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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GGK's best, and my current favourite novel
Guy Gavriel Kay is the fantasy writer's fantasy writer. He served his apprenticeship co editing the Silmarillion, before going on to write a very fine pure fantasy trilogy, the Fionavar Tapestry, and then a sequence of books which although having a fantasy setting were clearly based on real episodes in the early medival history of Europe.
Tigana belongs in a sense to...
Published on 26 Nov. 2002 by Simon Brooke

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shoddy editing
This book was a great disappointment to me, because although I felt it had potential - a compelling story and interesting characters - I couldn't get over the poor editing. The author does not seem to realise that less is more, and insists on constantly telling rather than showing, often in an irritatingly repetitive manner. I found this surprising, as Kay does not seem...
Published on 7 Aug. 2009 by Cass


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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GGK's best, and my current favourite novel, 26 Nov. 2002
By 
Simon Brooke (Auchencairn, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Tigana (Paperback)
Guy Gavriel Kay is the fantasy writer's fantasy writer. He served his apprenticeship co editing the Silmarillion, before going on to write a very fine pure fantasy trilogy, the Fionavar Tapestry, and then a sequence of books which although having a fantasy setting were clearly based on real episodes in the early medival history of Europe.
Tigana belongs in a sense to this second sequence. It's clear - and the author's afterword admits - that it takes as its starting point the Italy of the eleventh-twelth centuries - but this Italy has suffered more sea change than the Spain of The Lions of Al Rassan, for example; on Kay's spectrum from fantasy to history this lies nearer the fantasy end.
It revisits a character - not an individual, but a type - who appears repeatedly in Kay's fiction: the brilliant, handsome polymath prince, Diarmuid in Fionavar, Bertran in A Song for Arbonne, Alessan here. I'm still not clear why Kay needs to revisit this character again and again...
The characters are well-drawn, complex and engaging (even the villains); the backstory is clearly deep, and the setting very well presented and portrayed with a wealth of detail. The writing is lyrical, engrossing and persuasive.
This is story telling of a very high order, investigating themes of tyrrany, loyalty and love. Don't read this (or, indeed, any other of Kay's books) if you want an easy read or a happy ending; but if you care to use the lens of fantasy to see reality more clearly, more intensely and more painfully, then this is a very fine book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is my favourite book ever, bar none, 14 April 2007
By 
S. Bailey "will work for books" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tigana (Paperback)
Yes, this really is better than Lord of the Rings, better than the Ice and Fire series, better than anything else I've ever read.

The story takes place on the peninsula of the Palm, which is loosely based on mediaeval Italy. My knowledge of Italian history is little enough that I wouldn't like to comment on exactly how this has informed Kay's work, but the factual background here seems less intrusive than for A Song for Arbonne or Sailing to Sarantium; this is a fantasy world informed by history, rather than the other way round.

The peninsula was invaded by two wizards, Alberico and Brandin, who have captured four of the nine provinces each. As the last to fall to Brandin, the province of Tigana, did so, the wizard's son was killed in battle. As revenge for killing the son he loved above all else, Brandin obliterates all memory of Tigana, so that no one born outside the province can even hear its name.

Alessan, the only surviving son of the last Prince of Tigana, has sworn to avenge this, and claim back the name of his land. But to kill Brandin is not enough; as he recognises, only the the other's power holds both Brandin and Alberico in check. To be truly free, he must make the wizards destroy each other.

And I could summarise the entire book, and still not come close to why this story is so beautiful. I could talk about the use of fairy tale and legend: how Alessan, the youngest of three sons, is almost bound to be the one who completes his quest; of the twisting of an obscure line of Old Norse poetry into a great battle of good against evil; of Donar, the crippled blacksmith, and of the legend of the Golden Bough replayed: and how its foundation in scholarship makes Kay's writing so much richer. And it would still not be enough.

For me, the realisation of exactly how good this book is came from Brandin. The evil that he did is the very reason for the book's existence. Yet how much would you have to love your son to obliterate an entire people and their memory in his name? How much, to renounce your own hereditary kingdom and remain, watching the Tiganese die off, year by year, in the place where your love had died? How much, to know that in the end, only your own memory would hold the truth of what you had done, and why you had done it? How much evil can we do, over and over, in the name of love?

The point is, of course, that this world, its tragedy, triumph and high farce, is built around humanity. Kay does not need to create evil races, or on-going wars (JRRT, so help me, I am thinking of your orcs and the elves against the dwarves!) to make his magic. I think of Sandre, the exiled Duke, forced to choose between binding himself to his own magic and thus saving the life of his son but almost certainly being killed, or allowing his son to die and continuing to fight for his Dukedom's freedom. And Dianora, going to Brandin's court to kill him, but falling in love, asked to bind him and herself to his vision of what the Palm might become. And Rhun, the poor, broken Fool, given, at the end, a moment of honour. Gods help me, I'm crying as I write this.

And also the poetry of Kay's writing. "Tigana, may my memory of you be like a blade in my soul". And "You are the harbour of my soul's journeying". But also Catriona's ascerbity, the terrible words between Alessan and his mother, and Rovigio's good-natured insulting of his daughters, with the love he bears them never needing to be stated because it's so obvious anyway. Not one word too many, nor one too few.

And finally, the ending. Many people who like this book hate the end, in general accusing it of being too sudden. I will grant that the pace of the book increases manyfold towards the end, but this is natural. The Tiganese, Brandin and Alberico are in one place, having a battle; this is not the time to introduce a sub-plot! I grant, also, that while we do know the fates of around half the major characters, those of the rest are deliberately ambiguous. I can see that the extra ambiguity (or is it a clue?) of the very last line might be annoying, but it also leaves the reader free to imagine. This is an ending made by a storyteller, not an historian, because people go on, even when the stories that have brought them together are ended. Enough ends are tied to end the story, but without creating a great sealed knot.

It is simply the richness of the weaving that makes this so good, and no review can reproduce that. Please, if you only buy one book this lifetime, get this one.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tigana is a name that should be shouted for all to hear, 24 Nov. 2000
This review is from: Tigana (Roc) (Paperback)
I have loved this book since I first read it almost ten years ago. It has all the elements of magic and history that you would expect from an epic fantasy like this but above all else this is a book about people: their joys, their pain and their passions. Read it and weep (and laugh and fear and fall in love with it). For my money, Dianora is one of the most richly written female characters I have ever had the pleasure to encounter.
If you are coming to Guy Gavriel Kay for the first time, don't start with this one as he has yet to match it. Start with the Lions of Al-Rassan or A Song for Arbonne and work up this this one. All are wonderful books but this one will always stay with you and you'll find yourself going back to it again and again.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shout "Tigana" from the highest towers., 19 Sept. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Tigana (Roc) (Paperback)
I love this book so much. Having bought this book as a Christmas present for my dad four years ago, "borrowed" it back and read it several times. I feel that I am well qualified to recommend this book to all fantasy fans.
This book contains everything one could ak for from a book. A fantastic love story, an excellent adventure, twists and turns at every corner. It will make you laugh, cry and you will not be able to put this down until you have finished.
The only problem with this book is when it ends. You'll wish it would carry on for ever more...
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A master of fantasy writing, 10 Feb. 2004
By A Customer
This book was recommended to me by a friend, during a time when I believed that no good authors existed any more. Mr Kay has proved me wrong! This author is truly a wordsmith, and Tigana is possibly his finest story, as he tells a tale of magic, heartbreak and loss. Side by side with magic marches political intrigue, but Kay has described his world so richly that this does not seem a bizarre pairing. His characters are wonderfully flawed - no one individual is truly good or truly bad. He has written very human characters, allowing even the antagonist to merit sympathy from the readers. All in all, a truly fantastic book, and worth reading several times over throughout your life. Thanks to Guy Gavriel Kay, my faith in authors has been restored.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shoddy editing, 7 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Tigana (Roc) (Paperback)
This book was a great disappointment to me, because although I felt it had potential - a compelling story and interesting characters - I couldn't get over the poor editing. The author does not seem to realise that less is more, and insists on constantly telling rather than showing, often in an irritatingly repetitive manner. I found this surprising, as Kay does not seem to be an unskilled or untalented writer, however the novel reads as if it has just been written in one go without the least bit of editing afterwards. On one occasion the tense is abruptly changed from past to present from one sentence to another, which must be a mistake as there is no good reason for it. There are also a couple of chapters when the same happens more deliberately, but I still felt that there was no good reason for a change of tense and it ruined the flow for me. Another thing that irritated me was overuse of the word "though" (at one point I counted it once every two pages). I feel it is a word that should be used as little as possible in serious literature as it sounds unprofessional, and belongs to the category of 'telling' rather than 'showing'.

I enjoyed the first 200 pages or so of this book, but by the time I had come to the middle, I was so irritated that I persevered only because I found the story interesting and wanted to find out how it would end. By the time I had about 50 pages left, I just skimmed through them in a matter of minutes to get to the ending.

This novel could have been pared down by at *least* 100 pages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good...But Could Have Been Great, 11 July 2009
This review is from: Tigana (Roc) (Paperback)
I am genuinely conflicted as to how to rate this book. I would love to give it a four or five, but I feel that I can't for a number of reasons. I can understand why people rate it so highly, as it is certainly smarter, more ambitious and more succinct than most 20-volume 'epic' fantasy tales out there.

First off, the Good: In terms of premise and plot, this book is A-Grade. The world of Tigana is beautifully realised and fleshed out, and unlike a great many fantasy novels, is populated by plenty of ordinary folk who are just getting on with their lives in the background. Added to the many stories that go untold and the many questions that go unanswered throughout the book, this gives one a sense that this is a very real place, and that is to the author's credit. Although ostensibly based on Renaissance Italy, there is plenty of orignality injected into this fantasy world, which alone makes this book stand out from the ususal swords and sorcery fare.

On the negative side, much the novel is poorly executed. Much of the dialogue is clunky and indeed cringe-worthy whenever the characters 'joke' with another. There are entire chapters that should have been exised, and more than one of the central characters seems to add very little to the book apart from dead weight. The final third of the novel drags terribly, with events seeming to happen more and more slowly, until the rapid (though exciting) climax.

Ultimatley Tigana is much better than ninety-percent of the fantasy novels you are likely read, but it falls far short of being a great book in its own right.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking!, 14 Mar. 2007
By 
This review is from: Tigana (Hardcover)
Tigana is a wonderful example of the fact that you don't necessarily need a series to build a credible world. I am not a huge fan of magic, I despise when it's used as an easy way out. But even though a spell is the case of Tigana's despair, magic plays a very limited part in this book. The focus is on politics, planning, scheming and fighting. Since the world is heavenly influenced by Renaissance Italy, Tigana feels almost more like history than fantasy.

Guy Gavriel Kay's strongest point is definitely the characters. I would love to see his notes on them, because there must be a lot of them. In every sentence you can hint the complex backstory. Even the most insignificant characters feels real. There are no cardboard cutout extras in this world. I am a huge fan of minor characters, and this book is such a treat. I am particularly fond of Naddo and Elena. Usually in fantasy, the evil is a dark presence looming at the horizon. In Tigana, the bad side is represented by Brandin and Alberico, both sorcerers but very, very human, and also each other's worst enemy.

The ending is pretty much your typical fantasty ending, with a few twists. But then there is an epilogue, and the last sentence of that epilogue is just the most evil thing I've ever read. Brilliant, but evil!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy by Geek, 11 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Tigana (Kindle Edition)
This is an enjoyable fantasy novel. The author is widely-read, which gives an unusual structure to the story of the lost country of Tigana. It could easily have fallen into the usual clichés of this kind of sword and sorcery literature, but I enjoyed the adventures of his young minstrel. I particularly liked the way that the female characters had major roles to play in the story, even though he eventually followed the genre's preference for the "lost prince" as the hero.

He uses great chunks from Carlo Ginzberg's classic study of Italian witchcraft trials. This adds extra interest to the section on the benandanti. It would have been good if he had admitted this source in the endnote though.

Worth reading if you like following the developments in fantasy literature. I am not sure it is quite that classic that other reviewers have made it out to be, but it will not disappoint you if you like intelligent plotting, believable dialogue and meditations on the meaning of nation, loss and partnership.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book can be read time and again and still be suprising., 12 Jun. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Tigana (Roc) (Paperback)
Firstly - ignore the synopsis at the top of the page. It is very difficult to summarise what this book is about but that doesn't even come close.
Guy's skill as a writer is that you understand all the characters - there are no villains just for the sake of it which leads you to question the motives even of the "good guys" and whether what they are doing is right. Those ambiguities are what gives the book its strength - there is no way for everyone to win but there are times you wish they could.
It is the sort of book you read through your lunch break (and realise you have taken too long!) and lose sleep over. I have read this book at least 6 times now - each time I have realised something new and each time I am reduced to tears. It is truly one of the best books I have read and, for me, easily the best of Guy Gavriel Kay's works - although his others come very close.
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Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay (Paperback - 3 Feb. 2011)
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