a strong connection to the mysterious stranger. It begins to look as if an ancient story - and an ancient enmity - is being played out, as it has been several times in the past, and Ned and Kate are caught up in it, as, unwittingly, are other members of his father's team. Before long, someone disappears and will be lost forever, unless the others can find them.
The first century BC history is handled with a gentle touch, enough detail to keep the story flowing but not to overload the reader. There's humour in the writing, as well as perceptiveness about relationships between teenagers and their families. The plot may remind some of The Owl Service, with its perhaps endless playing out of myth, but the feel is very different - Kay has none of Garner's grit. It's also lighter than Kay's own earlier work, and although a character from the Fionavar Tapestry makes an appearance, so that we know we are in a myth-cycle linked to that earlier trilogy, this is a standalone work.
I waited for months for the library to find a copy - it was only when I queried directly that they admitted it might have been lost, and ordered a new one that it finally turned up. Was it worth the wait? On balance, I think yes. I am counting Ysabel towards the Fourth Canadian Book Challenge and RIPV.