Bood Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
I give this book three out of five stars.
I will forever remember Tigana as the book full of men crying. The continuous sadness in the book became tiresome and made the never-ending exposition narrative even longer. I think I know who George R.R Martin was reading before he wrote his Game of Thrones series. I am glad I finished Tigana, but after 600 pages of sadness, I feel worn out and I can’t wait to read something quick, fluffy, and chock full of sunshine and rainbows.
What I liked about the book:
1) I liked the depth of Kay’s world building. His twists on our reality made it relatable but foreign and new. How a Ygrath “fool” was not just a fool. The riselka’s and religions referenced lore and dead religions similar to this world, but beautifully painted for the people of the Palm.
2) I liked how the author had a stretched out timeline, but we the reader really only saw a year. The events on this timeline were complex and added layers to the main plot. A series of overlapping sub plots and stories which were all very interesting.
3) My favorite plot points included: Beard fighting with the Walkers. The reconciliation and heart wrenching scene between Tomasso and his father Sandre in prison. Alessan releasing Erlein, and the ring dive of Dianora. I also liked the final battle and resolution.
What I did not like about this book:
1) It took me one hundred pages before I enjoyed these characters or got a firm handle on what the book was about. Kay takes almost to much liberty with the reader’s capacity to keep up with a vast cast of characters who we have little investment in. There were no baby steps, or small incremental dips into this new world. The reader is shoved into this place and forced to tread water and try to keep up with a plot Kay deliberately hides. I’m all for suspense and not seeing plot twists and turns, but it’s not suspenseful if we don’t see the relevance in what is happening. I wanted to start jotting down notes of who was who, and what was from here, and why such and such meant something. I’m a detail loving kind of person, but the endless narrative with vague or non-existent dialogue, was over the top, and in my opinion unnecessary. The Epilogue felt odd and disjointed when I read it, not because of the change to an omniscient point of view, but because the characters were actually talking to each other.
2) The book felt like a run on narrative exposition, with a few stops to show actual action. The action, which is good when encountered, is interrupted time and time again with mental detours into each characters memory. The action of the book never seemed to unfold within a scene, instead it mostly took place off stage in a memory, or as a side thought of what took place. The scenes where there is action, are well paced and exciting, but end to quickly and shove you back into another depressing character memory.
There is very little talking amongst any of the characters to add balance to the looks, hand gestures, and arm squeezes being exchanged. I kind of wish I had an electronic copy of this book so I could do a word find to see how many “sardonic looks” were passed. There are more words dedicated to the description of a character looking at another character who is in turn looking at another character, and what is viewed on their faces, than words illustrating how the characters talk to one another.
The author built up several romance sub plots, but I did not see the romance of Prince Alessan form at all. It took me completely by surprise. When did that actually take place? I saw no hints, body language, or flashbacks indicating his feelings for her. This romance felt flat, and the only proof of their attachment was a shared history and because the author said it was so. I thought Alessan was entirely ambivalent or at best like a brother, to the woman he eventually declares himself to.
3) This is a sad book. Sadness is everywhere even when it does not really need to be there. The author makes you see sadness, hear sadness, or have a character remember saddness. I learned something new about myself while reading all of this sadness. I have a bias against men crying. What can I say, I like strong men, and apparently seeing men “weep” in certain situations in my mind paints them as weak. Get a grip gentlemen-there’s a war that needs to happen with not one but two wizards with armies. This is my issue, I’ll own that, but part of the reason this book wore me out was the number of sad and tragic situations or memories brought up which caused all these men to break down and weep.
The iterations of men weeping, wiping tears away, openly crying, etc just got old. Tigana even starts with a man crying in the prologue. Half way through the book I became conditioned. I fully expected to find a man weeping at least every 40 pages or so, and Kay delivered. I am not exaggerating and if anything the pace of men crying in scenes picks up. I was so worn out by it I became amused by it. I was laughing out loud when not one but two chapters ended with men weeping. I don’t think my laughter was the desired effect by Kay, but the “weeping” became rediculous.
I appreciated the ending, the serendipity of who Rhun was, and the awesome speech Sandre gives. However, all the things Kay does right in Tigana, are overshadowed by the flow of sadness he keeps pace with through the entire book.