Guy Gavriel Kay’s 1990 Tigana is lauded across the net, and the praise is deserved. Revered by the average fantasy fan on through to the most avid, this story of a banished leader trying to reclaim not only his homeland but the very memory—the essence—of its cultural heart, is both epic and humane in scope and written in sublime prose. Kay readily admits using the effect of communist-style brainwashing as a plot device for the protagonists’ plight to recover their lost Tigana.
The result is the book's plot centers on a group of rebels posing as itinerant musicians, criss-crossing the land in search of political connections and sympathizers to help rebuild their country. Providing impetus, the group’s search and survival are in constant peril due to an ongoing war between two powerful wizards, the most powerful of which being the one who cast the spell that literally erased the country of Tigana from people’s minds. Set on an Italian peninsula reminiscent of the Renaissance, Kay’s tale is bejeweled with honor, integrity, sacrifice, mythos, virtue, music, and magic. Through elegant dialogue and rich, detailed characterization, the reader is left mesmerized by a story of belief in country, belief in culture, and belief in the future. The faults of the novel lie in its digressions; the sex scenes only stir the pot rather than serve the meal and could have been done without. Likewise, a couple of minor action scenes seemed to have been inserted merely to spice up a section of dialogue that was compelling enough in itself, the added suspense unnecessary.
Though perhaps still a step or two away, Tigana has nearly become a must read for anyone wishing to call themselves a fan of fantasy, and perhaps will achieve this distinction someday in the not so distant future. The storytelling here is just fantastic.