September 28, 2006

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Elegant woman with guards with horsesAnother flashback review. I finished this back in early August and gave my copy away so I can't check back.

The book starts out from the point of view of a young singer, part of a travelling company which has been chosen to perform the funeral rites for a monarch. During a break in the performance he follows one of his fellow performers when she leaves the group and suspiciously creeps through obscure passages in the palace. In this way, the young man finds out that some of his cohorts have ulterior motives. He also finds out that they will go to rather extreme measures to distract anyone from finding out what those motives are.

Later that night, he follows his newfound knowledge into a situation that shows that the conspiracy he has glimpsed is more subtle, more widespread, and more powerful than he could have suspected.

The gist (and this is kind of spoilery even though these revelations come in the first couple chapters) is that there are two competing wizards who are locked in a fragile balance of power over control of the various principalities of the region. The son of one of the wizards was killed in a battle to conquer a country. In revenge, the wizard erases the name of that country. No one who was not born there can hear the name spoken, or remembers that it ever was. All physical artifacts of the country's culture are summarily destroyed. The country is renamed as if it were a sub-region of another country, long its enemy.

Of course, the country's name is Tigana. The conspiracy the young singer has discovered is made up of citizens of that country and their goal is to get their homeland back. The rest of the book (and there's a lot of "rest", it's a doorstop, even in paperback) shows the course of their attempt.

It's a significant achievement to write a book of this complexity about such an unlikely conspiracy and have each twist and turn of the plot feel relatively realistic. It would have been easy for the thing to feel like it had been engineered rather than being an account of actual events in the lives of real people. While some of the events are awfully unlikely, Kay manages to show the people who participate in and precipitate these events in a way that made me believe them capable of the feats they are depicted as having achieved.

Posted by jeffy at September 28, 2006 07:10 PM
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