Tigana: Fascinating story filled with passion

Guy Gavriel Kay: Tiganabook review Tigana Guy Gavriel KayTigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

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.

Tigana — (1990) Won the 1991 Aurora Award. Available for download at Audible.comClick here for audio download. From Author’s website: Tigana is set in the ‘Peninsula of the Palm’ a land evocative of Italy, in a world with two moons… Two sorcerors, one a petty lordling from Barbadior, the other the king of Ygrath, have come to the Peninsula from overseas, intent on conquest. Brandin, King of Ygrath, wants to carve out a realm for his beloved younger son, Stevan. Having conquered three of the nine provinces of the Palm, he sends Stevan to subjugate the next province whilst he faces Alberico, the other conqueror. Stevan is killed in battle by the people of that last province. Brandin, in bitterest grief, and in revenge against the people who killed his son, lays a curse on that province. After sweeping down and destroying the remnants of their army, burning their books and destroying their architecture and statuary, he makes it so that no one not born in that province can even hear its name. Tigana is a story of the struggle for identity and freedom in the face of brutal oppression.

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KAT HOOPER is a professor at the University of North Florida where she teaches neuroscience, psychology, and research methods courses. She occasionally gets paid to review scientific textbooks, but reviewing speculative fiction is much more fun. Kat lives with her husband and their children in Jacksonville Florida.

View all posts by Kat Hooper

2 comments

  1. Kay is one of those authors who has been hovering in my peripherals for a few years now. I hear nothing but great things about him, but for some reason I’m still hesitant to give him a try. Maybe it’s because at my core I guess I’m still a heroic adventure type reader and just not sure I’ll get Kay.

  2. Greg, Tigana could definitely qualify as heroic adventure!

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