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
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Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
Nobody remembers Tigana — a land bright with beauty, culture, and wealth — nobody but those who lived there before the land was cursed by the conqueror Brandin of Ygrath after the prince of Tigana killed Brandin’s son in battle. When the now-oppressed Tiganese try to tell outsiders about Tigana, the name just slips out of the listener’s mind. Only those born in the land are able to keep its beautiful name in memory.
But the prince of Tigana’s son still lives and he and his companions plan to restore their land’s name. But, not only must they kill Brandin of Ygrath, but also Alberico of Barbadior, who rules the other half of their peninsula. Otherwise, they will merely be consumed by a different tyrant.
I was entranced by Tigana right from the first page. What I noticed immediately was the passion — this is a story lovingly wrought by an author who loves language, loves his characters, and loves the world he’s created. Guy Gavriel Kay’s prose is heavy (sometimes too heavy) with imagery and emotion yet it reads, for the most part, easily (except for the occasional unexpected shift in point-of-view).
Kay’s characters are distinct, well-developed, and likable. The prince’s companions are a diverse group, each with his/her own personality, strengths, and weaknesses. The actions and motives of the villains are completely understandable — in fact, I felt sympathetic toward them.
The story of the struggle to free Tigana was fascinating. There were some slightly unbelievable or contrived plot devices, but the rest of the story was excellent enough that I was perfectly happy to overlook them. The end was surprising and bittersweet.
I listened to most of Tigana on audio (and read some it in print). Simon Vance is the reader, and he is one of the very best. If you’re an audiobook listener, I’d definitely suggest that format for Tigana. But, either way, Tigana is a must-read.
I really enjoyed listening to this book and got a good feel for the characters. It was unusual to be hoping for some of the "evil" characters to come out of it okay. There were some that you wanted to be beaten and I kept wanting the author to find a way to have a happier outcome for some of the others.
Overall, I would listen to this book repeatedly and believe I would find things I missed with each listening.
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.
This is a beautifully written story of loss, love and recovery, not necessarily, victory. Kay's writing is almost like prose and is so enjoyable to just listen to Simon Vance read it! I love how the story teaches us a lesson about lost identity, and how Kay brings that lesson to light in this fantastic,well-written story. Some parts of it seem kind of boring (still beautiful), but it's all good.
I really enjoyed this book and the storyline. I felt myself breathless at times when listening and truly enjoyed the well developed characters and mythos. Not the "typical" fantasy fiction and I thought it was well worth my time and ears.
I've always been impressed by Kay's writing. This was a very interesting idea with some real potential. Yet, towards the end I wasn't able to stay under its spell- and I lost my ability to suspend my disbelief regarding the evolution of some of the characters.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
This 1990 novel by GGK, which still seems to have a big following, is melancholy, emotional, shades-of-gray fantasy. The story takes place on a peninsula vaguely reminiscent of medieval Italy, which was invaded by forces from two different large empires about 20 years before. Both of these armies, each led by a powerful sorcerer, took the peninsula by conquering one fractious province at a time.
However, one province, named Tigana, put up a ferocious resistance and managed to kill the son of one of the sorcerers. To punish its inhabitants, the grief-stricken Brandin laid waste to the region, and cast a spell to make its very name impossible to remember. Except to anyone who happened to be born there before the invasion. Those people must endure the pain of watching their homeland's identity fade from the world's memory. As Kay mentions in the afterward, events in the real world inspired him in this theme.
The plot, of course, revolves around a conspiracy to remove the two tyrants, but the reader sees both sides of the struggle. The sorcerer Brandin, though guilty of terrible crimes, is a sympathetic character that we come to know through the point of view of his concubine, who entered his court years before to assassinate him, but now loves him. This complexity comes to play a pivotal role in the story’s outcome. On the rebel side, the various characters struggle with their own inner torments, and must do things that go against their hearts, such as engineering outbreaks of violence or enslaving a wandering wizard against his will.
The strength and weakness of Kay as a writer lies in his desire to make every moment beautiful and meaningful. At times, this works, but at other times, the story feels overly melodramatic, laboring over its “we’re all human and feel pain” themes long after the point comes across. Yes, we need to shed tears, love, laugh, and talk about our feelings -- I get it, Mr. Kay. His prose can get a bit purple as well; look for lots of “he felt a quivering in his heart” and “the coldness in her eyes was like the deep blue of a mountain stream”.
Not that I didn’t enjoy the novel. The fine world-building and the interesting characters of the first quarter drew me in. It felt like Kay was striving for a balance between fantasy traditions and a more mature take on them. The ending came together beautifully, as well.
However, I didn’t find this book as sophisticated as many of its fans seem to. The middle section was unnecessarily drawn-out, filled with tangential subplots, and heavier on uninspired fantasy cliches than the rest. Oddly, Kay doesn’t really address the issue that the rebel leader is yet another monarch himself, a guy who talks about freedom, but presumably intends to preserve his hereditary throne once he gets it back.
All in all, I’d still happily recommend Tigana to anyone interested in fantasy that aspires to parallels with the real world, but I must call attention to its flaws. Simon Vance, the audiobook reader, gives his usual classy performance.
When I read the description I actually thought the plot might be a little corny and since it was so long, I thought it might drag on a bit. However, for the most part, my initial impression could not have been more wrong. Well-described characters who are each unique with a past and personality fill this novel virtually from end to end with action, suspense, a little philosophy, and a story of real human struggles with choices and their consequences. The plot is not shallow or corny, but a well-worked and thorough framework for the tale of heroic people in difficult times.
I've never read any of Kay's work before, but after this, he's in my top ten list of authors.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reader
There’s really not much more to say than I LOVED TIGANA. Not too long ago, I was introduced to Guy Gavriel Kay with The Lions of Al-Rassan and I was really impressed with his ability to develop characters that you couldn’t help but fall in love with, flaws and all.
Tigana had that AND it was a true high fantasy, where Lions was more historical fiction with a touch of magic. It had been a long time since I had read good high fantasy and, man, I had no idea how much I missed it. So much of what I’ve read lately has been hard, gritty fantasy in the vein of Martin, Weeks, and Abercrombie, I had almost forgotten that fantasy can come in many flavors.
There’s just something about the elegance of high speech flowing from the mouths of true, noble characters that really speaks to me and Kay nailed it. I’m serious when I say this is the best high fantasy I’ve read outside of Tolkien.
As I mentioned previously, Kay has a way with characters and that was especially true in Tigana. I don’t think there was a single character that I couldn’t relate to expect for Alberico.
Combined with that, the story is beautifully written, part wonder, part glory, part sadness. It has all of the bittersweet elements that a great fantasy novel needs.
After reading Tigana, there’s no doubt in my mind that I will read more from Kay’s catalog–I owe it to myself and you owe it to yourself to read Tigana if you like fantasy at all. And if you prefer audio books, this is perfect–Simon Vance’s performance could not have been more fitting.
When I like something I'll let you know. If I don't, I'll let you know that too!
If you enjoy visiting a mystical and magical world you will enjoy Tigana. I don't understand others comments about the narrator. I find his performances contribute to my listening enjoyment.
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