Guy Gavriel Kay
ROC 1990 Eighteen years ago, two Tyrants invaded the Palm, one from the east and one from the west. They divided the nine provinces between them, the ninth left in the relative independence of terror balance. The other eight provinces were conquered due to the provinces pride and failure to co-operate, and to the superior magic abilities of the Tyrants. But the Tyrants didn't win without casualties - and to Brandin, Emperor of Ygrath, his son Stevan's death was an enormous loss. The province that caused it has paid a price - its glorious cities have been destroyed, its people have to pay extra taxes, yes even the very names of the province and its major cities will be destroyed, by the Emperor's magic.
Devin doesn't know that much about this, but he knows that his father left the destroyed province of Lower Corte when Devin was two years old, settling in Asoli in the north. He was never really happy living in Asoli, but because of his fantastic singing talent he had the opportunity to leave his family for the life of a travelling musical company. Now he is in the city of Astibar, in the company of, among others, Catriana, the young and attractive red-headed soprano, and Alessan, whose passion for his Tregean pipes is only beat by his passion for his country. Together they get involved in a plot that will change the course of the Palm.
"Tigana" is inspired by Italy. If you turn the map upside down, you come pretty close to the real world Italy, but the cultures aren't exactly copied. More like copied and then slightly altered. I think, however, that it is quite possible to read and enjoy this novel even if you aren't the slightest interested in Italian culture. But if you, like me, love the Italian language it is an extra bonus to hear names like "Canziano", "Certando" or "Forese" throughout the book.
The major plot is about power, political power. Who will rule the Palm in the future? But it is also very much a book about passion, love, lust, pride and patriotism. Different personal histories and goals are twined together, becoming a rich and beautiful epic, a drama of hope and tragedy. Sounds pretentious? Well, sometimes it is. Kay wants to create his version of the magic of Italy, the romance, the strong feelings, the tradegy and the pride, but it is not really part of him. Therefore, it feels manipulative, artificial - until the story get the hold of you.
Yes, the story has in itself got all the magnificence and poetry needed. When the author lets the plot move forward - or backwards, because the characters' personal stories and memories are told piece by piece, when it becomes appropriate for the story - all the magic, the strong feelings and the romance gets through to the reader. When you among the ingredients have the the revenge on the man who destroyed your country and murdered your father, the guilt of a father who fled the wars, love for the man you have sworn to kill, or an incestuous relationship in the past shaping your future, it comes quite naturally. And then it actually doesn't feel bombastic or pretentious - just great. High fantasy when it is really high.
Other books by the same author:
The Lions of Al-Rassan
© Henriksson & Henriksson 1996.