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27 of 27 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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alright, it's superb!, 28 May 2002
By 
This review is from: Tigana (Paperback)
In the Peninsula of the Palm, a land clasped between two tyrannic invaders, the sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior, a small group of people struggle for the freedom of their land. And for that of its forgotten name, Tigana, which has been under a spell for over twenty years, since the day Prince Valentin of Tigana slew Brandin's son in battle.
Devin is a 19-year-old singer in Menico's travelling troupe. After performing at Sandre, the Duke of Astibar's funeral, he discreetely follows his companion the beautiful Catriana across the rooms of the palace. Hiding in a closet, they are about to witness a secret meeting: Sander's son is preparing a coup to overthrow Brandin. Devin's curiosity will soon have him caught up in these events.
Dianora is a young woman from Tigana. Taken as "tribute" to Brandin's harem in his colony on the island of Chiara, she becomes his favourite mistress so she can assassinate him and save her land from the enless vengeful slaughter. Instead, she'll slowly fall in love with the man.
Having read Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry and not liked it much, I would never have read Tigana but for the unanimous praise I came across. And how wrong I would have been, what great reading pleasure I would have missed! For Tigana is a superbly written epic novel, with complex, not-one-dimensional, and finally extremely human characters. I would only reproach the few explicit sex scenes, which I found rather unpoetic. But without hesitation I'll now join my voice to the praise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Set a new high standard for fantasy, 18 Jan. 2007
By 
M. J. SEVERN "mindstar" (Stockport, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Tigana (Paperback)
Tigana is a seminal work, a stunning distillation of fantasy elements into an acutely real world.

In the renaisssance Italy influenced world of Tigana, wizards, curses and ghostly apparitions sit along side violence, grief, love and terrible moral choices. The characters are emphatically written like real people, instead of the simplistic good or evil cyphers that populate so much of fantasy.

The plot cocerns the attempts of a band of freedom fighters to free their land from foreign domination, and the lengths they will go to to obtain liberty and justice.

If you want a book that is different, a book that features heroes who kill innocents and where one of the most honurable and sympathetic characters is the bad guy then this is the book for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Vast Improvement Upon The Fionovar Trilogy, 11 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Tigana (Roc) (Paperback)
While I found the "Fionovar Trilogy" somewhat engaging, in many ways it resembled your standard sword and sworcery tale, and suffered from contrivances, especially the inclusion of Arthurian legend. Tigana represents a clean break from these flaws and Kay creates a world and tale that is inventive and wholly original. Though at moments the story lags, often as an outgrowth to the travels of some of the main characters, overall the tale is well paced, with multiple plots that hold the reader's interest. Kay's characters are mature and multifaceted in their perceptions, and relationships are complex. An excellent book, well worth the time spent....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most compelling books I have ever picked up., 19 Nov. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Tigana (Roc) (Paperback)
A tale of strong emotion and strong principles centred on the fate of the province of Tigana, as it fights to retain its identity in a world ruled by tyrants. The book relies on the masterful characterisation of Kay who brings an incredible realism and insight to the hearts and minds of each of the players in this drama. It is fast paced while never stinting on the detail which draws the reader into the centre of events as they unfold, and blurs the distinctions between good and bad. A truly remarkable experience for the reader which will have him or her crying out for more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Of all the books I read, Tigana is definitely one that stands out, and one that I re-read frequently., 18 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Tigana (Kindle Edition)
Note: contains some spoilers which will only encourage you to read Tigana.

Of all the books I read in my early twenties, Tigana is definitely one that stands out, and one that I re-read frequently. It brings to life more than just a story of magic, sorcery and a fantastical landscape – it could almost be called an essay on human nature, cause and effect, and the ideals that people build for themselves, hidden within a novel. Each time I read it, a different theme stays in my mind to be ruminated over. In a similar fashion to how he wrote Under Heaven, Kay’s language, his storytelling, the character building, the themes of humanity and its vagaries, make this more than a book that can be simply classed as ‘fantasy’. As Kay himself says,

The underlying ideas, for me, had to do with how people rebel when they can’t rebel, how we behave when the world has lost its bearings, and how shattered self-respect can ripple through to the most intimate levels of our lives. […] These are ambitious elements for what was also meant to be a romantic adventure. […] But beneath them all lies the idea of using the fantasy genre in just this way: letting the universality of fantasy—of once upon a time—allow escapist fiction to be more than just that, to also bring us home. I tried to imagine myself with a stiletto not a bludgeon, slipping the themes of the story in quietly while keeping a reader turning pages well past bedtime.

Tigana is set is on a planet with two moons, and deals with a peninsula called The Palm, subjugated by two sorcerers. It is mainly the story of a people under a spell…

‘Brandin of Ygrath did something more than all of this. He gathered his magic, the sorcerous power that he had, and he laid down a spell upon that land such as had never even been conceived before. And with that spell he . . . tore its name away. He stripped that name utterly from the minds of every man and woman who had not been born in that province. It was his deepest curse, his ultimate revenge. He made it as if we had never been. Our deeds, our history, our very name. And then he called us Lower Corte, after the bitterest of our ancient enemies among the provinces.’ Behind him now Devin heard a sound and realized that Catriana was weeping. Baerd said, ‘Brandin made it come to pass that no one living could hear and then remember the name of that land, or of its royal city by the sea or even of that high, golden place of towers on the old road from the mountains. He broke us and he ravaged us. He killed a generation, and then he stripped away our name.’

… and an attempt at its restoration. It is also, however, about rebellion against both the tyrants who rule The Palm. A group of rebels, whose sole purpose is to restore Tigana’s name, are the focus of the book. It is fascinating that the entire story is dependent upon several people, all of whom have essentially the same purpose, but deal with it in such different ways. Obliteration of one’s identity is complex. What is one’s identity. Is it solely nationality? Is it simply personal? Or is it a combination of both? When Tigana’s identity ceases, some just continue to live, others sow the seeds of dissension, and yet others flee oppression, but do nothing to rid themselves of it, even to the extent of burying it in their past and never letting it out. But as we all know, secrets have a way of revealing themselves, and when they do, once again, people deal with them in the same ways they did originally – ignoring it, taking action, or hiding from it. Kay says…

Tigana is in good part a novel about memory: the necessity of it, in cultural terms, and the dangers that come when it is too intense. … The world today offers more than enough examples of both pitfalls: ignorance of history and its lessons, and the refusal to let the past be past.

So, what of the consequences of hiding or glossing over the past? Revenge? Acceptance? Indifference?

Shame combined with anger at those who let the past remain in the past is one of the main emotions that comes up, and Catriana is a prime example. She is angry at her father for hiding the truth…

He went on, ‘You are still a living person, Catriana. With a heart, a life to live, access to friendship, even to love. Why are you sealing yourself down to the one thing only?’ And she heard herself reply: ‘Because my father never fought. He fled Tigana like a coward before the battles at the river.’

For this man, his personal life and family were perhaps more important than national identity. His identity was his family. Or was it something else? Did he simply leave for self-preservation? Either way, to him it mattered more to leave and never talk about it, than to do anything. But to his daughter, it was shame personified, cowardly and traitorous rather than practical or pragmatic. Who is to say which is right and what is wrong?

To a young man like Devin, who never knew Tigana, the knowledge simply spurs him to action, because he feels like he found somewhere to belong. Adventure is calling and how can he resist, particularly for such a cause?

For Dianora it is more a goal to work towards, given that all else in her life has fallen apart. But doing is not as easy as thinking as she finds out. Nor is living with your memories and knowing that perhaps you do not wish to change your destiny after all.

And to Alessan, it is not just a matter of restoring Tigana’s name, but a fight against tyranny and retaining a balance of power in the Palm. By virtue of what he is, but also who he is, he is not content simply to overthrow the man who caused his nation’s loss of identity, but also thinks about the results of a toppling of one of the two currently balanced powers that control The Palm. This is a legitimate argument. Look at our own present-day struggles – Israel-Palestine, Libya, Ukraine… the list is endless. Our past – invasions and rebellions galore. But what is one to do in such a situation? And what happens after the situation is resolved, one way or another. What is the guarantee that new leadership would be better? Better for whom? Again, I quote from Kay’s afterword…

The debate between Alessan and Erlein is meant as a real one, not a plot device. The assertion made […] that the roads of the eastern Palm are safer under Alberico than they were under Sandre d’Astibar is intended to raise a question about the legitimacy of pursuing one’s quarrels—even one’s quest for a people’s obliterated identity and past—by using others as unwilling instruments. By the same token, this is also true of the rage Alessan’s mother feels, seeing her son coolly attempting to shape a subtle, balanced political resolution for the entire peninsula, where she sees only a matter of hatred and blood and Tigana’s lost name.

Kay’s writing style is lyrical, and holds a great depth of feeling and musicality. I will risk a few minor spoilers (don’t worry, I won’t let the cat out of the bag!) by quoting three of the passages that most moved me, and that evoked empathetic response, even to the extent of wanting to draw or paint the emotions I felt in that moment of reading it. They are among my favourite parts of the book… I have left them to the end so that if you would rather not read them, the review ends here.

------

At the beginning of spring, just as the winds began to change, before the last snows melted in Certando and Tregea and the southern reaches of what had been Tigana, came the three Ember Days that marked the turning of the year. No fires not already burning were lit anywhere in the Palm. The devout fasted for at least the first of the three days. The bells of the Triad temples were silent. Men stayed within their doors at night, especially after darkfall on the first day which was the Day of the Dead. There were Ember Days in autumn as well, halfway through the year, when the time of mourning came for Adaon slain on his mountain in Tregea, when the sun began to fade as Eanna mourned and Morian folded in upon herself in her Halls underground. But the spring days inspired a colder dread, especially in the countryside, because so much depended upon what would follow them. Winter’s passing, the season of sowing, and the hope of grain, of life, in the summer’s fullness to come.
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Devin does as he is told. Wincing, gritting his teeth against pain, against grief, he poises the sharp slim blade and brings it down on Sandre’s exposed fingers, cleaving through. He hears someone cry out. Alais, not the Duke. But in the moment the knife cuts clean through flesh to grind against stone there is a swift and dazzling flash. Sandre’s darkened face is illuminated by a corona of white light that flares like a star about his head and dies away, leaving them blinded for a moment in the after-image of its glow.
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He saw Adaon on the mountainside in Tregea, naked and magnificent. He saw him torn apart in frenzy and in flowing blood by his priestesses— suborned by their womanhood for this one autumn morning of every turning year to the deeper service of their sex. Shredding the flesh of the dying god in the service of the two goddesses who loved him and who shared him as mother, daughter, sister, bride, all through the year and through all the years since Eanna named the stars. Shared him and loved him except on this one morning in the falling season. This morning that was shaped to become the harbinger, the promise of spring to come, of winter’s end. This one single morning on the mountain when the god who was a man had to be slain. Torn and slain, to be put into his place which was the earth. To become the soil, which would be nurtured in turn by the rain of Eanna’s tears and the moist sorrowings of Morian’s endless underground streams twisting in their need. Slain to be reborn and so loved anew, more and more with each passing year, with each and every time of dying on these cypress-clad heights. Slain to be lamented and then to rise as a god rises, as a man does, as the wheat of summer fields. To rise and then lie down with the goddesses, with his mother and his bride, his sister and his daughter, with Eanna and Morian under sun and stars and the circling moons, the blue one and the silver. Devin dreamt, terribly, that primal scene of women running on the mountainside, their long hair streaming behind them as they pursued the man-god to that high chasm above the torrent of Casadel. He saw their clothing torn from them as they cried each other on to the hunt. Saw branches of mountain trees, of spiny, bristling shrubs, claw their garments away, saw them render themselves deliberately naked for greater speed to the chase, seizing blood-red berries of sonrai to intoxicate themselves against what they would do high above the icy waters of Casadel. He saw the god turn at last, his huge dark eyes wild and knowing, both, as he stood at the chasm brink, a stag at bay at the deemed, decreed, perennial place of his ending. And Devin saw the women come upon him there, with their flying hair and blood flowing along their bodies and he saw Adaon bow his proud, glorious head to the doom of their rending hands and their teeth and their nails. And there at the end of the chase Devin saw that the women’s mouths were open wide as they cried to each other in ecstasy or anguish, in unrestrained desire or madness or bitter grief, but in his dream there was no sound at all to those cries. Instead, piercing through the whole of that wild scene among cedar and cypress on the mountainside, the only thing Devin heard was the sound of Tregean shepherd pipes playing the tune of his own childhood fever, high and far away. And at the end, at the very last, Devin saw that when the women came upon the god and caught him and closed about him at that high chasm over Casadel, his face when he turned to his rending was that of Alessan.
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(First published by Arati Devasher on bookweyr.com)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cut Above, 21 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Tigana (Kindle Edition)
This is a cut - a very large cut - above your usual Extruded Fantasy Product. On the surface it is a story of heroes and villains, in which at the end the heroes all live and get to marry, and the villains die horrible deaths. Only one person we are made to care about actually dies.

But. The heroes are all variously flawed, and the villains aren't just emissaries of evil. The world-building is good, the culture mostly very convincingly portrayed (I didn't buy the riselka, it didn't seem to fit, somehow) and the main characters are well-drawn and believable. The story itself is interesting and unusual (unusual for fantasy, anyway) and a definite page turner. Also, and perhaps unusually for the genre, certainly when it was published, it has some interesting things to say about means and ends and how the former shape the latter, and the choices people make in pursuit of a cause (good or otherwise). The pain of being an occupied nation came across well. There is no violence pr0n, which was good to see, but the sex scenes were a bit wooden. This was the first book by GGK I have read, and I will read more.

Flaws: too much detail in places, especially in Dianora's back story. (Also, it was a bit too coincidental that she was planning to go to Chiara, and then got carried off there anyway). Few of the secondary characters came across as three dimensional, and Alienor didn't strike me as necessary at all. Not enough standard fantasy tropes were subverted, for me, and there was the usual problem with magic as a deus (or should that be diabolos) ex machina. Half a star knocked off for all that.

Game of Thrones fans will particularly enjoy this ... there's a lot here they will recognise.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So good it earned a spot on the "read once per year" list., 25 Feb. 2014
By 
D. A. Bell (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tigana (Kindle Edition)
I read. A lot. So much so that when I was younger and couldn't afford to support my habit I turned to rereading my top 20 books of all time once every year. After the first read Tigana earned it's place and for years I've return to the shattered land and tragic tale trapped within it's pages once per year even though I can afford any book I please these days.

This firmly established Kay as one of my favorite authors. And even if some of his work hasn't met this bar it's understandable... he could spend the rest of his life trying to top this masterpiece while even his "lesser" work beats the pants of 90% of the other stuff on the shelves.

The book wove a complex and intertwined multi-part plotline at a time when such a thing was fairly rare. Seemingly disconnected at the start all plotlines come together and are resolved at the end in ways that are, at best melancholy to the tragic but regardless they are all treated with respect. It was clear there was no rush to end the story. It is as long as it needs to be and not much more.

Even today the complex and three dimensional treatment of the characters and their relationships are of the highest caliber. The subtle treatment of magic foreshadowed the modern fantasy movement in which spells and witchcraft are far less prevalent or even non-existent (ala Game of Thrones or Robin Hobb's Assassin series).

At first I thought basing the society and culture primarily on Italian history was just a hook, but it became apparent through later books Kay was clearly passionate about the eras and cultures he selected as backdrops.

I can't recommend this book highly enough and most of the people I've recommended this book to come back to me to say how glad they were I introduced them to this author and this book specifically.

My only quibble is with Amazon, Kindle, and Publishers. I wish there was more consistency about how his stories were available. Some are US only, others Canada only, others UK only.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great plot but some errors, 9 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Tigana (Paperback)
This is the first time I have read a book by Kay and I really enjoyed the work. The premise and plot is intriguing, as is the twists and turns that the story takes. Kay can expertly show a range of events over a wide time period and pulls everything together well at the end. It is mainly the interesting plot that pulled me to the end but there are other issues that make it frustrating to read at times.

I found the writing style really annoying and so could not give it more than three stars - if it was a trilogy, I would stop here. Readers are constantly given unfettered access to a viewpoint character's thoughts and yet when it comes to particular plot related issues we are kept in the dark in a way that is highly contrived. This was frustrating and jarred the story progression for me.

Additionally there was a lot of repetition as though readers may not remember the beginning of the book when at the middle or end. There was a lot of unnecessary description and inner thought. Sometimes I had to skim read to get through it. The dialogue was also sometimes clunky - Kay seems to be unable to use it show emotion or humour and has to add in a lot of description which made the humour sometimes feel forced and cringe-worthy. Some of the characters felt like stock characters, especially the female ones, and some of their motivations felt forced. I didn't sympathise with Dianora at all and I felt that she was only relevant to give Brandin and his environment a chance to be seen.

It has some very interesting concepts and interesting political conflicts. The world itself is also very intriguing and clearly a lot of thought was put into it's creation. It would have been more interesting if Tigana was a region that had some specific historical reference, more so than the other provinces.

However overall it is worth reading and will be enjoyed by anyone that loves fantasy and is looking for something with conspiracy and intrigue.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent book from Guy Gavriel Kay..., 16 Sept. 2013
By 
C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Tigana (Paperback)
I am rapidly finding that Guy Gavriel Kay writes exactly the kind of fantasy fiction that suits me. I love his faux-historical settings, with just enough of a similarity to real historical eras to make it familiar, and just enough 'fantasy' elements to make it different. I adored The Lions of Al-Rassan, and whilst I didn't think one was quite as good, I was equally unable to put it down.

Whereas The Lions of Al-Rassan was set in an era and setting akin to Moorish Spain, this one is more akin of twelfth-century Italy, a peninsula full of warring city-states. Eight of the nine states in the Peninsula of the Palm have been conquered by two separate wizards, Alberico and Brandin; only one state remains free, and it is this state that becomes the battleground between the two wizards.

But this is only part of the story; the main themes of this book are truth and memory and what you might call cultural genocide. Tigana is one of the states of the Palm; in conquering it, Brandin's son was killed, and in revenge by magic he removes all memory of Tigana from the world. Only its former inhabitants can even remember its name to speak; to everyone else it is and has ever been Lower Corte, a poor barren state, a pitiful shadow of its former glorious, beautiful history.

Guy Gavriel Kay has a wonderful evocative style of writing - I wouldn't quite say his style is realistic, he writes very much High Fantasy, but I love it. The faux-historical setting, for me at least, makes his worlds seem that much more realistic, the characters much more believable, and the story that much more moving. I'm so glad I still have more of his books to work through!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 23 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Tigana (Kindle Edition)
I have to say I'm sad that I didn't encounter this book before now. After picking up the title from an internet forum, I took it on holiday and read it cover to cover in two days flat. It's rare these days that I find a book which engages me so completely but this is definitely one to file with my Tolkien for re-reading in years to come.

It's beautifully written, thought provoking, and with none of the saccharine moments or one-dimensional characters sometimes found in the genre. Every individual in the story is complex and you will close the book not quite knowing who you wanted to win in the end: the protagonists make bad decisions and even the worst of the tyrants engage your support and sympathy at times. The action is fast paced, there are moments of humour, horror and passion (this is definitely an adult book) and the landscape of the story is wonderfully rich, but it's the politics and characters that drive the narrative rather than any magical contrivance.

Also, the BEST ending I've ever seen in a fantasy novel: it leaves you to ponder but still feels complete, and I was still mulling over it after closing the book.

I'd wholeheartedly recommend this book to ANYONE, not just existing fans of the genre. Needless to say I'll be seeking out some more GGK novels, though I'm a bit worried they won't stack up to this one!
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