Tigana – a different view

Guy Gavriel Kay got his genre credentials early, when as a 20-year-old student he was chosen to help Christopher Tolkien edit Silmarillion. From my point of view – and I love Silmarillion – it’s like a rookie demi-god was asked to edit Bible. How to start your own religion after that? Kay paid homage to his tolkienian roots with excellent Fionavar Tapestry (1984-1986) and moved on to create his own blend of semi-historical fantasy epics. Starting with Tigana (1990). And since I started with religious vocabulary, let me say that I consider this blog’s May 3 review of Tigana a blasphemy 😛

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I won’t say all Ola’s concerns are invalid, and I agree that a book aiming high has to be judged more harshly than a casual time-killer. But did Kay fail to such a degree? While harbouring Law & Justice-like (borderline fascist) ideas about nation, memory and gender? Well… no? I’ll try to show why I like the book and what is good about it while challenging some of Ola’s conclusions.

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Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana (1990)

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A successful lawyer, a philosophy student who helped Christopher Tolkien in The Silmarillion edits, a reasonably well-known author of award-winning fantasy novels, Kay is a veritable jack of all trades. He prefers to set his novels in historical periods, but in imaginary settings, which allows him to create interesting parallels without the burden of fact-checking ;). Although it may be a bit unfair to judge him so harshly – I think that writing responsible historical fiction is a very difficult task and I’m the last to blame anyone if they prefer to concentrate on character development or creating worlds of their own.

And Tigana is set in such a world: one strikingly similar to Renaissance Italy, called Peninsula of the Palm and divided into nine separate provinces sharing a long, not always benevolent or peaceful history. Tigana is the name of one of the provinces; when two warring tyrants with magical powers conquer the subsequent pieces of land, Tigana is the last one to be subdued. In the battle there the son of one of the tyrants, Brandin, dies. Stricken by grief, Brandin decides to erase the name of Tigana and all of its history from the human memory. But there are survivors. One of them is Alessan, the last prince of Tigana. The others – Catriana, Dianora, Devin and the duke Sandre d’Astibar – he gathers around himself as he prepares his vengeance against Brandin.

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