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Raymond's Reviews #152

%T Tigana
%A Guy Gavriel Kay
%I Roc 
%D October 1991
%O paperback, US$5.99
%P 673
%G 0-451-45115-5

The only thing wrong with "Tigana" is that it's merely very good.

"Tigana" is the latest fantasy novel by Guy Gavriel Kay, author of the renowned trilogy "The Fionavar Tapestry." Aside from being beautifully written, "The Fionavar Tapestry" had almost every other redeeming virtue one could demand of fantasy - - epic sweep, compelling archetypes, psychological depth. What's more, these elements were interwoven so tightly that they endowed mythical Fionavar with the rich, living feel of reality itself.

By contrast, "Tigana" is more conventional fare. Here, rival sorcerer-tyrants war for control of a peninsula called the Palm. One of the two, for personal reasons, has eradicated the province called Tigana; he has not only subdued and renamed it, but has cast a spell that makes it impossible for anyone, save other magic users and those Tiganese alive at the time of his conquest, to read the name or hear it spoken. A small, brave handful of individuals succeed in instigating a war of mutual destruction between the sorcerers, liberating the Palm.

There is much to enjoy in following Kay's freedom- fighters as they travel throughout the Palm. Kay's gift for richly layered detail and psychological subtlety displays themselves throughout. Each of his characters seems, not like a literary creation, but like a real person worth meeting. There are layers of intrigue and revenge -- though not as many, perhaps, as one would expect in a novel of this size. There is even an echo of Fionavar, or "Finavir," as the characters generally refer to it, as of a land whose history has long since passed into legend.

Kay is to be praised for attempting, in "Tigana," to write something other than the type of epic mythology that has brought him success. But unless he can bring to his next endeavors the same level of freshness and intensity that made "The Fionavar Tapestry" memorable, he may be remembered, in the long run, for little else. May he let the memory of "Fionavar" be like a blade in his soul until he writes his next masterpiece. [CCO]

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Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>