"You have lived in your dreams so long you've lost sight of the world."
Erlein from Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Although I found Ysabel to be an enjoyable page-turner, I heard it was inferior to Guy Gavriel Kay's other books so I was really looking forward to reading Tigana. I was not at all disappointed, since Tigana turned out to be one of my favorite books I've read so far this year. It was beautifully written and emotionally powerful, filled with scenes that were so clear to me that I kept envisioning them long after I had finished the book.
Tigana is the story of a group of people from the nation of Tigana seeking to rectify the wrongs of the past. During a war between Tigana and Ygrath, the Prince of Tigana, Valentin, killed the son of Brandin of Ygrath, a powerful sorcerer attempting to conquer the entire land of the Five Palms, of which Tigana was a part. In retaliation, Brandin not only slaughtered the people of Tigana fighting against him in the war but cast a powerful spell removing the name of the land so that it could only be remembered and heard by the people who were born there. Once the people born in Tigana were dead, the name of Tigana would be lost forever.
While Valentin's son is uniting the people of Tigana as well as other people who despise Brandin and the sorceror Alberico (who is also trying to conquer as much of the land of the Five Palms as possible), Dianora di Tigana masquerades as Dianora di Certando and allows herself to be captured as one of Brandin's courtesans with the intent of killing him and restoring the name of her homeland. However, she finds her job growing more difficult as she finds herself falling in love with Brandin in spite of what he has done to her people.
Tigana is a tale about the danger of two extremes - the danger of remembering the past so clearly that one remains entrenched in it, unable to forget and move on, and the danger of forgetting about the reality of the past. It's a story of love and being torn when you discover the world is not as black and white as once thought. It is one of those rare stories that shows both sides of the coin and reveals that there are consequences to actions and that one person's triumph is another's tragedy.
The characterization was masterful. At the beginning of the story, Brandin was portrayed as an evil bad guy, but once you saw him through Dianora's eyes, you realize he's only human and one who cares about the people around him so much that it overrules his better judgment at times. It takes some talent to make the reader go from despising a character to loving them, and these gray characters are my favorite kinds.
Some people may find Tigana to be a little too angst-filled and repetitive for their tastes. I freely admit it - I like some angst in my stories, but even I found the repetitiveness of the character's thoughts a little much at times and wanted them to get on with the story. This was the only problem I had with Tigana, however.
Overall, Tigana was a spell-binding story that I still keep going back to even though it's been almost a week since I finished it now.