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Tigana - bookcover.jpg
First edition cover
Author Guy Gavriel Kay
Cover artist Mel Odom
Country Canada
Language English
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Penguin Canada
Publication date
August 1990
Media typePrint
Pages673 pp.
ISBN 0-451-45028-0
OCLC 21332269

Tigana is a 1990 fantasy novel by Canadian writer Guy Gavriel Kay. The novel is set in a fictional world, in a region called the Peninsula of the Palm, which somewhat resembles renaissance Italy as well as the Peloponnese in shape.



The world where Tigana takes place is a planet orbited by two moons. Kay notes that some of his readers tried to connect Tigana with A Song for Arbonne by speculating the stories take place on the same fictional world, orbited by two moons; [1] Kay explained that he only repeated the same theme rather than attempting to expand his canon. [2]

Action is centered on the Peninsula of the Palm which shares a common culture and language, but, like medieval Italy, is not a unified nation, comprising instead nine provinces with a long history of internecine struggle. The provinces are: Asoli, Astibar, Certando, Chiara, Corte, Ferraut, Senzio, Tigana, and Tregea. With great subtlety, Kay conveys the fact that all this takes place in the Southern Hemisphere of the unnamed world.

This internal conflict facilitates the conquest of the region by two powerful sorcerers: Brandin, the King of Ygrath, and Alberico, an independent warlord from the empire of Barbadior. The two sorcerers conquered simultaneously but independently the peninsula, and have divided it in an uneasy balance of power.


The religion of the Palm is centered on a triad of deities, a God and two Goddesses; the one being his sister-wife and the other being their daughter. An annual feast celebrates the torment and deicide of the God by his sister-wife and daughter, their eating of his flesh, and his rebirth.


The riselka is the only supernatural creature of the book. Based on the rusalka of Slavic folklore and mythology, its appearance in Kay's world is a token of some portent. A portion of it reads as follows:

One man sees a riselka: his life forks there.
Two men see a riselka: one of them shall die.
Three men see a riselka: one is blessed, one forks, one shall die.
One woman sees a riselka: her path comes clear to her.
Two women see a riselka: one of them shall bear a child.
Three women see a riselka: one is blessed, one is clear, one shall bear a child.


The plot focuses on a group of rebels attempting to overthrow both tyrants and win back their homeland. Many of the rebels are natives of the province of Tigana, which was the province that most ably resisted Brandin: In a crucial battle, Brandin's son was killed. In retaliation for this, Brandin attacked Tigana and crushed it more savagely than any other part of the Palm; then, following this victory, he used his magic to remove the name and history of Tigana from the minds of the population. Brandin named it Lower Corte, making Corte, their traditional enemies to their north, seem superior to a land that was all but forgotten.

Only those born in Tigana before the invasion can hear or speak its name, or remember it as it was; as far as everyone else is concerned, that area of the country has always been an insignificant part of a neighbouring province, hence the rebels are battling for the very soul of their country.

The book puts great emphasis on the different moral shades of people. Though seen by most of the characters as a ruthless, grief-maddened tyrant, Brandin is actually a very sympathetic character, especially in his love for Dianora, one of the women of his harem, called a saishan in the book — a character who is in fact from Tigana herself and engineered her own selection into Brandin's seraglio so that she could assassinate him, only to fall in love with him before she could. Despite being likeable and sympathetic, many of the rebels are equally ruthless in their attempts to overthrow the Tyrants, setting off wars, assassinating soldiers and officials and even committing suicide to depose Brandin.

The book is full of themes of identity, love, patriotism, revenge and magic.


Kay says [3] that the province of Tigana, and thus the book, was – inadvertently – named after the soccer player Jean Tigana. Because of the name clash, the Italian edition of the novel uses the name Tigane instead.


Tigana was nominated for the 1991 World Fantasy Award—Novel and Aurora Award for Best Novel, winning the latter.

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  1. "Fiction Book Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay, Author Roc $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-451-45028-9". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  2. Interview to Andrew A. Adams
  3. Jean-Louis Trudel. "Interview with Solaris". Solaris / Bright Weavings. Retrieved 5 May 2017.