Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay is triumph of a stand alone fantasy novel because it creates a world more rich and real than most fantasy series that require 3+ books.
“We all do that. We do with our hands, our eyes, what we are afraid to say.” – Tigana, pg 628
– Deeply flushed out world that feels real
– Characters that are believable and act reasonable
– Interesting premise of a whole nation that has been wiped from memory except the people from that nation.
– Some really amazing chapters and concepts
– Believable plot manipulation to come about the outcome that the protagonists want.
– Pacing issues associated with building a background and world this deep. Felt like reading a history book at times.
Similar Books: I felt that the Lord of the Rings was similar in how each author built a world.
Plot – 4: Tigana is a story about the redemption of an entire group of people that were forgotten. A peninsula called “The Palm” was conquered by two different sorcerers, Brandin in the west and Alberico in the east. Each sorcerer controlled his half of the peninsula. When Brandin lost his son during the invasion to the Prince of Tigana, he cast a spell that made everyone forget about Tigana except the people that used to live there, but everyone else couldn’t even hear the word or remember Tigana. This is the story about a group of men and women that are trying to purge these two sorcerers from their land and bring back the memory of their home. Imagine if the Nazis were successful in destroying Jewish culture, no one remembered who the Jewish people were, but there was a small group of Jewish people that were able to restore Jewish culture and overthrow the Nazis.
Tigana is split between two man story lines. The first story line is the men and women trying to manipulate events to create a war between the two sorcerers and then kill them both at the same time. The other story line is about a woman named Dianora from Tigana that went to assassinate Brandin the sorcerer, but ended up falling in love with him.
What makes the plot great is the steps that the group of up-risers have to take in order for their desires to come to fruition. The steps to kill the sorcerers takes many years and careful planning to manipulate the atmosphere on The Palm to bring about this war. The story starts near the end of the plotting with some of the best chapters in a fantasy book I’ve ever read. Chapters 4 and 5 of Tigana were the highlight of this book and it is also when the reader meets all of the heroes and finds out what their plans are.
Dianora’s plot is complicated because she realizes that she should kill the man that destroyed her home but her love for him is strong. She doesn’t see the tyrant when she looks at him but the man that loves her. I found her story engaging intellectually because here is a man that she should despise but her heart doesn’t let her do it. Kay does an amazing job of making the reader empathize with Dianora’s struggle.
While reading the story, Kay interjects a lot of information about the past to make us understand the characters and world. It is absolutely successful, we start to care about the character’s plights, and the world feels tangible, but it can be difficult to read at times because there is just so much back-story. There were many times when I just wanted to know what was happening at the present time. Because of this I took way more breaks from this book than usual.
Characters – 4 Alessan, Devin, Baerd, Catriana, Erlein, and Sandre are the names of the men and women that are involved together to overthrow the peninsula. Each of these characters have distinct personalities that are honest to those attributes throughout the entire book. Things that you would think would end up happening, don’t happen because of the baggage that these characters have. In fact, that is what makes these characters stand out as so real to me, they have a ton of emotional baggage, and I find that refreshing because it is similar in real life.
Dianora is probably hit or miss with a lot of readers. Some readers might see her as a weakly written female character because of her decisions and making them with her emotions but I found her to be honest to herself. I think there is a lot of backlash against authors for not writing strong female characters but a lot of that hate is because the author didn’t write the female characters the way that the reader wanted it to be. I feel that Dianora would be one of those characters. For some she might not do what they want her to do but for me I found her a strongly written character because her character’s actions are in line with who she is as a character and her personality.
The two antagonists were great and I have no complaints about them. Overall, I really liked the characters in Tigana.
Setting/World Building – 5 For this fantasy reader, I have yet to read a stand alone novel that has created such a believable and rich world. From the different provinces to the stories about the gods, it is all just was amazing. Tigana ended up being this mythical place of memory and longing that even I wanted to visit.
The magic system was a light magic system with only a few magic users. Regardless of that it was incredibly interesting and I wish I could know more about how magic works in this land.
The history of The Palm was so rich and reading about the past was delightful, albeit too long at times. This world seems as real to me as a regular country in our own world is. It is loosely based off of medieval Italy, so it kind of makes sense that it seems more concrete than other worlds that I have read.
Writing Style – 3 Guy Gavriel Kay is a great writer. He writes characters that the reader cares about and scenes that capture your attention. In Tigana there is a lot of back-story that at times drags on too long or is unneeded. I would have been alright with certain parts of the past cut completely out just to allow for a book that flowed more. There were times when I loved this book but then I would get to these character building scenes from the past that at times were really interesting but at other times sleep inducing. This is the only reason I did not give this book a 5 rating, I feel asleep more times during this book than the last few books put together. Now that might have been my own fault at times because I read this during the holidays when relaxing and taking naps is what people do, but the pacing of this book was just a little off for me.
Heart and Mind Factor -4 When you create a character you like and a world that you love, you cannot help but be invested into the story with your heart. There were moments in this story that were emotionally powerful, moments that shocked me, and moments that made me want to cry.
The idea of loving your enemy was a powerful one for me. I understand why Dianora chose the path that she chose. Another intellectual part that I loved is asking, “how far will people go to reclaim what is lost?” If many people die, is reclaiming your home worth it?
I recommend this book to anyone looking for a powerful fantasy to read that has a dense world filled with interesting connections. If you are a history buff, I think you will enjoy this book even more, as the dry parts are right up your alley. If you are looking for a fantasy book with action and characters that do amazing feats, then this is not the book for you. These are relatively normal people, doing believable actions, but doing them with such commitment that you can’t help but feel pulled into their struggle.