Book Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

104089Last year, while I was waiting for my library copy of Guy Gavriel Kay’s new book, I decided to get myself in the mood by reading his most famous work: Tigana.

Well, I still haven’t gotten around to reading his newest book, but I think it was worth it for Tigana.  It’s widely considered his masterpiece, and while it wasn’t my favorite of his works, there were scenes in this book that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I think that’s about the highest praise I can give a book.

The story begins with a young bard, Devin, who’s been employed to sing for the funeral of a local Duke.  He quickly stumbles into a conspiracy involving the overthrow of not one but two invading sorcerer kings, and a mysterious conquered province whose name has been erased from memory…Tigana.

Most of Kay’s works are what I would call historical fantasy; they are based on historical places, people, and events, but transported into a purely fantasy setting.  Tigana takes place in an fantasy version of medieval or Renaissance Italy.  If you look at the lovely maps included between the section breaks, you’ll see that the peninsula of the Palm looks very similar to Italy flipped upside-down.  The world building is amazing, and the setting gives it a “classic” fantasy feel.


This is not a quick-paced book, but it has a wonderful style.  Kay’s prose and tone has been an inspiration for my current WIP (and last year’s NaNoWriMo project), so I tried to study his effortless techniques in making the story feel both immediate and personal and yet epic.  He often uses a kind of “two sentence foreshadowing” to give context for some event that is occurring, giving a brief tease as to how it will be viewed later by the characters or by history.

Even when I felt I knew where the story was going, I was still on the edge of my seat.  And there were a couple of twists I didn’t see coming, especially a big one at the very end.

If you are interested in reading Kay, this is a great place to start! (I’d also recommend The Lions of Al-Rassan, set in fantasy Spain.)

5/5 stars

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

  1. kwenzqoatl March 2, 2017 / 4:57 am

    I haven’t been doing much book reading lately but I have been looking for something to get me back into it. I’ll give this writer a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei March 2, 2017 / 12:48 pm

      Hope you enjoy it, he’s one of my favorites.


  2. starwarsanon March 3, 2017 / 11:36 am

    I’ve only read A Song for Arbonne by Kay and I really enjoyed it, plus it was recommended by one of my blog followers. 🙂 I’ll throw this on the list too because like you said – it’s considered his masterpiece. I like his writing and I like that it’s slow in parts. I don’t necessarily think that is bad because some authors use event the slow parts for a purpose, and that’s what I found with Kay. If the slow parts of a novel have meaning, then that’s great and I can handle it (I love the Patrick Rothfuss novels and they have slow parts) but if it drags and drags and the end of the book I feel like those parts could have been cut – then I’m annoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei March 3, 2017 / 7:22 pm

      A Song for Arbonne is actually one of the few of his that I haven’t read! I enjoy his style, too, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone. I personally like Tolkien but some people find him dry and boring and I can totally understand why haha. You’re right, it’s all about the slow, meaningful parts. I really want to mimic his style in my story because it has such depth. It’s epic and yet personal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • starwarsanon March 3, 2017 / 7:58 pm

        I like Lord of the Rings and I don’t mind that detail but I struggled with the Silmarillion. I understand why people don’t like Tolkien after reading that.

        It’s funny that A Song for Arbonne is the only book of his that I *have* read and the only one you haven’t. Lol!


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