Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay — 688 pgs

When Brandin of Ygrath ruthlessly destroys the city of Tigana as revenge for the death of his son during war, he places a spell that virtually ensures that Tigana and its residents will be lost and forgotten forever. The tyrant Brandin rules half the continent and seeks to conquer the remainder, which is ruled by Alberico of Barbidor. The two warrior sorcerers are so busy trying to dominate the Peninsula of the Palm that they never realize that the seeds of resistance are being planted right under their noses. These seeds are sown by an unlikely band of warriors whose aim is to break the spell placed over Tigana all those years ago. This traveling band of what would at first appear to be minstrels includes some very powerful and staunch men and women who long to break the region’s rule of tyranny, and whose acts of rebellion will involve a cast of characters from the most lowly to the most high. It’s up to this ragtag group of people to force a conflict of the greatest proportions between the two tyrannical leaders, hoping that they will one day bring the name of Tigana back to the ears and mouths that have lost the ability to perceive it. In this engrossing and heartrending fantasy tale, Guy Gavriel Kay takes his readers on an epic quest for redemption, conquest and healing in a place where brutality is the order of the day and sorcery comes face to face with the unflinching power of those who were once so greatly wronged.

One of the best things about having a reading buddy like Aarti is that, on occasion, she’ll get me fired up about a new author or genre, which is exactly what happened when she introduced me to the wonderful works of Guy Gavriel Kay. When we decided to read The Lions of Al-Rassan together last year, I became intensely interested in Kay and vowed to read as many of his books as I could. I’m not that well-versed in fantasy, but after reading these two books, I’m coming to find out that this is a genre that I can really fall in love with. Despite the fact that I enjoyed Lions just a little bit more than this book, I found that the story kept me glued to my seat, with revelations and twists coming in fast and ferociously.

This was not an easy read. Kay engineers his books in way that maximizes storyline and characters in a dense bunch, with political and social machinations that will leave even the most careful reader dizzy at times. In his winding narrative, he creates a fascinating world where things are very different than the world we live in and provides his readers with such plausible backstory that it’s impossible not to buy into all the various conundrums and difficulties that his characters face. It was literally spellbinding to think about the time and effort that goes into these books, and in his creation of this far-off world, Kay brings to life a civilization that stretches the borders of his pages and goes on to embed itself in his readers’ consciousness and imagination.

There was a lot going on in this book, and from its humble beginnings, I wondered just where Kay was going to take me. As the narrative stretched forward, people and places coalesced into a dramatic frenzy that not only includes magic and sorcery, but war, politics, and even a few love triangles. There were also many themes running through the tale, such as revenge and control, annihilation and rebuilding, and power and weakness. Though there was one character that I didn’t care for very much (and I think Aarti agrees with me on this point), all of the them had credibility and dimension, and all of them kept me pondering over the repercussions that their actions would have. It was the type of story that’s easy to lose yourself in, and great swatches of plot served only to magnify the conflict and desires that each of these characters faced. Kay pulls it off brilliantly and keeps his readers in the perfect balance of suspense and watchfulness as he plays one character and set of events off of the other time and time again.

Divided loyalties, shifting balances of power, and heartbreaking revelations are only some of what this book has to offer. A few times while reading, I would shout out with realization and wonder when plot points intersected and gelled for me. This book also speaks of the powerful bonds that are formed when people become enmeshed together, fighting for the same cause. In several instances, I marvelled at the potency of Kay’s ability to permeate the boundaries between these very different people, and came to relish the power, subtlety and skill of his writing. There was one particular storyline that involved Brandin’s captive concubine that had me furiously turning pages, eager to find out what would transpire between the woman who came to kill the warrior wizard but found herself caught up in the most indescribable love for her captor.

If there are readers out there who haven't experienced Guy Gavriel Kay’s awesomeness, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend both this book and The Lions of Al-Rassan as some of the most entertaining and thoughtful historical fantasy out there today. It was a lush read, one that surprised me with its intensity and fluid plot, and I’m now even more committed to reading more of Kay’s work. A great read all around, and highly recommended!

21 comments:

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

This sounds epically fantastic and right up my alley! I love the fantasy genre and would love to dive into more of it with authors I've not read before. At 688 pages, I'm ready to dive in!

bermudaonion said...

If this wasn't easy for you, it's probably be impossible for me. Fantasy and I don't play well together.

Jenny said...

I sort of agree with Kathy, lol.. this sounds really complex! And my experiences with fantasy haven't been good either.

Suko said...

Wonderful review of a book that sounds truly spellbinding! I'm not much of a fantasy reader either, but I think I'd also be dazzled by Tigana.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

That Aarti takes on some hard books! But she has a great eye for awesomeness, even though I am sometimes afraid to take on what she recommends! When I do, however, I have to say I never regret it!

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Fantasy is probably my least favorite genre...I need something that will blow me away if I'm ever going to really appreciate it :( In my younger days I loved stuff like Watership Down and The Crystal Cave stuff...but I haven't found anything I like in a long time :( I feel left out ;)

Audra said...

See, this is why I love your blog -- you take your enthusiasm for new things and share with the world. I've heard of Kay now and then but haven't ever picked up his books -- now I'm super curious. I've added this and the Lions to my TBR!

softdrink said...

I read this so long ago I don't remember anything except that yes, Kay is awesome. I should re-read or something, but dang, it's long!

Marie said...

wow- sounds like someone I need to keep an eye out for!

Ti said...

Not a genre for me but reading it with a reading buddy is probably the only way I'd tackle this one. I don't even know how you managed to sum it up so succinctly. It's a chunkster!

Aarti said...

YES! I will set aside my feelings of disbelief that you were reading this and never mentioned it to me :-) because I am so glad you actually did read it. And take a sort of perverse pleasure in the fact that you didn't like the character I didn't like, either. The whole premise of the book being about war and identity and how much of your identity is tied to your country was really powerful for me, though I admit I vastly prefer Lions to this one (probably because of romantic storylines thrown in at the very end of the book that greatly annoyed me).

SO, now it's time for you to read A Song for Arbonne ;-)

Also, Jill/rhapsody! Good heavens, you are making me blush :-)

Jenners said...

I'm just not sure. I'm glad you loved it but I'm not sure this is a good fit for me. But still … it is good to take chances and they often pay off.

Lisa said...

Argh - I have never, never liked fantasy but you make it sound so tempting and you've never steered me wrong yet so...

Sandy Nawrot said...

For me, a book like this would be like me trying to read Pig Latin. I have no interest and I'm afraid I wouldn't get it. BUT, I am very impressed that you took the challenge and it worked out for you! You can pull these things off!

Marg said...

This author is one that I know I need to try but I just haven't yet!

Biblibio said...

I have not yet tried Guy Gavriel Kay's brand of historical fantasy (despite being a fan of the genre). Do you think there's a real historical fiction feel/appeal? This sounds quite like many of my favorite historical novels.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I'm not sure if this one would be for me. I think it is great to explore new genres and authors.

Amy said...

Wow, this author sounds pretty amazing! I will try to read something by him at some point. This does sound really interesting, and what a great job to pull so much together so well!

Jules said...

I've been thinking about buying this book for my Kobo. I've read one book by him in the past, Yasbel which was okay, but not great (I've been told it's the "worst" book by other fans of him). But I've herd him read pieces of his book, Under Heaven, last year, and need to read it already. And I should probably read the other two books I have by him sitting on the shelf before I buy another right? Even if your review has me wanting to go and buy it?

Harvee Lau said...

This sounds like a good fantasy author. Though I don't read much of this genre, I might give this one a try.

Nymeth said...

I am one of those readers, and I've been meaning to read this soon for... pretty much years. Thank you for reminding me that I really should!

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