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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.

Fantasy Genre of literature, film, television and other artforms

Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often inspired by real world myth and folklore. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became literature and drama. From the twentieth century it has expanded further into various media, including film, television, graphic novels, manga and video games.

Novel Narrative text, normally of a substantial length and in the form of prose describing a fictional and sequential story

A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, normally written in prose form, and which is typically published as a book.

Guy Gavriel Kay Canadian author of fantasy fiction

Guy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian writer of fantasy fiction. The majority of his novels take place in fictional settings that resemble real places during real historical periods, such as Constantinople during the reign of Justinian I or Spain during the time of El Cid. Kay has expressed a preference to avoid genre categorization of these works as historical fantasy. As of 2019, Kay has published 14 novels and a book of poetry. As of 2018, his fiction has been translated into more than 30 languages.



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]

In fiction, canon is the material accepted as officially part of the story in the fictional universe of that story. It is often contrasted with, or used as the basis for, works of fan fiction. The alternative terms mythology, timeline, universe and continuity are often used, with the first of these being used especially to refer to a richly detailed fictional canon requiring a large degree of suspension of disbelief, while the latter two typically refer to a single arc where all events are directly connected chronologically. Other times, the word can mean "to be acknowledged by the creator(s)".

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.

A warlord is a leader able to exercise military, economic, and political control over a subnational territory within a sovereign state due to their ability to mobilize loyal armed forces. These armed forces, usually considered militias, are loyal to the warlord rather than to the state regime. Warlords have existed throughout much of history, albeit in a variety of different capacities within the political, economic, and social structure of states or ungoverned territories.


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:

Legendary creature often supernatural animal, often a hybrid, sometimes part human, whose existence cannot be proven, described in legends, myths, fables, folklore, poetry, fairy tales, etc

A legendary, mythical, and mythological creature, also called a fabulous beast and fabulous creature, is a supernatural animal, often a hybrid, sometimes part human, whose existence has not or cannot be proved and that is described in folklore but also in historical accounts before history became a science.

Rusalka female spirit in Slavic mythology

In Slavic folklore, the rusalka is a female entity, often malicious toward mankind and frequently associated with water. Folklorists have proposed a variety of origins for the entity, including that they may originally stem from Slavic paganism, where they may have been seen as benevolent spirits. Rusalki appear in a variety of media in modern popular culture, particularly in Slavic language-speaking countries, where they frequently resemble the concept of the mermaid.

Slavic folklore encompasses the folklore of the Slavic peoples from their earliest records until today. Folklorists have published a variety of works focused specifically on the topic over the years.

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.

A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman provincia, which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire's territorial possessions outside Italy. The term province has since been adopted by many countries. In some countries with no actual provinces, "the provinces" is a metaphorical term meaning "outside the capital city".

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.