Friday, May 21, 2010

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana made me want to write this blog.


This probably sounds like an odd statement. How can an ordinary book want to make you write pages and pages of blog posts that I will probably devote days, weeks, and months to?

In a nutshell, the answer is: Tigana is not an ordinary book. It is a book so beautiful that I couldn't help but want to share with someone else.

A little background. I'm a hard-core fantasy fan, but its hard to find books like Tigana in the bookstores in the small Indian city I live in. Therefore, I have to order each book from Amazon, at about double the price you'd get a similar book here, and wait till April, when my parents usually go to America and are able to pick up the books. Therefore, each one of the books I order is carefully picked. I read many reviews. I wait for recommendations from people I trust. I think a hundred times on whether I'd rather have a new book from an author I've never read before or the latest addition to Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos books. These are hard choices.

For Tigana, it wasn't so hard. I had a recommendation from Limyaael, whose posts I read as often as I possibly can, and whose book recommendations (on her live journal) generally fit in to my tastes. Besides, I'd already read (also on the recommendation of Limyaael) "The Lions of Al-Rassan" by Guy Gavriel Kay, and liked it, though not nearly as much as I eventually came to love Tigana. I read many reviews about Tigana, good and bad, but eventually went with my gut feeling and just decided to buy it.

I think my life would have so much poorer if I had not.

Why can be summed up in just one brilliant line of the book, "Tigana, let my memory of you be a blade in my soul."

The basic premise of the book? A peninsula divided into seven states. Two foreign conquerors who have captured six of these states - Brandin and Alberico. One Prince of Tigana who dared to kill Brandin's beloved son. One spell that removed the existence of an entire culture from the face of the earth, not even leaving the name of the place. And a group of people who will do anything to bring back their beloved country.

On the outset, this seems like a pretty simple story. You root for the people who are fighting against the evil sorcerers. They win. You celebrate.

To a certain extent, this is what happened with me. I loved Alessan, I liked Devin, and even though I wasn't too fond of Catriana she still struck me as a fairly respectable character. I could believe in their cause (especially thanks to the breath-taking prologue, which reveals exactly what the cause means to them and why) What happens, though, when you fall in love with the characters on the opposite side too? I didn't want to like Dianora, the woman who begins as someone who wants to kill Brandin but ends up falling in love with him. But it was impossible to help. Kay lifts this story from the regular cliche of woman-falling-in-love-with-person-she-is-supposed-to-kill and puts you right there with Dianora and Brandin and whether you like it or not, you eventually end up loving them, or at least sympathizing with them. Till the end of the book, I was hoping for an ending that was happy for all of them, and there was even a point when I thought that was possible.

But characterization, even though it is a major part of why I like this book, is not the only reason I would recommend it to someone. Another is undoubtedly the world-building. The Palm is a real and beautiful place, with a history and a future. People don't act and think in a vacuum. You can almost see the two moons, hear Alessan playing on the pipes and taste the blue wine. The descriptions used by Kay are masterful. You get the feeling that this world is alive, that it exists somewhere, and doesn't end once the pages of the book end. The description in this book makes me want to spend a vacation in Tigana, and see the towers and the buildings and the beauty. I'm not a visual reader. I don't, unlike most readers, generally see images in my head of the characters and locations. But I see Tigana.

The language is another part of this book that makes it worth recommending. The book is beautifully written, in a number of different points of view. For someone who enjoys something other than the regular black-and-white fantasy, this is a beautiful book to read, because it tells you things from the perspective of many characters. Even Alberico, who I definitely wouldn't sympathize with normally and whom I only cautiously liked in this book, was a wonderful read. Besides, sentences of this book will set themselves in your sub-conscious memory and come back on lazy days, and the time before you go to sleep, or when you are looking out of the window in a drive, and make your heart twist in a way that is both beautiful and tragic.

Many people will tell you that the ending leaves you wanting more. In my opinion, this is one of the best, best parts of this book. The ending with tantalize you and grip you. I don't know if any other author could have made this ending work. It still makes gives me butterflies in my stomach when I think of it. The ending alone is a really good reason to love this book. Tigana is a book to love, to savor slowly on lonely afternoons, to re-read, and to write reviews about. Tigana is truly a book to treasure.

Last words: Read Tigana. Re-read it. And let your memory of this book forever be a blade in your soul.


  1. i LOVE this review :D
    i haven't finished the book yet but I'm loving every bit of it :D
    And I agree with you about the language and it's just seriously seriously BEAUTIFULLY MESMERISINGLY AWESOME <3<3<3 :) thanks for giving it to me! :D

  2. Haha.
    Thanks so much Aanal. But you see, I started this blog precisely to share such books with people like you...
    So. <3


Leave me a comment on one of my reviews! Please remember, differences of opinion are welcome, obnoxious flame wars are not.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

You Might Also Like

Related Posts with Thumbnails