Book Reaction: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay


Yesterday I did a review on this book, so I’m not going to go into any explanation of the premise or the synopsis here.  Furthermore, if the title isn’t obvious enough, this is a spoiler review.  So you have been warned.

I picked up ‘Tigana’ because as a history student I liked how it was based on themes from real history.  The concept of a nation being not only conquered, but also made to feel ashamed of itself and forgotten intrigued me.  I think the afterword at the end of the book was a great add-on because a lot of the influences that Guy Gavriel Kay mentions are interesting.  In my opinion the book does examine the consequences of Brandin of Ygarth’s rule really well.  Many of the people who remembered Tigana wanted to forget it because they felt that it was wrong that they were still alive while so many others weren’t.  Baerd’s and Catriana’s storylines were the biggest ones that stand out in respect to this.  I thought that was interesting because it was something that I didn’t expect to feature in a story like this – the guilt that they felt for being too young, or for the actions of their fathers.  They weren’t just angry at Brandin, but at themselves and at their country fellows.

In my review I mentioned a couple of problems that I had with the book.  The one that I want to talk about here is the romance.  I hated how Catriana was relegated to Allesan’s love interest in the last hundred or so pages in the book.  Before that I’d liked her, because she was willing to do anything for her country, like all the others.  Then all of a sudden we have this ‘love confession’ where both characters realise their undying love for each other (in the space of a chapter) and she realises she has done everything for Allesan.

‘We do with our hands, our eyes, what we are afraid to say’.  She surprised herself; she hadn’t known she knew any such thing. (P 719)

I think the scene was over the top and cheapened everything that she had done.  And his lines were so cheesy… I’m shuddering just remembering them.  Devin’s love story bored me.  Baerd’s happened really quick, but it was bearable.  The exception was of course Dianora and Bradin – I hated him, but I could feel the love between them.  She gave up her foretold destiny because she couldn’t bear to leave him.

This leads me to the part of the book that to me was the best.  The ending was great.  I thought it was heartbreaking that Prince Valentin was Brandin’s Fool.  It was like the ultimate torture – Brandin not only took away the Prince’s family and his country, but he also faked his death after a year of torturing him and mutilated him so much that his own son didn’t recognise him.  Surprisingly, I didn’t hate Brandin by the end of the book – his intense love for his loved ones compared to Alberico didn’t make him the most evil man in the world.  He was bad but he wasn’t a traditional 2-D bad guy.  I could on some level feel for him.  When Valentin was revealed I was shocked, but I think the saddest part of that scene was that he didn’t hate Dianora.  Despite it all, and despite Dianora’s deep-seated fear that if anyone who knew her knew what she had become they would reject her, Valentin didn’t look down on her.

The Prince of Tigana, on the ground beside them, was looking at her with so much compassion in his newly clear eyes.  Which was a thing she could not possibly endure.  Not from him: not with what he had suffered and what she was, what she herself had done.  (P 771)

I thought that was touching.  I think that it was a very clever way to end the book, because it made sense that Valentin would kill Bradin, but it also wasn’t something that a reader could predict.  I expected Allesan to do it.   I wasn’t surprised when Dianora killed herself.  Before the big reveal I had wondered how she was going to go on or would she be allowed a normal life or would she escape.  I think it was a satisfying ending because like Valentin, it made sense.  Dianora wouldn’t have be able to live without Brandin, and she didn’t want to.

The other ending of the book was… different.  At first I thought it was going to be too happy ever after, and after poor Dianora’s end I wasn’t really in the mood for that.  I loved that the ending showed that the time ‘Tigana’ covered was not the entirety of the characters lives.  The riselka was a fantastic twist, because we know that Devin, Baerd and Sandre are not going to take the significance of the matter lightly.  One of them will have a change of path, the other will die and the third will be blessed.  Personally I think it should go like this:  Baerd has a change of path, Devin will die and Sandre will be blessed.  I think that is the most interesting outcome, because if Devin had the change of path, Sandre died and Baerd was blessed it would be way too predictable – I mean Sandre is old, Devin doesn’t want to settle down and Baerd being blessed already happened.  Baerd dying, Sandre changing and Devin being blessed would be interesting too.

The combination is completely up to the reader though because there will be no sequel.  I find that refreshing, because it is a very rare thing with a successful book, especially in fantasy.  I will be reading more Guy Gavriel Kay in the future.


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