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Literature: Tigana
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.
  • Air Strip One: See Please Select New City Name below; it's a city-state.
  • And This Is for...: "In the name of my sons, I curse you forever."
  • Author Appeal: Alienor and Devin's bondage scene comes out of nowhere and is so lovingly described that somebody just had to be throwing it in there for his own enjoyment.
  • Becoming the Mask: Dianora worries that she's starting to fall for the man she swore to assassinate, Brandin. She's right, and ends up saving his claim to the Peninsula because of it.
  • Best Served Cold: Dianora. Initially.
  • Blood Magic: A limited case. Magicians of the Hand can't fully use their power until they cut off two of their fingers, symbolically linking themselves to the peninsula.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Dianora and Baerd
  • Bury Your Gays: Tomasso doesn't last very long.
    • 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.
  • Cool Old Guy: Sandre.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Approximately fourth fifths of the cast.
  • 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.
  • The Dog Bites Back
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: Averted with Scelto. Vaguely hinted at with Vencel, but it never amounts to anything.
  • Eviler than Thou
  • Evil Overlord: Two of them (though Alberico is more like an Evil Governor, as he's technically answerable to an off-page Emperor whose throne he'd love to usurp).
  • Evil Sorcerer: Alberico. Brandin is definitely a ruthless sorcerer, but it's up for debate if he's really evil.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The two sorcerer-kings occupying the Peninsula absolutely loathe each other.
  • Faking the Dead: Sandre, at the very start; Catriana later fakes a bridge-dive for propaganda purposes.
  • Feuding Families: Nobles are just like that.
  • Fiery Redhead: Catriana
  • Genocide Backfire: It wasn't genocide so much as countrycide, but it still led to a small bitter group seeking sweet revenge.
  • Glamour Failure
  • Good People Have Good Sex: More a case of Free People Have Good Sex: while Tigana is in the grip of two foreign tyrants, the only forms of sex depicted are prostitution, rape, incest, BDSM or sex under false pretenses. Not until the Tiganans prepare to rise up against their dictators is "healthy" sex depicted.
  • 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.
  • Grey and Black Morality
  • Handicapped Badass: Marius, who killed half a dozen would-be assassins while hamstrung.
    • Scalvaia gets an honorary mention for almost killing Alberico with a walking stick, of all things.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Catriana.
  • Historical Fantasy
  • Important Haircut: Catriana
  • 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.
  • La Résistance
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Brandin. Sure, he's a decent guy in person... too bad this decent guy is a foreign invader, and would be plainly Affably Evil (or even Faux Affably Evil), had he been the sole invader of Peninsula.
  • Love Hurts: Oh boy.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Devin gets a very fragrant, rather forward love letter from Alais's sister.
  • Moral Myopia: Brandin
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: See: Thanatos Gambit
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: More like obfuscating FABULOSITY
  • Offing the Offspring: A particularly upsetting variant.
  • 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.
  • Redemption Equals Death
  • Revenge Before Reason: Brandin.
  • Rightful King Returns
  • 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.
  • Weird Moon: Two of them, one white, one blue.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Kay explores this motif, having his heroes take several morally dubious choices in their quest. Were they justified by necessity? It's up to the reader.
  • Your Head Asplode: Isolla of Ygrath, following an attempted assassination on Brandin. It's awful.


The Fionavar TapestryCreator/Guy Gavriel KayA Song For Arbonne
Mary ReillyWorld Fantasy AwardBoy's Life
Tide LordsFantasy LiteratureTill We Have Faces
The Ties That BindLiterature of the 1990sTimeline

alternative title(s): Tigana
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