Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Summary from Goodreads:

Eight of the nine provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm, on a world with two moons, have fallen to the warrior sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior. Brandin's younger son is slain in a battle with the principality of Tigana, which the grief-stricken sorcerer then destroys. 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. Years later, a small band of survivors, led by Alessan, last prince of Tigana's royal house, wages psychological warfare, planting seeds for the overthrow of the two tyrants. At the center of these activities are Devin, a gifted young singer; Catriana, a young woman pursued by suspicions of her family's guilt; and Duke Sandre d'Astibar, a wily resistance leader thought dead. Meanwhile, at Brandin's court, Dianora, his favorite concubine and--unknown to anyone, another survivor of Tigana--struggles between her growing love for the often gentle tyrant and her desire for vengeance. Gradually the scene is set for both conquerors to destroy each other and free a land.


To be honest, the first few chapters of this book was confusing. I couldn't make heads or tails of the names of people and places and I couldn't quite follow the political gossip being traded around. But things started to click and the pace started to pick up, somewhere around the chapters 4 or 5. The cabin in the woods scene in particular, was the point when I started to become a bit huggy with my Kindle.


First off, I like how the characters were crafted. They all seem to be spirited and passionate. I rooted for them, and cared for each one. Youthful and earnest Devin, stoic and enigmatic Baerd, quick-tongued Catriana, the old, tough as nails Tomas, and Alessan their fearless leader. Then there's the tormented Dianora, Brandin's high-class courtesan, and of course, Brandin of Ygrath himself, who was initially presented as a villian, the big bad tyrant sorcerror. Only to then be shown as someone who is capable of love and someone whom you suddenly feel for. I also have to mention Erlein, the wizard, who ended up as a particular favorite of mine because, well, I am a sucker for any character doing a Snape or a Jamie Lannister. And  It was him who opened up the issue of choice and freedom, and this whole idea of whether a people under tyranny might just be better off than if they're free. 

Second, the theme is something I have never come across before. It speaks of the power of memory and how it shapes the identity of a person, and a race. Of how remembering those memories can be the driving force of one's actions. Plus, I also loved how music was used as a means to convey the theme. Songs and Troubadors are usually just a sideshow in most fantasy novels.

Third, I like how the story was laid out, split into two narratives, that is. The one with Alessan and his band of rebels, which is the hang-onto-the edge-of-your-seat adventure story, while the other one of Dianora in the Saishan with Brandin the Tyrant, is the quite and calm introspective type of narrative, but is just as every bit as intense. So I loved that it's a mixture of the fast and slow. The quite and the uproarious. I also appreciated the many surprising twists and jaw dropping revelations and epiphanies.     

Fourth, the style of writing, is something that needs a little getting used to, I must admit. It's lyrical and poetic and may just feel a bit too descriptive and overwrought at times. But I do think it's perfect for this type of story because it makes the whole thing more potent. It makes the grief and the longing for a lost home much more heartfelt, and the inner turmoil of the characters much more gut wrenching. In short the writing style made the feels greater, and the cuts run deeper.


There were two events which made me feel like I was taken out of the loop. First is Devin's encounter with Alinor in Castle Borso. I did not get what that was about, save for adding some steam (wink wink) into the story. And second, was the Ember War fought by the Night Walkers of Certando against some sort of army of the undead, in this strange dream-like land. While I like the mysticism that it lent to the story, I was looking for more explanation as to the nature of these Night Walkers. The how, the what, and the why of this Carlozinni sect and their Ember War.   


I usually pick up another book right after I finish one, but I couldn't do it with Tigana because the story just lingered in my head for days. That last chapter and the epilogue just opened up a series of internal debates in my head and a whole slew of feelings of vexation and happiness and sadness all at once. This story about memory, and identity, and vengeance, and redemption, and love, and hope, and freedom, and choices, and grief, and sorrow. I just couldn't bring myself to start another book, right after. Just go. Scram. Get this book. Read it. Get lost in the richly woven world of The Palm and the complex and torutuous lives of it's inhabitants. And come back here and rant with me will you?

Awards Received: World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (1991), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee (1991), Prix Aurora Award for Best Long Form in English (1991)

Award Winning Books Reading Challenge Entry # 16


  1. I have put this on hold because I feel like I won't be able to handle another high fantasy considering that I'm catching up (still!) with A Storm of Swords. Plus, Tigana is a tome! I have already lined this up for my to-read books for 2014.

    P.S. I just browsed through your review. I have been sufficiently warned by your spoiler alert. Will come back to this after I'm done reading. (And rant/rave with you.) ;)

    1. I know right? Tigana, is massive! ASOS as well. But finishing tomes will make you feel extremely proud of yourself. Haha. :)

      I do think it has to do with the type of genre one would normally go for. Like me, I am more inclined to finish fantasy books because that is normally where my comfort zone lies. I think you once mentioned that you aren't much of a fantasy reader? Anyway, the best of luck with ASOS and Tigana on 2014! In the meantime, I'm sure we will find other things to rant and rave about. :D


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