I am just going to go ahead and drop a from-the-gut review. I just finished the book last night, after two weeks of reading it. Yes, I lugged this bad boy around all that time. And, yes, I read a couple of books in between.
The sheer problem I had with Tigana was that large parts of it were flat out boring. Kay had this habit of telling the reader something, and then proceeding to use six pages to show us what he just told us.
Example: Alessan predicts Erlein will run, despite being bound to the prince. Then we read about the running, the hunting, the finding, and the aftermath. I believed Kay when he wrote something. He did not have to hit me over the head with a stick.
On the other hand, Kay was constantly foreshadowing the results of events, and then not playing them out that way. Instead of being surprised, or pleased, I found myself getting pissed off. Two major examples: Dionora's dive (in which we will assume she will follow the path she is supposed to and die at the bottom of the sea). We have been told for two chapters she would, and went with her on her walk of death, and then, nope, she resurfaces. I had become emotionally connected with this brave woman who was on a mission. Then she drops the ball, and it is unclear why. I felt cheated.Catriana out the window plays the same way. Seriously, she did nothing but pout through the entire book. Saving her from that noble death just allowed her to remain a useless character. Kay, I found, was lining it up so that everyone had a love match at the end. I found that to unnecessary and kind of stupid.
I disagree that the world building is spectacular. In fact, I felt as though I had nothing to go on, so I set the novel in the world of Pillars of the Earth mixed with a little Westeros. I had to research sky death wheels on my own.
Here is what I enjoyed, and why I continued to read: the magic. Unfortunately, there was not nearly enough of it. The wizards were kick ass, if interchangeable. In fact, the healing blind wizard I kind of pictured as Billy Crystal from The Princess Bride.
The riselka: I really expected this to end up being really important. Nope. Brandin uses her as an excuse to marry Dianora. Dianora ignores what it tells her to do. And WTF was up with the ending?
There is a section in the center of the book about an other-worldly fight on a mythical hill on Ember Night. Here is what I really think: I bet Kay wrote this as a stand alone short story and it was so good (it is great) he jammed it into Tigana. And it feels like it is jammed in. Nothing that happens on that hill has anything to do with anything that happens in the rest of the novel (except that Kay uses the Ember Night people as magical amps for the wizards in the big climax). I thought this was a truly great part of the book, and then it hit me that I probably enjoyed it because it did not feel like the rest of the book.
I liked Devin and Alais. I even like Alessan. I got the mission, although I am not sure I would have been as committed to the cause (I am from New Jersey) and would have found myself, like Sandre, more concerned with the removal of tyrants and less about restoring everyone's memories about a lost land. Another note: why have a land called Treaga and one called Tigana? Confusing.
So. I know I am pretty new to high fantasy, and while I did not hate Tigana or even dislike it enough to stop reading it, I would find it hard to recommend it to readers who are looking for an epic, high fantasy book. Sometimes, when I finish a book like this (one I have to slog through) I feel as though, at the end, I should have AT LEAST earned a t shirt. I felt this way about The Historian and The Passage. So, I will expect my
"I read Tigana and Survived" shirt in the mail.