Guy Gavriel Kay,
(Roc, 1991)

When the King of Ygrath decided to build a kingdom for his younger son Stevan, he invaded the Peninsula of the Palm. The fractious provinces there could not put aside their petty differences, and so, one by one, they fell to his conquering army. When only proud, bright Tigana, bastion of art and literature, was left, Brandin sent Stevan to invade alone, trusting that Tigana would fall as easily as the other provinces.

But by the banks of the Deisa River, the Tiganese beat back the invaders and Stevan was slain. In his great grief, the sorceror king cast a bitter spell. Not content now merely to conquer Tigana, he obliterated it. Though the land is still there and the people still live, everything that defined Tigana -- her art, literature, even the very sound of her name -- is gone, for no one who was not born there can now hear or speak the name. Brandin has only to outlive everyone born in Tigana and his vengeance will be complete.

Twenty years later, Alessan, the last Prince of Tigana, is at last ready to strike and to reclaim his lost country's name. With him travels Baerd, son of a sculptor whose works were destroyed; Devin, a singer who learns that his father is not all that he has appeared to be, and fiery Catriana, bearing a terrible burden. And then there is Dianora, who traveled to Brandin's court to destroy him, only to fall hopelessly in love.

Kay's great strength lies in his characterization. His heroes are people you can believe in. They have secrets, griefs, loves. And not only the heroes -- Tigana is truly a remarkable book in that it does not present the conquering Brandin of Ygrath as a cardboard cutout Stock Villain No. 12. He is, instead, presented as a complex man whose deep, abiding grief for what he perceives to be a murdered son has driven him to an unthinkable act of vengeance.

Kay is also a master at taking a historical setting, in this case Renaissance Italy, and molding it to his purposes. He does not tell simple stories, but reveals tales as vastly detailed and intricately woven as Celtic knotwork.

In Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay has presented us with the deeply moving story of the struggle to regain an entire country's lost identity. This is an epic tale, not of good versus evil, but of good versus not-really-evil-at-all.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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