The poor Palm. The Palm is a splayed formation of land under a two-mooned sky, overrun twenty years ago by TWO empires, the Ygrath from the west, the Barbarior from the east. Since that invasion, the land huddles like Czechoslovakia beneath Germany and Russia. Worse, so bitter was the fighting in the west and so angered was the Ygrathian ruler with his son’s death in that campaign that he destroyed the two cities of the primary state which had stood against him, toppling its towers, grinding the survivors under heavy taxation, and even magically striking the original name of the capital from the memories of the world. And that name, of course, was Tigana.
And in this world, we meet all manner of people. Displaced princes working their rebellions, young singers, crafty merchants, sexually-supercharged noblewomen, even concubines who have plotted their whole lives to get within dagger-thrust of a hated ruler. So many characters, in fact, that like the very word Tigana, the reader worries they will forget who each person is. I had a couple of “and you are?” moments but pretty much made it through.
But even as we skirt the edge of character-amnesia, the book rolls us along in a gradually unfolding year when everything in this land will be decided. In the course of that, the author springs a number of gotchas, nifty twists that rock the reader back in his chair, neat little shockers that change all those relationships about. I didn’t see any of them coming and delighted when they came. And in the end, when I wasn’t sure who should win the gigantic land battle taking place, its outcome teetering from side to side, the final gotcha hits like a hammerblow, firming my resolve and bringing down that final curtain.
Yes, I really liked the book. It’s not without minor blemishes, of course (the sort lesser authors such as myself delight in pointing out) – the dialog can be a bit windy at time and the scene description a might slow. Vignettes take a number of pages to resolve. Not that I wanted to rush past anything – I was just surprised at how many pages some settings burned through.
My real complaint came from a strange side-story that seemed almost tacked on after the fact, an alternate reality battle between “night walkers” and something else. It came out of left field with no explanation – one of the characters wanders off to clear his head at night and suddenly finds himself in another dimension, dropping into a critical pitched battle. I actually feared that this would be the end of this wonderful novel, that everything would be goofy and inexplicably contrived after this. Thankfully, no, we kept one character out of the batch as a souvenir and returned to the Palm, where events were rapidly heating.
Don’t get me wrong with my comments, here. This was a fantastic read, a great visit into a unique world so often monopolized by the same-ol’ fantasy-franchises. If you can find it, buy it. And if can’t, borrow it (thanks, Karen!). But read it. Great fun!