Katie's Reviews > Tigana

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
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's review
May 20, 12

bookshelves: fantasy, fiction
Read from March 01 to May 19, 2012

3½ stars

Tigiana is a pretty lovely book, especially in its ideas. It’s a story about language, and memory, and how people deal with the past, and about how people do kind of awful things for pretty understandable reasons. It’s also, in typical Guy Gavriel Kay fashion, about a world that’s changing from what it had been before, and how people learn to live with that.

There are a lot of things about this story that are wonderful, but I think what really makes it work is the storyline surrounding Dianora and Brandon of Ygrath. They’re the novel’s best-realized characters (and the conflicted ones that Kay is always best at crafting) and how their story unfolds is surprising and compelling, but also seems utterly inevitable. It’s got a sense of tragedy and grandeur that feels epic and personal at the same time. Guy Gavriel Kay does tragedy better than almost any other author out there right now, and his chapter on (view spoiler) is a beautiful example of it.

That said, I think the book has a couple of issue that keep it from five stars. The first is the pacing: the last 150 or so pages are great, but the middle drags quite a bit. Once the plot and characters have been established, they stall a bit until the climax without being fully developed to their potential. I’m all for a slow plot in exchange for some character development, but I think there are certain chapters here where we don’t get much of either, and things just kind of meander around in search of a good editor. There’s also a long detour into a subplot about Carlo Ginzburg-esque ‘night battles’ that are kind of fun, but are never fully integrated into the main plot or fully explored in their meaning.

The second is Kay’s writing, which I’m really ambivalent about. He can be a really fantastic author and can use really beautiful prose (see: almost any Dianora section), but it can also be a bit patchy, and sometimes spills over from lovely to cliched or sentimental. I think that’s especially true in Devin’s chapters, where the sentiment seems superficial. And while none of the characters are quite two-dimensional, I think some of them fail to really jump off the page. Devin’s a perfectly fine protagonist, but he never adds much to the story. Baerd and Sandre have nice moments, but fade off into the background too often to really come into their own. Erlein is more a walking moral quandary than a character, and his dilemma gets resolved pretty abruptly. Alberico is a nice foil to Brandon, but not complex enough on his own. Catriana was fascinating for a good bit of the book, but all her deep seated issues get resolved too easily and really quickly. Also, I think the epilogue joins the long list of epilogues-that-probably-didn’t-need-to-be-there, and ones that paint an overly-rosy view of what’s going to happen next. Scelto’s last line would have been a perfect way to end the book, a nice and ambiguous end for a nice and ambiguous story.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Connie Finally finished this! (Only a week after I was "supposed" to finish it for Sword & Laser)

I'll write up a review within the next couple of days--but I agree with pretty much everything you said. Dianora and Brandin were wonderful and heart-wrenching, in the best/worst possible way--and I agree that the epilogue was unnecessary and it should have just ended with the last chapter and Scelto's decision.

Katie It took me a while to finish it too, from what I remember. Excited to read your review!

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