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Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana (edition 1991)

by Guy Gavriel Kay

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,7821101,377 (4.19)7 / 550
Authors:Guy Gavriel Kay
Info:Roc (1991), Paperback, 688 pages
Collections:Your library, At Cottage, On Loan
Tags:Fantasy, Sorcery, Magic, Memory

Work details

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

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English (109)  Dutch (1)  All (110)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
Sword and Laser - June
  GoldenDarter | Sep 15, 2016 |
The world seemed to be a place of more beauty and more pain than he could ever have imagined it to be." (pg. 458).

Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana is an impressive, stirring and intoxicating fantasy novel. I was swept up in the current of the novel in a way that I very rarely am. I enjoy a great many books but there are rather few that I am consistently eager to devour once opened. Tigana was one of these rare books.

The story is a fascinating one, balancing lofty concepts of freedom and memory alongside an engrossing adventure plotline, with likeable and identifiable characters who you never tire of reading about. Kay matches the richness and colour of the story with a classy, poetic style of prose which had me jotting down dozens and dozens of page numbers when a particular paragraph or line or description impressed me, in order to savour them further at a later date.

I was particularly touched by the consistent theme throughout the novel regarding memory and its effects on us. We all have things from our past which weigh down on us with an often unbearable heaviness: regrets, mistakes, a longing for lost love. When one character is described on page 329 as walking "through a world shaped and reshaped every single moment around the knowledge that Tigana is gone", we know how it feels, even if it's not a country we long for. But I've rarely heard such emotions described so eloquently and poetically and heartbreakingly as in Kay's prose. On page 430, Kay uses a phrase, "the keenness of longing and an aching tenderness", and I believe this effectively sums up these more introspective parts of the novel.

But despite its introspection, the book is also a gripping page-turner. The action is well-described and the fantasy locales brought to vivid life. It is important to note that Kay also provides resolution in the story: everything is wrapped up by the end. This might seem like a rather dense thing to say but, if you think about it, it's very rare to find a self-contained, single-volume book in the fantasy genre. Most are ongoing series, and for that reason alone Tigana should be cherished. You know by the end that you're going to get closure on the story. (Ironically, though, I loved it so much I wish there was a follow-up!) But of course, as I've tried to explain, there are many other reasons to cherish this novel.

There were one or two drawbacks, as there always are for ambitious novels, but none so large as to diminish my love for the book. I suppose sometimes Kay gets a bit carried away with some of the lofty things the characters say; most of the time it's appropriate but once or twice it seemed a bit awkward. For the most part, however, the characters' dialogue is believable: I was particularly surprised by and welcomed the amount of humour in the novel, especially the snarky camaraderie which develops between the members of Alessan's group.

The other - larger - problem I had with the book was the whole Brandin/Dianora relationship. I am surprised when people who review the book describe Brandin as a likeable or sympathetic character: an anti-villain as opposed to a tyrant. I mean, yes, he mourns his son, but his son died because of an aggressive and unprovoked war of conquest he started. What he inflicts on Tigana is completely out-of-proportion and sociopathic, and I am really surprised that some readers still say he has inner goodness when even more revelations about what he has done (and continues to do) come to light at the end of the book. The torture he has inflicted for twenty years is not the conduct of a decent chap. Sure, he is affable enough in person but so, by many accounts, was Idi Amin. Even Hitler liked his dog. It is with this in mind that I had a problem with Dianora too. She falls in love with Brandin, a man who has killed her beloved father and, even more importantly, committed genocide against her entire people. I know Kay was trying to inject some romantic tragedy arc into the story, but that's like Anne Frank falling hopelessly in love with Hitler. Some things should just kill the prospect of love for good: your lover systematically murdering and torturing everyone you've ever known or cared about is surely one of them.

In contrast, I loved everything about Alessan's group: the interactions, the adventures, the roaming around in exotic locales. It's everything fantasy should be. I found I could also hear the music (Alessan's group travel under cover as a troupe of musicians) just from Kay's evocative descriptions. He doesn't include lyrics or anything, but nevertheless I feel like I've heard 'Lament for Adaon' in my bones. Kay strives for emotion throughout the novel and if you allow yourself to be swept up by it, Tigana will really touch your heart.

Overall, Tigana is a fine example of what the fantasy genre can achieve. It is a large book, like most fantasy books are, but the time just flies by. It balances its lofty themes of freedom and memory alongside a page-turning plot and characters you care about. As Kay wrote in his Afterword for the tenth anniversary of the book's release, the novel demonstrates "the universality of fantasy... allow[ing] escapist fiction to be more than just that." (pg. 792). Even if it was just escapist fiction that would be fine, but to provide such a great read and still address eloquently and intelligently such poignant themes is incredible. To appropriate a delicious quote from the later stages of the book: what a harvest, Tigana." ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Tigana - G. G. Kay
audio performance by Simon Vance
4.5 stars (round up to 5)

The story begins with a conversation on the eve of a battle. The King and his sculptor, knowing that they will lose the coming battle, are reflecting upon their legacy and taking comfort in the fact that they will be remembered by the coming generations. The problem is, they will not be remembered. They are fighting a great and vengeful sorcerer. He casts a spell to remove any trace of the entire kingdom, Tigana. After the slaughter and destruction, only a few survivors can still remember, or even hear, the word Tigana, if it is spoken aloud. The seeds of a rebellion are planted in those survivors by a prince in disguise. This prince is not contented to plan vengeance against his father’s killer. He chooses to unite the people from eight adjoining kingdoms to overthrow two despotic sorcerers. The political and magical complications are enormous.

This book reminded me of Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle. Silverberg’s Valentine has lost his own memory and is left wandering with a troupe of jugglers until he regains power. Kay’s Alessan is a wandering troubadour in a land where no one is permitted to remember that his kingdom ever existed. Both of these deposed rulers surround themselves with loyal and multi-talented followers who help them to regain their rightful kingdoms. Shared dangers and adventures create the binding friendships that are the best part of the book.

I became thoroughly involved in this story. The characters were engaging.The world building was believable and the plot moved along steadily. The book is more than good escapist storytelling. Kay uses his magical world to tackle an ambitious number of serious themes: the necessity and the dangers of memory, the manipulation of history by an oppressor, divided loyalties, evil done in the name of goodness. There are obvious metaphorical parallels between the world of Tigana and our own reality, but the similarities never overwhelmed the story. I appreciated Kay’s very articulate discussion of these themes in the author’s Afterword.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
There's a lot of sexual tension and sumptuous descriptions, but that's not enough to make the characters compelling, or to make me care. The main characters are very passive. Boring. This is exactly why I don't read Romance novels. If you're a fan of regency romance, or romance in general, you might enjoy this. It's definitely not my thing.

Does the whiny Dianora actually have a reason for not assassinating the tyrant? The only thing that might make her sympathetic would be if she's enchanted, but there's no hint of that. I'm about 40% through, and I'm done trying to like these blahhhhhhhnd characters. ( )
  Abby_Goldsmith | Feb 10, 2016 |
Tigana is an epic fantasy story told within a single book. It’s full of political maneuvering and schemes, blind devotion to causes, touching friendships, and a bit of magic.

There was enough world-building in this one book to sustain a longer series, and I would have happily read more books featuring this world and these characters. The characters were where Tigana really shone for me. Several of them were very likeable, and I thought the friendships between them were especially well-written. There was a little bit of humor sprinkled throughout, mostly through interactions between the characters, and that helped lighten the mood of what was otherwise a relatively serious book. There was also some romance in the book, although only one was explored in any major detail throughout the book and that one had a major impact on the plot. Aside from that important one, the others felt too forced. It seemed like every female character who showed up in the book had to get paired off with somebody. I think their participation in the story would have been more meaningful without that.

The book did have its slow parts. There was a lot of world-building crammed into a single, 676-page book. It was interesting, and the depth it added is a large part of why I enjoyed the book so much, but small chunks of historical information were often inserted at a point when I was anxious to find out what was going on with various characters. When that happened, I often had to put the book down and come back to it later when my desire to get back to the characters had faded a little bit and I was more prepared to sit and focus on what the author wanted me to know next. I sometimes had a similar reaction when we switched from the characters I enjoyed reading about the most over to another character who was less interesting to me.

Although there weren’t a lot of point-of-view characters, there were definitely a lot of characters in the book who played small but important roles. I was very glad to be reading on my Kindle so I could quickly search for the original mention of various names that I knew looked familiar but couldn't place. Sometimes a character that had been briefly introduced a couple of hundred pages ago would suddenly crop back up in a different setting. It was nice to be able to clearly make the connections, although I’m sure I would have still enjoyed the story if I had just glossed over those occurrences. There were a lot of little intricacies with how everything tied together.

Things definitely weren’t cut-and-dry in this book. It wasn’t always easy to decide which outcome to root for, because I could see points on both sides of the main conflict and really I wasn’t sure that I agreed with either side. At one point early on in the book I decided there was no way things were going to end well for everybody and, without spoiling anything, the ending really was pretty bittersweet. Everything was pretty well answered and tied up by the end, but it was tied up very loosely in that we don’t know exactly what’s in store for the characters beyond the end of the book. I would have enjoyed a little more closure. Or, better yet, a sequel. There was one thing that happened at the very end of the epilogue that exasperated me. If the author had for some very odd reason been strolling past my couch at that moment, I likely would have thrown my Kindle directly at his head.

Despite a few complaints here and there, I did really enjoy this one and I definitely plan to try more books by the author in the future. ( )
  YouKneeK | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guy Gavriel Kayprimary authorall editionscalculated
Odom, MelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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All that you held most dear you will put by
 and leave behind you; and this is the arrow
 the longbow of your exile first lets fly.
You will come to know how bitter as salt and stone
 is the bread of others, how hard the way that goes
 up and down stairs that never are your own.
—Dante, The Paradiso
What can a flame remember? If it remembers a little less
than is necessary, it goes out; if it remembers a little
more than is necessary, it goes out. If only it could
teach us, while it burns, to remember correctly.
—George Seferis, "Stratis the Sailor Describes a Man"
For my brothers, Jeffrey and Rex
First words
Both moons were high, dimming the light of all but the brightest stars.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the complete story in one volume. Please do not combine this with either part one (Tigana Chapters 1 - 12) or part two (Tigana Chapters 13 - 20).
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451457765, Paperback)

Tigana is the magical story of a beleaguered land struggling to be free. It is the tale of a people so cursed by the black sorcery of a cruel despotic king that even the name of their once-beautiful homeland cannot be spoken or remembered.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:25 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

With a new introduction by the acclaimed bestselling author, this tenth anniversary edition of a fantasy classic is the sweeping tale of sorcery, magic, politics, war, love, betrayal, and survival.

(summary from another edition)

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