Smoke me a kipper; I'll be back for breakfast.
First off - Simon Vance is amazing and he improves anything he sets his voice to. I listened to this book as part of a book club. There were many people that almost gave up or gave up on this book. The book starts very slowly so just be aware that it takes a few hours to get going.
The author was the man that helped Tolkien's son put together Silmarillion so you get the idea on his style. Many compare him to GRR Martin, which is pretty accurate. But at least Martin is enriching a world for a huge series. The author spends a lot of time on ambiance and loves to introduce characters wherever and give you various tidbits on the world even into the almost end of the book. It's just really strange pacing is what I'm getting at.
The good is that it's a decent fantasy story that explores, predominantly, what would happen if a magician was able to wipe out a culture by taking away its name. It also deals with a prince's long journey to bring down the two new leaders after the fall of said culture.
So the pluses are - standard fantasy with pretty prose & solid and believable ending.
Minuses- Too many characters using first person narrative, not enough action, didn't care about barely any of the characters.
Characters were typical fantasy characters: innocent boy, ousted prince, wizard, nubile young woman, random fighters, character drafted against his will becoming a hero for the cause.. and a host of other similar, formulaic cast members. Every man is a hero, every woman is a mix between innocent and incredibly beautiful (and willing.. for the right cause). There were some plot twists here, but never anything earth shattering or that interesting. And in multiple cases, I found myself thinking the people actually did something so OUT of character that the 'teachable moment' was unbelievable and mildly annoying.
Too much of the character development hinges on backstory. There are unnecessary subplots that take up room in this book that could have been better used to really develop the story. The sometimes weird sex scenes didn't help either: they fluctuated from useless and violating to just plain violating. The only one that seemed important to the plot was incestuous. How's that for weird?
I did love the story between Brandin and Dianora, but considering she was a slave... in hindsight I'm not sure what to make of it either. Definitely not an attempt here for truly strong female characters (all end up in (what passes for) every woman's fantasy, and all are celebrated for annoyingly mild acts of courage. Cutting off her hair gets tears and sympathetic looks, while cutting off his fingers gets advice and something like, "get back out there, soldier!")
It earns three stars for good vocabulary use, and being generally ok. The premise was very interesting, and the storytelling rich enough to keep me listening. Not really worth my credit, though.
Yes, and the narrator did an excellent job here, as usual.
Oh please no. Just.. no.
Wish I'd skipped the author commentary at the end. The book is so-so on it's own merit (interesting story, but nothing else) but the author's attempts to explain the greater themes- which failed completely here- just irritated me. If I was rating this book by what I was SUPPOSED to get out of it, I would give it 1 star. He does explain, in a way, why this book failed so completely: he had a grand plan for discussion of social issues, and then tried to build it into a story. That could have worked with a different author. Instead, it was a case of, "Jack of all trades, master of none."
Tigana was a very interesting listen, well written and narrated, worth the time one invests as the characters are genuinely engaging and deserving of empathy. A tale of a band of conspirators seeking freedom for a land split between two conquering sorcerers, it offers a lot more to the listeners - magic and history, intrigue and introspection, tyranny and defiance, sorrow and solace. Alessan, Heir to the throne of Tigana who struggles to free his land, to restore its name which has been lost because of its conqueror's curse, was my favorite character. Alessan is a great leader: disciplined, determined, assertive, sensitive, gracious, burdened but not bitter, a man seeking freedom rather than retribution. He is to his followers the dawn light of the sun emerging from the ocean to dispel the curse that shrouds Tigana. My other favorite character was Catriana, the bright star of Iaana, as Alessan calls her. She is brilliant , beautiful and brave, her radiance drawing everyone's attention even as she remains fiercely aloof. Unlike Alessan, initially, she does not know how to distance herself from others and yet be gracious and accessible. I admired her determination to be fully involved in all of Alessan's schemes and not become a mere camp follower. All the other characters from Sandre, Devin, Ravigo, Erlaine to Dianora and Shelto were memorable. My favorite scene in the book was where Alessan tells Catriana why she should not be too quick in calling her father a coward. Dianora's character elicited my sympathy for her heart is divided like the peninsula of the Palm and she has no inkling that her role in bringing back the lost name of her homeland though crucial, is extremely indirect.
This was a book that I liked a lot, yet there was one nearly fatal flaw. Kay kept romance to a minimum in this book. I wish he had completely avoided any mention of sex too. All the graphic scenes were unnecessary and diminished the book and the characters greatly. The reason I enjoyed the book was because these scenes were marginal and I mentally deleted them. I listened to the afterword where he explains he was exploring the impact of tyranny and how the shattered self respect of those who are oppressed affect their intimate relationships. He could have had Catriana debate this issue with Alienor as Erlaine debates issues such as free will and choice with Alessan. I liked Alessan and his friends because they seem to be characters who will not allow their integrity to be compromised despite facing difficulties and who fight to be free to be the best they can be. Perversion does not need to be justified. There is a lot of depravity in neutral Senzio as Kay describes it. I simply don't find his reasons for including the offending scenes convincing enough.
It is too good a book to miss for just these few scenes. Perhaps we should have versions of books without such scenes like tv shows where you can choose whether you want to watch the version which includes or excludes 'graphic' content.
It's difficult to distinguish whether it's the deft pen of Guy Gavriel Kay, or the engaging narration of Simon Vance that makes this book as difficult to put down as it is. In truth, it's certainly some combination of the two. Kay authors broad ranging chapters, many of which take over an hour to listen to, but which draw you in to a vivid world. And yet Vance, a born story teller, makes the time fly by while simultaneously breathing life into the characters in the story.
Brandin of Ygrath is my favorite character in Tigana. He is a man of deep complexity who manages to transform his relationship to several other characters, and to the audience as well, over the course of the book. In him, Kay puts on a master class on complex characterization. Brandin is a fully realized, conflicted personality who experiences love and loss throughout the story, and undergoes real transformation as a result.
It certainly was.
Seriously, do yourself a favor and read as many books written by Guy Gavriel Kay and/or narrated by Simon Vance as you can get your hands on!
As one of my favorite all time fantasy novels, I was intrigued when I saw that Simon Vance performed this. He is one of my favorite Audible readers and I decided to, after many years, revisit the world of the Palm and the tyrants by listening to Vance's smooth voice read a book I already loved.
Nothing about the book or the performance disappointed. I can say that there are plot devices in the novel, but I don't care. It's such a beautiful story that they can be ignored. It is fantasy after all.
The characters are complex and relatable and the story flows nicely. I found myself, as always, crying in parts, especially Dianora's story. The juxtaposition of her life's wants and loves is so fierce and difficult to comprehend. It is also in stark contrast to the emotions running through the Alessan/Devin story. They are both moving towards something and stagnating at different times. I enjoyed that aspect.
As for the underlying themes here, memory and loss and identity, they are beautifully described and portrayed. To imagine one's own named being ripped out of the world...heartbreaking.
I highly recommend this book and this version!
Guy Gavriel Kay's world is immense, dark, and beautiful. You believe in these characters and their histories and why they desire to change their world and exact vengeance. The villains are complex and human, the heroes are sympathetic, yet capable of terrible acts of ruthlessness. The writing is lyrical and bold and you find yourself full enveloped in this bright and terrible world in which the characters live in. The magic element is well-constructed and believably integrated into the story. I thing this story is brilliant and fascinating and a must read.