Sunday, April 8, 2012

Review: Tigana by Guy Gaveriel Kay

Years ago the provinces on the Peninsula of the Palm were conquered by two sorcerers, Brandin King of Ygrath and Alberico an independent warlord from the empire of Barbadior who has his own ambitions for the throne. These two sorcerers reached an uneasy balance of power within the palm. There was of course resistance to the conquests during which Brandin's son was killed by forces led by the prince of the province of Tigana. In retaliation Brandin crushed the province and used his magic to make the peninsula forget the history, identity and very name of Tigana. Only the survivors can speak Tigana's name and they know that once they die Tigana's memory dies with them. A group of rebels, led by the last surviving prince of Tigana Alessan, plan to overthrow Brandin and bring Tigana back. However they are cautious as they realize that if Brandin is overthrown Alberico will simply seize the entire palm. They need a plan that will rid them of both tyrants. Meanwhile Dianoro, another survivor of Tigana, has worked her way into Brandin's harem with plans to assassinate him. However she falls in love with him and is torn between this love and that she holds for her homeland.

The world building from Kay is as always first rate. The palm is based on medieval Italy. Kay keeps things nicely balanced by giving us glimpses into the other cultures on the world without having the story bogged down by them.

The characters are interestingly complex and there is a strong focus on shades of morality. Although Brandin has done a terrible thing to Tigana, he is portrayed as an otherwise fair ruler whose actions at the time were inspired by grief. Allesan who refuses to think only of Tigana's fate but includes those of the other provinces in his plans is quite willing to use other people to further his aims even if it tears him up. The only exception to this is Alberico whose actions are always simply motivated by greed.

Overall Kay delivers a stunning combination of interesting world building and complex characters. 9.25/10.

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