But after years of devastation, a handful of courageous men and women embark upon a dangerous crusade to overthrow their conquerors and bring back to the dark world the brilliance of a long-lost name: Tigana.
©2009 Guy Gavriel Kay; (P)2009 Penguin
I forget how I came upon this excellent author, but once I had downloaded it–read by the lyrical Simon Vance, who could, as they say, read a phone book and move you to tears –I could not put it down. Extremely engaging, extremely witty and also–extremely troubling. Violence, grotesque and nightmarish violence, is always at your elbow in this book–and in subsequent books of the author that I have encountered. There is also a certain amount of explicit sex. Not for the fainthearted, nor for the squeamish–which would usually include me, but somehow, didn’t, this time.
The story takes place in a fictional world, which however has a solid believable presence, and a tenuous relationship with medieval Italy. But so what, you say–many fantasy books are based on medieval history, many books blend fantasy with believable real world details. What this book has is all that–but also, elegant language and exceptional plotting. This is a skillful work of art, filled with gorgeous images and a certain zest for life, for singing, for drinking with friends. And even, something of a happy ending, a thing of which I am inordinately fond.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
I believe the best way to describe what was for me the essence of Tigana is to quote a passage from the afterward of the book by the author Guy Gavriel Kay:
“... there's a play called 'Translations', by Brian Friel. It is basically an extended, passionate debate between a village priest in Ireland and the leader of an English survey team that has been traversing the countryside, mapping it carefully and - more importantly - changing the names of places, from Gaelic to English. Both men are aware of what is at stake: when you want to subjugate a people - to erase their sense of themselves as separate and distinctive - one place to start (and it is sometimes enough) is with their language and names. Names link to history, and we need a sense of our history to define ourselves. When Maoist China decreed that history began with their own Long March and introduced an education system to back that up, thereby eradicating thousands of years of the past (or trying to), they knew exactly what they were doing.
It is hardly an accident that separatist movements so often involve attempts to reclaim a lost language. In Provence highway signs give place names in both French and the almost-lost Provençal tongue. The independence movement in Wales has incorporated attempts to reclaim their language as one of public discourse (a reaction to the English refusal to allow it to be used in schools or even schoolyards once upon a not-so-long-ago time). In Quebec, the often bitter struggle between Separatists and those who wish to remain a province of Canada finds a battleground in language all the time. Tigana was an attempt to use magic to explore these themes: erasing a people from the record of history by stripping them of their name.”
This is what Tigana was mostly about. I did not at first make the connection between the author’s work and the land of “The Troubles.” I knew the Maoist adulteration of history but never understood the Quebec struggle over language. After Tigana, I think that I have a better feel for all those times and places.
It seems this year I have read more than a few books on the subject of memory. This was not by design; it just sort of happened. The books were all quite different and on various aspects of memory. If not the best, Tigana was at least the one I enjoyed the most. In a number of others, it is made quite clear academically that memory defines, maybe for the most part, who we are. However, in none of these others is that more beautifully illustrated than in Tigana.
The book was narrated by Simon Vance. What more can I say.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving. Love the reviews.
Kay creates worlds and characters which are true. We recognize in his characters the familiar ambiguity of our own virtues and shortcomings, the complexity which marks us as human. And the world of "The Hand" in which Tigana transpires makes consistent sense in every way: politically, culturally, and in its system of magic. It is also beautifully evoked in Kay's superb prose style.
Some reviewers have complained about the predominance of interior monologue at the expense of action. In general I prefer it when an author moves a story along through event rather than introspection, but I found the lives of these characters so convincing and conflicted that I seldom minded hearing about them. I do think Kay could trim his word count some, but he writes so effectively, that I could not mind much.
And the action is so powerful and imaginative, shocking and glorious at the crucial moments, that it richly rewards the wait. Wonderful writing.
There are times when you might feel Tigana is over-written. Sometimes you want to yell at the narrator, "I get it! They feel very very oppressed. Do we have to wallow in yet ANOTHER memory of this!" :) But the language is very beautiful and the concept is pretty unique. The characters (even the bad guys) have true depth and the world feels very very real. Someone compared this to Sanderson's Mistborn. While Mistborn is more action packed and may be a bit more fun to listen to it feels artificial and shallow when compared to this setting. Kay creates legends, mythology, rituals that make this world live and breath. Kay is definitely a master. And best of all he FINISHES a very complex plot in ONE BOOK. Everything ties together quite nicely and doesn't feel rushed at all. Recommended...
I average three books a week, but as I cannot afford to purchase that many books I frequently re-read those I already have. If you are here looking for reviews, I typically only review those books I feel particularly strongly about or have some insight that hasn't yet been posted in a review.
An excellent book all around, the story is moving and you will find yourself caring deeply for all the characters, even (and maybe especially) the villains. This book runs the emotional spectrum and does not follow the rules fantasy novels tend to adhere too. The closest book I can compare this to is Brandon Sanderson's "Mistborn: The Final Empire" because both involve complex plots to take down near godlike rulers, but the magic in this book is far more fluid than Sanderson's, more along the lines of classic fantasy.
Also, the reader of this book is excellent, it took about 5 minutes to get use to it, then his almost musical way of speaking just carried me away. I cant imagine a better reader for this book.
The preview audible gives really didn't seem all that interesting to me, but I'm glad I picked this one up.
Note: Contains adult situations, but not without cause.
What more do I have to say than this is Guy Kay. He is in my opinion not only among the best fantasy writer working today, but one of the best writers. This is an early book of GGK's and still one of my favorites.
Concentrating on the book it's self for a moment. This is a truly epic tale with a different twist. Although you will see shared ideas with some other great works of fantasy you will also be confronted with ideas you have never seen before. A second wonderful thing about this book is that it is unapologetically adult in tone, situation, and level of writing. There is nothing dumbed down in this book. The writing is hard, and beautiful. The deaths are real and painful, and yes the sex is also real and also sometimes painful. The last point I want to make about the book is that the "bad guys" are not all bad guys. They do horrible things but unlike much fantasy they are not just evil incarnate, they are real people that you end up caring about.
Concentrating on the reading...perfect. You could not ask for a better reader.
Guy Gavriel Kay offers up a solid fantasy tale with plenty of plotting and intrigue. The 9 provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm are shattered by war and find themselves split under the rule of 2 sorcerers from foreign lands. Four provinces have fallen to each sorcerer with only one remaining independent and the key to the fragile balance of power. This tenuous situation has gone on for almost twenty years and this is a story about the spark that sets off the powder keg.
The history of how this balance of power came to be is explained slowly throughout the book. You will see certain plans pay off and others fall apart as the various players in this dangerous game all vie to advance their agendas. Overall this has a little less action than most fantasy novels, but it does build to a satisfying crescendo at the end. Each character has a rich history that is explained throughout the book so you find yourself well prepared for the finale and the actions that are taken (and not taken.)
Simon Vance as narrator felt like a good fit for the material.
My taste in books seems to run along a space-crime continuum
A complex and thought-provoking fantasy with well-drawn, believable, and likable characters that the reader comes to care about--even the bad guys. I read the book many years ago and remember being shocked and satisfied at the same time by the "twist at the end." I remembered the twist but had forgotten much of the long and elegant road Kay traveled to get there. It was a great journey to take with narrator Simon Vance (who seems be the reader of choice for an awful lot of the novels I like, so it's a good thing I like his voice). The book is long, as are the individual chapters, which was occasionally inconvenient when I "lost my place" on my iPod, but it remains one of the finest heroic fantasies I've ever read.
As the author describes in the afterword, Tigana is a novel that employs the fantasy genre to explore some of the key and critical features of our recent history. The characters -- and cultures -- are realistic in how they respond to large-scale oppression. The novel deeply explores how oppressive regimes can dominate a conquered people, how some of the conquered resist, and how others are seduced into collaboration. Like real life, "clean" endings with no unanswered questions are avoided.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The author has created a world, characters, and plot that are unlike conventional fantasy fiction. True, it took a little effort to get into the story at first, but before long the story, the characters, and their back stories captivated me. It also took a short time to get used to the reader. The story is well written and left me feeling like I really visited some place wonderful and fantastic. Unlike another reviewer, I felt an attachment to a number of characters. Lastly, the author provides a rich and satisfying conclusion.
If you are looking for conventional swords and sorcery action, this might not be the book for you. If you are looking for a compelling and coherent story from start to finish, a believable fantasy world, some unexpected plot twists, and a satisfying escape, then give Tigana a try. I am off to find my second Guy Gavriel Kay story.
"Tigana - as good today as it was in 1994"
I first read this book in 1994, and still like it today as much as I did then. My reasons for liking it so much have, however, changed. I still think the main concept behind the novel, the Kingdom of Tigana deliberately wiped from everyone's mind, is excellent. Kay's world is beautifully described and conjours up wonderful images. I also think the characters are well realised. What has changed is that I now find the main character (Alessan) and his comrades a tad irritating. I want to tell them to quit moping about their loss, and get on with life! In contrast, I find the characters and the love story of Brandin and Dianora much more intriguing. Overall, even though my opinions on some aspects of the book have changed, it remains one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read.
This book topped a "best fantasy book" list I came across. However it really didn't do it for me. The narration is very good, but I found the story very un-enthralling and the names and language not too easy to follow . I have made it halfway through and have given up. It's just too much of a chore and I have other book to listen to. If I have time I'll give it another go and try and see it through. If it takes a real turn and drastically improves, I'll be back to change my review!
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