Sword & Laser guys. One of the reasons I liked them at first was that I'd read some of the books so I already knew what they were talking about when they interviewed Lev Grossman and read Dan Simmons. Tigana was the first book that they were doing that I hadn't read and it came at a good time for me. I had just zipped through that month's book club book, had been disappointed by The Limit and had new summer reading free time on my hands, so was ripe for something big and juicy to read. But they didn't have it at my library and it wasn't even easily available on my Kindle, so I thought I'd go onto my next book...
Then I happened across this lovely version of it in trade paper at our local B&N and my lovely bride had gift certificate $ to spare, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm so glad I did. If I had doubts about the fantasy genre, this laid them all to rest.
It reads more like a historical novel of Italy with it quarrelsome past. Instead of a boot, we have the nine territories of the Palm. Two warrior-sorcerer-conquerors have overtaken four each between them with one territory still mostly free. The title comes from one of the south eastern costal territories and its jewel of a city, known for its art and architecture. Before the events of this novel, this conquerers son was killed in Tigana in battle. He then used all of his magic to wipe the name not only from the map, but from the ability of anyone not from the province to even see or hear. It has disappeared from memory and now, almost twenty years on a small band of Tiganans have gathered to try and restore the name of their homeland and free the Palm of both dictators by trying to somehow kill them both off at the same time.
It's a book about memory, the power of memory and it's importance to everything, people and places both. It's also about power (many different kinds) and the uses and misuses of it. In fact every major character has a wide range of positive and negative elements. The noble can at times be selfish and petty. The strong and hated can sometimes be giving and honest. No one is completely good or bad. You sometimes feel sympathy for the Tiganan conqueror and frustration with some of the protagonists.
It's a sweeping epic, lovingly rendered with just the right amount of detail. The were a few convenient or at least unnecessary plot points toward the end (nothing major, one couple getting together seemed a bit out of nowhere to me, things like that). But all in all, I can hardly think of any way this tale could be improved. And best of all it's a stand-alone novel! There aren't fourteen sequels with even more characters that you could possibly keep in your head (not that that's a bad thing, but it was nice to know for this one).
I liked how the magic was rendered. Not everyone has it available to them and nor to the same degree. It's different for the few people that have access to it and it's not always something they want. It also costs the user so is not something to be used lightly. The most obvious example of this is something that happens at the hunting lodge. So this has magic in it but it's not something that can take over the book so much that it's annoying. People definitely have to work out things on their own and boy do they have some work to do!
In fact, about that hunting lodge part, if you do decide to read this, promise you'll at least get past the hunting lodge part in the first quarter of the book before you decide to abandon it or not. I've heard that the confusing first few chapters can be a bit too confusing for some, but I'm sure if you make it past the hunting lodge, you'll have a good idea what is up and will know if this is for you or not.
The so-called confusing first chapters didn't bother me a bit. I knew it was a book with over 600 pages and that there would be many characters and that the author would start bringing things together when it was time. That's their job after all. And Guy Gavriel Kay is definitely good at his job.