I have, terribly belatedly, read April’s GGK book club novel, TIGANA. Well, re-read it, because it’s down on my Reading List four times and I’ve read it at least twice that many times, because the reading list didn’t get started until well after the book came out.
TIGANA is, pretty much without a doubt, my favourite book. I’ve never previously tried to do any kind of figuring out why, but as I was reading this time I had the question in the back of my head, and it became clear very early on that one of the reasons it succeeds so hugely for me is because I find it so incredibly well *balanced*.
The heartbreak and the joy of the book are always on a knife’s edge; of the characters, Devin, particularly, often recognizes that within himself. But more than that, even, is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There’s no weft without the weave there, and I could cite dozens of examples but I’d be here all night. One weight and balance that particularly struck me in this reading, though, was what Tomasso gained from Sandre and Sandre gained from Catriana.
Another thing that especially struck me in this reading was that not very long ago, author Alma Alexander, who was born in Yugoslavia, talked about how the ripping away of Tigana’s name struck her viscerally, as someone whose country of birth no longer exists. GGK’s inspiration for the idea of taking away a name apparently came from visiting Ireland, where he was struck by all the English place-names replacing the Irish names, but until I read Alma’s post I didn’t really think about how there are modern countries–many countries–which have disappeared and come unmade that way. It’s my favourite book anyway, but that increased its impact yet again.
And then on a hugely personal career note, the last two or three times I’ve read TIGANA have been post-Inheritors’-Cycle-writing. I knew, of course (and astute readers also observed) that in many ways those books are a direct homage to GGK in general and TIGANA in specific. It had been several years since I’d read TIGANA when I wrote THE QUEEN’S BASTARD and THE PRETENDER’S CROWN, and going back and re-reading it not long after those books came out–honestly, there’s more homage than I intended. There are a couple of things–Belinda’s memory, in particular–that I would have done differently if I had remembered consciously about *Devin*’s memory.
OTOH, I could not have written those books without TIGANA, or I couldn’t have written them the way that I did, and I happen to love them the way that they are. TQB, especially–there’s a moment in it where the whole book up to that point pays off in something like 57 words. To me it’s the knife-twist moment, the moment where the last piece falls into place and damns it all, and for me, it’s perfect. And what I was trying to achieve there was the agonizing inevitablity that TIGANA builds toward: the moment when the mountains lift from Rhun’s mind; the moment when Dianora leaves Scelto; the moment when Sandre breaks the blind and speaks to the sorcerer, and a dozen more like it. Without those guidelines, without the knowledge it *could* be done, I could never have even tried, much less (for myself, at least) succeeded.
So even for the parts where I went (in my retrospective opinion) too far, those books are so much a love story to TIGANA that really all I can do is stand with my hand to my heart and thank GGK for writing it. It’s just…well, it’s my favourite book.