Tigana- I wanted to love this book a lot more then I actually did. It is beautifully written and the plot is engaging and thought provoking but I could walk away from the book for days at a time without needing to pick it up again and the female characters bothered me.
Basic plot. Two sorcerers conquer a country, dividing it between them. Except since that country was already divided into districts they find it rather easy (think Renaissance Italy). Brandin of Ygrath, one of the sorcerers, upon loosing his second son in a battle with the men of Tigana decides to wreck a terrible vengeance and erases the name of Tigana from the memory of anyone who was not born there. It can no longer be heard and understood by anyone outside of Tigana. And since the name changes at the instance his spell is cast, from that point forward Tigana is a dying world. The novel takes place twenty years later as a few individuals from Tigana try to overthrow the sorcerers and free their country as well as break the spell over Tigana. One of the things that Kay was trying to do was explore sexuality in oppressive times. It’s an interesting idea but unfortunately I think that is what led to the issues I have with the female characters in the book.
I loved the ‘villains’ in this book. They are real people and it’s easy to see why they did what they did. You hated them for it, but they had real, honest motivations. And Dianora is an excellent study of Stockholm syndrome, or at least that’s how I read her. I read somewhere that Kay highlights the best in each of his characters, including the villains. So, even while they do terrible things, like put live men on death wheels to die, you can sympathize with them and understand their motivations. Brandin of Ygrath was an excellent example of that. He totally destroyed an entire country and the people there-in out of grief for his son. So while you see his selfishness and brutatlity you can also see the love he had for his son.
I loved the idea of exploring what it would mean to loose the place you lived in, if it just suddenly no longer existed except in your head and the heads of others who also lived there. I think Kay does an excellent job showing how that sort of devastation can wreck your self-identity.
I loved the ending. So much that I only skimmed the epilogue, not really needing any more closure then what had already been given.
As interesting as I found the idea I wasn’t drawn into this book. Part of that was the characters. Not a single one drew me in to the point where I had to know what happened to them. This led to a really long read time for me, as I would put it down for a few days before coming back to it. I would get engrossed in the language while I read, so I would read large chunks at a time, but there needs to be more then beautiful language to draw me back to the story.
And that leads me to my main problem with the novel and why I didn’t love it; the female characters. I have a hard time pinpointing exactly what it is, but they didn’t feel real to me. Dianora is probably the one who came closest, and I read her as a study in Stockholm syndrome and so not exactly someone you’re rooting for. Part of the problem is that each time a new female character was introduced I started to wait for the moment they’d have sex. In other words, the females were there to explore repressed sexuality first and were characters second. Not all of them had sex of course, but those were few and far between (maybe one or two in the whole novel- and one of those was a mother figure and the other was too much the virgin stereotype). At any rate, whatever it was made the novel weaker in my eyes. I’d definitely try another of his novels, but if his inability to actually capture a believable female character is in the next novel I probably won’t read any thing else.