Tigana was epic. That was the first word that came to mind while thinking of what to say about this very long, fantasy adventure. It was epic in scope and breadth. My edition of Tigana is 803 pages, including Guy Gavriel Kay's Afterword. I'm including the Afterword, because it should be read. It is beautifully written and it is about Tigana's lost culture. The way to get rid of a culture and language is to outlaw its name, burn it's books, destroy its art and replace them with that of the conqueror's. Though Brandin uses sorcery to accomplish this, the idea and occurrences of erasing a culture is rooted in history.
Tigana could have easily been two books, if not three. There were “parts” to the book, separations in time. There were breaks that could have easily been conclusions to create a trilogy or duology. Though, how often have we read series that we thought could have been just one big book? There is just so much going on, the stories of the different characters are deep and interweave in incredible ways. There's so much thought put into every chapter. I was excited, and pleasantly surprised, that I won a second book from Goodreads by Guy Gavriel Kay, but its length was definitely daunting.
Though the story and the world were large and complex, it was the characters that kept me wanting to know more. For me, Devin was the star. It was his journey from farm-boy to singer to freedom fighter that got me hooked. I really loved all the characters, but I was always wondering, who is Devin going to end up with, is he going to fight, will he live in the end? Devin's journey was the journey of the reader, thinking one thing, then learning another. Devin and his companions are what grounded the story for me.
I appreciated that Catriana was not your typical girl or damsel. The contrast between her and Alais was interesting, but more so, both of these strong women and the "boy crazy" Svetlana. Catriana had a warrior's heart, wanting to make up for past deeds that weren't her fault. She grew so much throughout the novel, her anger dissipating a bit, or at least it became more fine-tuned. She also found hope, which I don't think she necessarily had in the beginning
I didn't know what to think of Baerd at first. He was quiet, keeping his secrets close. Then we learn so much more. There were no flat characters. Kay keeps us guessing with all of them. By the end, Baerd became one of my favourites, the hope I had for him built throughout the story and makes me wish for only the best for him.
A possible prematurely grey, prince without a throne, Alessan binds the group together. Without him, who knows what would have happened to Baerd? What would Catriana have done with her life? Though I'm pretty sure Devin would have ended up pretty famous anyway. Alessan struggles for what is right. He wants to restore Tigana, but he is also looking at the bigger picture.
The Tyrants were an interesting pair. We meet Alberico first and he's terrible. He's a conqueror in the worst way. He leads through intimidation, fear and money. He tortures for the pleasure of it. He kills to make himself feel better when he's down. No one is loyal to him because of faith or trust, they just want to be on the right side when his sword comes crashing down. If he wasn't a sorcerer, I feel like the people would never have let him win, more than that, his men might never have fought for him.
I thought Brandin would be the same, but he's not. He's a conqueror that we can sympathize with. He knows love and grief. His uncontrollable grief is the crux of this tale. Brandin actually shows that he cares for people. He has depth and a complex web of emotions. How I ended up feeling about him by the end was complex too. I wanted him to be okay, but he was still a brutal conqueror. The difference between him and Alberico was that there were people who were truly loyal to him. He was a king in his own land and his army followed him because of that. He didn't have to pay them the same way Alberico did. He engendered loyalty and trust from many of his people. When he talked about Fionavar, it made me immediately want to read The Fionavar Tapestry, (just like how Children of Earth and Sky made me want to read The Sarantine Mosaic.) Brandin had love in his heart.
Brandin believed that a conqueror could unite the Palm, which is what Alessan wanted, but not by his enemy. It's interesting how their lives paralleled, made even more complex when you think of Dianora. Her story ran parallel to that of Devin's and was equally important. Dianora was probably the most complex character in the entire novel. She loved and hated Brandin, when you read the novel, you can see why. Sometimes I wonder if she told him the truth, if the end would have been different. I wonder if he would have understood what she did and forgiven her.
All these brilliant, amazing characters crossed the Palm, north to south, east to west, on their quest. They mapped the world out for us. They were amazing, complex and had me wanting to know what happened. I wanted to know how they all turned out. Even with a well-written ending, I am still left wondering about what will happen to these characters, especially the three at the very end. I wonder if Kay will ever revisit this world. I hope he does and I hope it's just as deeply intense.