Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay – Review


Published: 1990

Publisher: Roc

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 676 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0



Eight of the nine provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm, on a world with two moons, have fallen to the warrior sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior.

Brandin’s younger son is slain in a battle with the principality of Tigana, which the grief-stricken sorcerer then destroys. After sweeping down and destroying the remnants of their army, burning their books and destroying their architecture and statuary, he makes it so that no one not born in that province can even hear its name.

Years later, a small band of survivors, led by Alessan, last prince of Tigana’s royal house, wages psychological warfare, planting seeds for the overthrow of the two tyrants. At the center of these activities are Devin, a gifted young singer; Catriana, a young woman pursued by suspicions of her family’s guilt; and Duke Sandre d’Astibar, a wily resistance leader thought dead.

Meanwhile, at Brandin’s court, Dianora, his favorite concubine and–unknown to anyone, another survivor of Tigana–struggles between her growing love for the often gentle tyrant and her desire for vengeance. Gradually the scene is set for both conquerors to destroy each other and free a land.

Of course Tigana was good, I mean, it was written by Guy Gavriel Kay so how could it not be? This is only the third book of Kay’s that I’ve had the privilege of reading, but I can say that it will not be my last, though another currently holds the title of favorite.

The setting of Tigana is predominately Mediterranean-like, bringing to mind Italy or Greece. The Palm is a single island, divided into 9 city-state regions, each having their own traditions and sub-cultures. Twenty years prior, two mages from different lands came and conquered eight of the nine provinces, with the ninth (Senzio) remaining somewhat neutral. The four western provinces are under the control of Brandin of Igrath and the four eastern provinces are under the control of Albarico of Barbadia. The two conquerors are enemies, however they are at a perpetual impasse, each refusing to antagonize the other to the point of war. As is typical of Kay’s books, these titans aren’t our main characters. The MC’s are a deposed prince and his rebellious Tiganese compatriots.


I’ve been putting of completing this review because honestly, I don’t have all that much to say about it. Tigana shows the expected layered complexity of Guy Gavriel Kay’s other books and plays on the idea that small choices and common people can make great impacts on the outcome of events. It’s magical (literally and figuratively) and is definitely worth the read. I like the audio versions of Kay’s books, particularly those narrated by Simon Vance because I feel less bogged down in the details that way. Of course I’d recommend this book, simply because it’s quality fantasy!


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