Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Review Summary: I was very close to giving this a five-star, gushy review. The plot is clever and thought-provoking and the characters have a lot of depth, but I just didn’t find the ending very satisfying.
Like Hyperion (which, having read the sequel, I’ve retroactively makde a 5 star book), this book was selected by the Sword and Laser group on goodreads, has been nominated for several awards, and was exceptionally well written. Tigana is about a world similar to 16th century Italy, with many warring provinces. In this world, eight of the nine provinces have been conquered by two foreign sorcerers. In revenge for the death of his son one of these sorcerers has obliterated one province entirely, casting a spell that prevents anyone not originally from that province from even remembering its’ real name – Tigana. The book focuses on efforts, lead by people from Tigana, to remove the two sorcerers without allowing either of them to grab control of all the provinces.
The plot contained several novel ideas which made this such an interesting read, especially the unusual nature of the sorcerer’s revenge on Tigana and the political circumstances preventing a simple assassination from solving all their problems. It left me pondering whether what the sorcerer did was evil and if so, why it mattered so much. At several points, it also raises the question of whether the people of Tigana are putting their desire to restore their homeland above the common good. Through a romance which I found one of the more engaging parts of the book, the sorcerer is also made a lot more human – yet another gray area to consider.
There were a lot of important characters and many of them had their backgrounds very nicely fleshed out, giving them a lot of depth. Although sometimes knowledge dumps can be bad, I liked that this book took the time to drop out of the present, often through dreams or memories, and show us each character’s story instead of just telling us. The mixed feelings of some of the characters brought about by the gray areas I mentioned above tugged at my emotions frequently and the nobility of some of the characters in the face of such moral ambiguity was epic.
As I mentioned earlier, I very nearly loved this book. The spectacular writing and moral gray areas created a very compelling read. At the final confrontation, I still wasn’t sure what outcome would be best, but I desperately wanted to know what that outcome would be. Unfortunately, especially for someone with my love of happy endings, not all of the subplots wrapped up happily and in at least one case, I didn’t feel like the book was any better for it. While sometimes sadness can be poignant, this was closer to pointless. After that, the epilogue fell somewhat flat, since it didn’t focus on the characters and relationships I cared about the most. So while this book was 95% awesome, the ending made the whole thing unsatisfying for me.
Who should read this? Any die-hard fantasy fans, anyone who doesn’t mind less-than-perfectly-happy endings, people who appreciate good writing with complex moral decisions