Tigana – Guy Gavriel Kay

About the Book
Drawing on the most powerful mythic archetypes, this master epic of magic, politics, war–and the power of love and hate–is a rich, beautifully written, multidimensional work. The few surviving inhabitants of the destroyed land of Tigana bond together in a secret battle to release their homeland’s curse and gain their freedom.
I finished Tigana a while ago and I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about it. That, coupled with the fact that I somehow managed to get sick recently has made reviewing recently a little more difficult than it normally is. Regardless, this book is so vast in so many different respects that reviewing it is just difficult. It’s hard to pin it all down and critique it. Furthermore, it seems almost irreverent to do so.
I tried to read Tigana once before and I put it away very quickly. I realized that I wasn’t in the mood, at the time, for something as slow going and deep as this book ended up being. After cancer treatment and all that, I’ve had a lot of downtime so I picked up Tigana again and found myself wrapped in the story very quickly. I’m saying that because I have a feeling that this is the kind of book some readers may need to be in the right mood for to fully enjoy.
Tigana is filled with plenty of action and suspense but it’s almost a garnish rather than a key part of the narrative. Kay takes his time developing his characters masterfully. In fact, it is his characters that really make this book sing. They are incredibly realistic, each with their own desires, drives and motivations. This ends up being incredibly important to the book as Tigana is a story where some of his characters end up not being exactly what you expect. An example I could use for this point would be Brandin, who Kay introduces to the reader in a negative, almost villainous light. Then, through the eyes of Dianora, he’s shown to be just a man with his own struggles and powerful reasons for doing what he had done. While this may or may not justify his actions, only a master of characterization can balance a character as perfectly as Kay managed to by bringing Brandin from dark and into a nicely balanced gray. He uses that same judicious hand with all of his characters. 
Tigana plays with the idea of identity and the power of memory from two different extremes. He shows the importance/danger of forgetting and the importance/danger of remembering and in these two extremes, identity plays a huge role. It’s actually quite deep, subtle and nicely done. This underlying theme of the book takes time to grow and take root and it might be until the first two sections of the book is read when the reader starts toying with the ideas Kay has presented.
This book can be slightly slow going. There are some repetitive thoughts and internal dialogue which seem to hamper the plot a little. With a plot many may already seem really slow going to some readers and filled with a little too much anxiety, that repetitive factor can break the game. However, for readers who can brave that sort of thing and admire all the detail Kay uses from page to page the payoff is huge. Tigana is intricate and the writing is incredible.
I will mention that it did take me about a chapter to adjust to Kay’s writing style. I’m not exactly sure why the first chapter was difficult for me to absorb and understand, but it was. That first chapter was the chapter that caused me to put aside the book the first time I picked it up. However, that may be a problem unique to me. Once I passed the first chapter, I quickly got used to Kay’s descriptive prose and fell into the general rhythm of his writing.
The plot, as I mentioned, may seem slow growing to some, but this book develops slowly to a nice rolling boil and a complimentary ending. Despite the depth and scope of the tale being told, Kay keeps everything from his characterization, details and plot lined up and developing in time with each other. That’s no small task. Tigana has a lot going on under the surface with some deeper, thought provoking themes that Kay really takes his care with presenting. His multi-faceted characters and the way he presents them from multiple perspectives is something that deserves to be noticed and, perhaps, the most captivating part of this whole book.
In summary, Tigana is a deep tale with brilliant characterization and multi-faceted plot which uniquely attacked both perspectives of the main conflict. While some readers many find this book slightly anxious and slow developing for their tastes, those willing to push through that are in for a real treat. Once you plunge through the layers of Tigana, it becomes part of you. Why, oh why haven’t I read Guy Gavriel Kay before?
4/5 stars 

15 Responses

  • Brenda

    I really liked Tigana. My favorite my Kay is The Lions of Al Rassan, though.

  • Sarah (Bookworm Blues)

    I've had quite a few people tell me about that one. I need to pick it up.

  • Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom)

    Tigana sounds like my kind of read! I've had similar problems with books where I need to be in the right mood to get through the initial chapters. I'll try to pick this one up and give it a look see. Thanks 🙂

  • Jared

    One of our rare moments of disagreement 🙂

    I reeeeeeeally disliked Tigana – although I've got a certain sort of fondness for it as it was the first really snarky review I ever wrote, which was kind of fun. Thanks, Mr Kay.

  • Sarah (Bookworm Blues)

    I've noticed this seems to be a book people either love or hate and are rarely lukewarm over. I really enjoyed it… but plenty of people don't. I love your snarky reviews! I'll have to go look it up.

  • Escapist

    It was hard for me to get through, so I couldn't give a rave review, but I was glad to have read it.

    I think I'd have to be in a certain mindset to try another of his though…I agree that it was rather slow-moving, and I kept waiting for everything to come together. Satisfying end though 🙂

  • Sarah (Bookworm Blues)

    It was a very slow read. I was in the mood for that kind of thing which was helpful but I do think that it's essential to be in the right mood to read it.

  • Anonymous

    Another plug for Lions! Kay is one of my favorites and Lions, the Sarantine duology and Last Light of the Sun are great reads if you like Tigana. I think he peaked with Lions though.

  • Kat Hooper

    I listened to the audio version of Tigana. It was gorgeous.

  • Seak (Bryce L.)

    I'm over halfway through the audiobook and loving it. Kay is already a must-read author for me.

  • Kat Hooper

    Bryce, if you haven't read Under Heaven yet, get it in audio. It's also read by Simon Vance, and it's delicious.

  • Yagiz

    I read Tigana a long time ago and I remember I was very impressed with it. It stayed with me for a long time, after that. I never re-read books but if I ever do, Tigana would be at the top of the list. I love Kay's work. He's one of my favourite authors.

  • Seak (Bryce L.)

    @Kat – so good to hear, thanks.

  • Melissa (My World...in words and pages)

    I have this one on the shelf here and have wanted to get into it for some time. But just haven't found the time to spend on it. I will definitely keep in mind all you said here about the book and set the right time aside for it. Thanks!

  • Memory

    I'm so glad you give it another go, and enjoyed it the second time around! It's my very favourite book. Certain scenes and images stop me in my tracks whenever I revisit them.

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