Backlist Burndown Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Narrator: Simon Vance
Also by this author: The Lions of Al-Rassan
Published by Penguin on December 1, 1999
Length: 24 hours 50 minutes
Tigana is the magical story of a beleaguered land struggling to be free. It is the tale of a people so cursed by the black sorcery of a cruel despotic king that even the name of their once-beautiful homeland cannot be spoken or remembered.
If you have not read anything by Guy Gavriel Kay, I really encourage you to. His prose is beautiful without being flowery or ostentatious. It just flows and and leaves both wonderful images and reflections in its wake. And to make the deal even sweeter, the audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance. If you haven’t listened to a book narrated by Simon Vance, your life is just not as fulfilled as it could be! His voice is just magic, and pair that voice with Kay’s prose? The result is an audible heaven. Seriously.
Tigana is a magical exploration of history and memory. A grieving sorcerer casts a spell in vengeance, causing everyone from Tigana to be caught in the middle. It is the story of a land that has been erased from everyone’s memory, and the even then name Tigana is not able to be heard or understood by anyone from outside of Tigana. Whoever you are, wherever you are from, imagine not being able to speak the name of where you are from much less speak of its history. It’s a sad loss that most of the world is unaware of.
In addition to that, it’s also a story that causes you to pause and think about “the bad guy”. I always love getting the perspective of the supposed villain because whenever you get that, you start to see shades of grey instead of black and white. You may still know the character’s actions were poor choices that caused harm, but once a villain is humanized and their motivations are understood, to me, this is where a story can get way more interesting. Tigana does this by giving us the POV of both the sorcerer and someone that has grown close to him. His curse on Tigana may not be justified, but I loved getting to understand the character that cast that curse. And then there is the question of is the cost of repealing this curse (the lives that would be lost) worth getting back the memory and history of Tigana? A very interesting dilemma.
I enjoyed this, I enjoyed the prose and the ways it makes you think about the world, not just the fictional world the story is about, but how this can apply to the world we know. (For those interested in hearing the author’s take on how this applies to our world, I highly encourage you to read the Kay’s afterword.)
I will say I did not love this on quite the same level as I did Lions of Al-Rassan. I’m still giving it 4.5 stars, so don’t take that as a negative, sometimes we’re allowed to pick favorites without it being insulting. But I couldn’t help but try and decide what made me love this one slightly less. Lions was very very light on magic. This book, was quite heavy with it, the entire premise of the book was dependent upon it. I have to say, I think I prefered the lighter level of magic in Lions. I also don’t think I ever grew quite as attached to the characters in this one as I did in Lions (but I still enjoyed them and I don’t think they were two dimensional). Minor things, but ultimately, probably what made it slightly easier for me to pick a favorite between these two books. But then, who knows, this could be one of those books I continue to think about over time and hence raise my rating. Only time will tell. Regardless, the difference would only be between 4.5 versus 5 stars, I loved this story either way. It’s a book and author that I highly recommend to pretty much anyone and everyone.
I have challenged and committed myself to reading at least one book from my backlist every month and posting the review on the last Friday of the month. I invite anyone interested to join me and link up their own Backlist Burndown reviews. I will offer the link at the bottom of my monthly Backlist Burndown reviews, and also will keep a running record of the reviews on my Dracarys! Backlist Burndown page available from my top menu.