Backlist Burndown Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

January 30, 2015
Backlist Burndown Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel KayTigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Narrator: Simon Vance
Also by this author: The Lions of Al-Rassan
Published by Penguin on December 1, 1999
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 688
Length: 24 hours 50 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased

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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.

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  • Tammy @ Books Bones & Buffy January 30, 2015 at 9:15 am

    This month went by so fast I ran out of time to do my Backlist book! I still have some time to join in, right? I’ve read Kay a LONG time ago (and I can’t remember which book at the moment) but I did love that book.
    Tammy @ Books Bones & Buffy recently posted…Tough to Read, Hard to Put Down: ATLANTA BURNS by Chuck Wendig – ReviewMy Profile

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) January 30, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      From what I hear, it could have been any one of his books. And there’s always time to start working on the backlist 🙂 I’ll start the February list in a couple days, but will keep this one open for a bout a week so people can link up any posts they did in January to it if they want 🙂
      Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Backlist Burndown Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel KayMy Profile

  • Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum January 30, 2015 at 9:40 am

    GGK is amazing! His writing is so beautiful, his books are practically works of art. Of all his books I’ve read, Tigana is probably my least favorite though, but all Kay is good.
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Backlist Burndown: Sevenwaters 1 & 2 by Juliet MarillierMy Profile

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) January 30, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      It’s funny, pretty much everyone I talk to that has read them will say exactly that, but their favorite (and least favorite) books vary across the board. It almost just seems to come down to which plot you prefer because they are all excellent.
      Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Backlist Burndown Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel KayMy Profile

  • Nathan (@reviewbarn) January 30, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Your graphics are always awesome, you do them yourself? I should have let you design Tough Travels for sure.
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  • Bibliotropic January 31, 2015 at 8:14 am

    I haven’t read anything by Kay either, though I keep hearing fantastic things about his books. I really ought to take a chance on him one of these days.

    Kudos to you for making a solid effort to get through your backlist, too. I’m trying to do the same, partly out of a sense of guilt over not having read certain ARCs yet, and partly as a way to catch up on books whose sequels are coming out soon and that sound interesting to me. It feels like a never-ending backlist, honestly, but I like being able to take a step back and not always focus so much on upcoming books. Highlighting older books that are still worth reading is a worthy goal!
    Bibliotropic recently posted…January in RetrospectMy Profile

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) January 31, 2015 at 11:14 am

      Yeah, I definitely have some ARCs that have turned backlist. But I’m really trying to read more of certain authors, and try some new things. I have lots of holes in my genre reading repertoire 🙂 And I highly recommend Kay, I doubt you’ll be disappointed if you do :)
      Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Monthly Musings – January 2015My Profile

  • Miriam @ Inky Realms February 1, 2015 at 8:35 am

    I think Tigana is one of my favourite books ever, although it’s been a few years since I read it. Your review makes me want to hunt down the audiobook version though! Glad you enjoyed it 😀
    Miriam @ Inky Realms recently posted…January Wrap UpMy Profile

  • Steph February 1, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    I’ve been meaning to pick up one of his books for some time since I’ve never read him. Would you start with this or Lions? I do like a good audible book and like Simon Vance as a narrator. Nice review.

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) February 1, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Honestly, they are both standalone so you can start with either. I did a combination of reading and audiobook for Lions and really enjoyed that as well. I think preferences between Tigana and Lions may come down to plot preferences, if you prefer more magic, go for Tigana, if you prefer very, very low magic, go for Lions. Either way, you really can’t go wrong.
      Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Monthly Musings – January 2015My Profile

  • Jessica @ Rabid Reads February 4, 2015 at 3:29 am

    Best. Meme. Ever. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read anything but Guy Gavriel Kay, but hopefully that will not be the case for much longer. I already added a crap ton of his books to my wishlist before commenting (b/c false sense of urgency, LOL). I have no idea where I’ll start, but if it’s with this one, I doubt a heavy focus on magic will bother me, but a lack of connection to the characters might. BUT not worried, b/c I am very familiar with “liked-it-slightly-less-but-still-AMAZING”
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Review: Fairest by Marissa MeyerMy Profile

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) February 12, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      I don’t think that it was a lack of connection so much as not as strong of a connection as in Lions, the other book of his I have read. Looking forward to seeing what you think of his books/style!
      Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Tough Traveling – To Blathe (True Love)My Profile