Monday, July 16, 2012

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Despite his standing and reputation in the genre, not to mention the amount of books he’s written over a long period of time, I’d only ever read one Guy Gavriel Kay novel, and that was A Song for Arbonne, I think I had a go at the Fionavar Tapestry, but never got very far into it. I couldn’t remember a lot of A Song for Arbonne, although I think I found it inoffensive enough. People kept recommending Kay to me, so I was pleased to see one of his highly regarded works in Tigana pop up on the list.

It’s a long book, and largely about a rebellion organised by a small group of rebels to overthrow magical tyrants in order to take back their country and restore it’s memory. One of the sorcerors; Brandin, had not only brutally defeated Tigana in battle when his son was slain in action, he had actually erased all memory of the country from people’s minds, and had it renamed.

World building and characterisation are Kay’s strengths. Both are on full view throughout Tigana. The world is painstakingly built and beautifully described, Kay makes it seem very real, at times it’s more like reading a historical fiction novel than a work of pure fantasy. By basing the world of Tigana on medieval Italy, despite it having two moons, the author has been able to give it life and texture, plus a frame of reference for readers.

The story is told featuring a handful of point of view characters; young singer Devin, former prince and rebel Alessan, and one of Brandin’s concubines; Dianora, who was once a prominent citizen of Tigana. Devin was interesting at first, but the whole wide eyed innocent thrown into dangerous situations and turning into a committed and talented rebel fighter trope wore a bit thin later in the book. I found Dianora the most interesting, and as she was also in a rather foreign and fascinating court there was more scope, she was also the most conflicted of the protagonists, hating Brandin for what he and his forces had done to her country and family, but at the same time loving him for how he treated her, and his nobility.

Tigana was an interesting read and well built world, but it needed more to be truly successful. The plot was a little thin, and the coincidences were overdone. Some characters required more explanation for their actions. Overall there was too much padding and not enough substance. Where are the ruthless editors now?

Guy Gavriel Kay got his start working on Tolkien’s work under the guidance of Christopher Tolkien, and the influence shows in his writing. As Kay has drawn on Tolkien I can see Kay’s own influences in the writing of others since. Whilst reading Tigana I was reminded of George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora and most especially Daniel Abraham’s The Dagger and the Coin. On that front I can’t recommend Abraham highly enough, anyone who liked Kay, especially Tigana, would be well advised to read Abraham’s in progress series.

No comments:

Post a Comment