Tigana is a 1990 fantasy novel by Guy Gavriel Kay. It takes place in The Peninsula Of The Palm, a Fantasy Counterpart Culture for medieval Italy. Two foreign conquerors occupy the Peninsula: Brandin, king of Ygrath, and Alberico of Barbadior. They have carved up the land between them, and hold it in an uneasy balance of power. The main focus of the story is on a group of rebels who seek to liberate the area, but must defeat both tyrants at the same time, lest one overrun the Peninsula. We also see the viewpoint of Brandin, as well as Dianora, a concubine bent on assassinating him.During Brandin's conquest, his son was killed in the province of Tigana. In retaliation, he razed the area flat, and put a curse on it that no one outside Tigana would know of its name or history. He turns out to be a competent ruler, cultured, if arrogant, and likeable... but is that enough to erase his prior sins?
This work contains the following examples:
0% Approval Rating: Nobody seems to approve of Alberico (whereas Brandin is actually quite a good ruler) but they're afraid to say so, with good reason.
Affably Evil/Anti-Villain: Brandin is cultured, benevolent, an excellent ruler, and an all-around great guy. However, he'll never be dissuaded from seeking revenge against those who have wronged him, no matter who (or what) it harms (or who actually wronged whom in the first place), and so for the good of the entire Peninsula, he's got to go.
Also, Isolla of Ygrath, the lover of Brandin's wife; the latter sent her to assassinate him.
The Caligula: Alberico is constantly on the edge of this trope; he starts going downhill pretty much from the moment he very nearly gets assassinated.
Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes Alberico when he claims that the heads of three rival families with rich estates, led by the most Camp Gay guy that ever camped, all got together in a conspiracy to kill him. Especially since everyone involved is conveniently dead (when standard practice is to wring out a confession and then horribly execute) and it gives him the perfect pretext to take their stuff.
Cruel and Unusual Death: Whilst the Barbadian sky-wheels are pretty nasty, it's Isolla's death that really stands out. Brandin's magic rips her apart from the inside, giving us our first glimpse of him not as a charming, benign Anti-Villain, but as the man who obliterated a country all the way down to its name.
Cynicism Catalyst: Residual grief over the death of his son is what drives Brandin to do what he does.
Disproportionate Retribution: His habit of doing this is what makes Brandin an Anti-Villain rather than a straight-up hero. To use the most notorious example (though others exist), his reaction to his son dying in a war he started is to annihilate the defenders' country so hard that it poisons the entire Peninsula.
Gray Eyes: Much is made of the grey eyes of Alessan, Brandin, and Rhun the fool, all of which are exactly the same colour. A character explicitly notes that Alessan's eyes look just like Brandin's, which seems to be foreshadowing some reveal or another. It's a red herring. If Alessan's eyes look just like Brandin's, and Brandin's eyes look just like his Fool's, then Alessan has the same eyes as Rhun - his father.
The Jester: the King's Fool in Brandin's court is magically linked to him, acting out his master's subconscious urges.
Kiss of Distraction: Exaggerated. Catriana and Devin are stuck in a tight secret passageway, and she has sex with him in an (unsuccessful) attempt to stop him from hearing a conversation in the next room.
Offstage Villainy: All of Brandin's evil deeds occurred years before the book even starts. We'd never know he was supposed to be evil if those actions didn't have repercussions in the present.
Please Select New City Name: Brandin renaming Tigana to Lower Corte is a major driving force in the main plot. He magically erases the name Tigana from the consciousness of anyone who didn't live there when it was Tigana, so that it seems the name, and the memory of the city-state, is destined to die with that generation.
Royal Harem: Brandin has one, called a saishan. One of the concubines, Dianora, is actually planning to kill Brandin in revenge for what he did to Tigana, but changes her mind.
Stupidity Inducing Attack: The Court Fool creation process, providing a Ygrathi king's least favourite enemies with a particularly nasty Fate Worse Than Death. As Brandin found out, though, it only works so long as you've got enough magic to sustain it, and whoever you've been doing it to probably won't be very happy about what you did to them once they regain their wits.
Thanatos Gambit: Sandre's death and subsequent funeral at first appears to be this, with the twist that Sandre is actually Faking the Dead. Later Catriana invokes this trope when she assassinates Anghiar and jumps to what she assumes to be her death. It doesn't take.
Twist Ending: Of the Snap Ending variety on the very last paragraph. Possibly, anyway, since we never discover which of the three got which fate.
Unperson: Performed on the entire country of Tigana, kicking off the novel's plot. Word of God says that the author was inspired to write the story by the instances of this during the Soviet purges.
Wacky Wayside Tribe: Possibly the Night Walkers. On the one hand, they pop up with no foreshadowing whatsoever, and receive little mention afterwards. On the other, they provide significant Character Development for one member of the heroes' party, as well as showing that there are rather more serious, immediate reasons to restore Tigana than just addressing past grievances.