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2012 Reads > TIG: The appeal of Tigana (non-spoiler)

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message 1: by Vance (new) - added it

Vance | 362 comments What I have always loved about Tigana, and the reason why I have been pushing for this book, may be less obvious now than when it was first written.

It is Kay's method of "historical fantasy", where he chooses a historical period and creates a fantasy version of it. Not alternate history, but something new. The look, feel and flavor of the land and cultures preserved, and only slightly altered, but a new story being told. He may not have been the first to do this, but he was the first to do it so well. As a history buff, the idea of reading an Italian Renaissance novel, but without the restrictions of actual history, and with some magic thrown in, was very appealing.

Then Spain, when Jewish, Muslim and Christians all resided side-by-side, was used for Lions of Al Rassan, and Provence during the height of Chivalry for A Song for Arbonne. Prior to Kay, it was almost all a pseudo-medieval northern Europe, and then in only a loose sense.

This is more commonplace now, we see it in Lies of Locke Lamora and even the First Law series, but at the time it was fresh and innovative (along with Bride of Birds, which is another I hope we get to at some point).

Dusty (dustye) | 7 comments Interesting. Do all of Kay's "historical fantasies" deal with magic in some way? I heard that some do not.

Aloha | 919 comments Thank you for pointing that out, Vance. I'll have to look at his work closely for the historical details.

Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments Dusty wrote: "Interesting. Do all of Kay's "historical fantasies" deal with magic in some way? I heard that some do not."

IIRC, Lions of Al-Rassan doesn't have anything supernatural or mystical at all. The one thing Kay admits is some of the medical procedures were probably not possible with the knowledge of the time period Al-Rassan is based on (ca. 12th century). Early on, there's an anecdote of a Caesarian-section where both mother and child survive, which there's no recorded incident of before the late 16th century, although there is a lot of conjecture.

message 5: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam Erwin | 26 comments Yeah, Tigana's a bit of a standout as it's the only one in which the magic is a very heavy part of the story. All the rest have very light touches of magic at most. (view spoiler) (minor spoilers for some of his books)

The only ones I can't speak to are the Sarantine Mosaic (Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors) which I've not yet read. Back when I had the time and was pouring through his back catalog, they were out of print. Very excited to hear that they're recording these as it will be the best way for me to "read" them for the first time.

message 6: by Vance (new) - added it

Vance | 362 comments Yes, sort of a "sight" thing. But Lions did not have wizards and spells, etc. It was very much a historical novel about a place and time that almost, but not quite, happened.

Even a true historical novels could use such "magic" as the people believed existed by sharing their subjective experiences that they were attributing to magic.

Charles (CAndrews) | 60 comments Incidentally, Lord of the Rings was Tolkien's attempt at doing a similar sort of thing with Anglo-Saxon mythology.

message 8: by Vance (new) - added it

Vance | 362 comments Another book that takes this same approach is Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was which is much shorter and "lighter", but also very well-written and set in a world which mirrors ancient China without being bound by the strict historical record, and allowing for some supernatural. It is faster-paced, almost as much mystery as fantasy (there is a bit of Holmes or Judge Dee about it). It would be an interesting book for the club to compare with Tigana.

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2471 comments For some reason I just can't get out of my head the idea that 'Tigana' should be a word out of Jeff Foxworthy's Redneck Dictionary. It just sounds like it should be one, but I have not been able to come up with much.
Best I could come up with is:

"Bob wanted to become a missionary in Africa and so he went tigana."

message 10: by Ctgt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ctgt | 329 comments "Bob wanted to become a missionary in Africa and so he went tigana."


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