This is the first book I have read by Guy Gavriel Kay. Last year I tried The Lions of Al-Rassan, and despite a great beginning, I did not like it enough to finish it. I think I stopped reading halfway through.
Setting: Set in the Palm, a hand-shaped landmass of rival kingdoms similar to Renaissance Italy. The Palm is divided between territories ruled by two tyrants: Brandin and Alberico. Both are sorcerers.
Plot: synopsis: Tigana is the magical story of a beleaguered country struggling to be free. It is the tale of a people so cursed by the dark sorceries of the tyrant king Brandin that even the very name of their once beautiful home cannot be spoken or remembered. But years after their homeland’s devastation, a handful of men and women set in motion a dangerous crusade—to overthrow their conquerors and bring back to the world the lost brightness of an obliterated name: Tigana.
I am not sure about the element of prophecy in this book. It seems like the plot would have been the same without it, so why bother? I also think the book might have been stronger without the epilogue. The epilogue softened what would have been a harsher ending, I thought.
These characters are defined by their past, and that’s by far the most emotionally charged aspect of the book, so I would have liked to see it addressed a bit more. This is the real heart of the book, and sometimes the plot shenanigans were a bit boring in comparison.
Style: Generally I liked the writing style, but it is a little overwritten and melodramatic at times; it needs to lower the voice a bit. However, there are times when this style really works, like the scene where Baerd shouts Tigana’s name.
There seem to be many reviews praising Kay’s writing style. I thought it had its moments, but I am hoping for something a little different the next time I try a book by him. Like I said, The Lions of al-Rassan has a great beginning, but the rest of the book… well…
Themes: revenge, nationalism, identity, the costs of revolution.
Characters: I don’t want to cover all of them in this review, but most of them were well drawn. I appreciated the moral ambiguity here. The protagonists do some questionable things and almost everyone has some complexity.
Dianora: a woman from Tigana who falls in love with Brandin.
Brandin of Ygrath: The sorcerer who cursed Tigana, driven by revenge. One of the more interesting antagonists I’ve seen in a while, and somewhat sympathetic, although I wouldn’t say that he is redeemed.
Best scenes involving other characters:
ch. 8: The moment Baerd shouts Tigana’s name + ch. 15: Alessan’s conversation with his dying mother.
Actually, those might just be the best scenes in the book as a whole.
I liked it overall even though I had some reservations. I will definitely read something else by this author, probably Under Heaven.