fajrdrako: (Default)
I've been struggling with a cold all week, which, on the negative side, means I can't work, and on the positive side means I get to loll about reading, playing games and watching television.

So I logged into World of Warcraft for the first time since... since I don't know when, and discovered things have changed. I had to re-arm my characters, and recover my pets. (I like to play hunters.)

I watched three episodes of Death in Paradise. Classic puzzle-mysteries, good characters.

I read Trinity by Matt Wagner, and I certainly enjoyed it, though I like Batman to be a little less pathologically grim, and there was something just a little stiff about it. Still: beautifully written.

I slept a lot.

I read The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch, and found myself wondering why it was called that. But of course, it's all about the Tyburn.

fajrdrako: ([Pirate])


Book Question #2: What book or series do you wish more people were reading and talking about?

(1) Megan Whalen Turner's series about Attolia. Imagine the early Renaissance as a world still like Ancient Greece. A boy named Gen uses his skills as a thief to get involved in power politics in the first book; to say any more would be to give spoilers for a series full of twists and turns of character and event. The books so far are "The Thief", "The Queen of Attolia", "The King of Attolia", and "A Conspiracy of Kings." Note: they must be read in that order.

(2) Karin Lowachee's series about the space battleship Macedon. A futuristic world with three battlefronts: an uneasy enmity between Earth and its colonies, and the first alien race they have encountered; and Admiral Cairo Azarcon is hunting down the slave-pirate Falcon to destroy his empire. The books are "Warchild", "Burndive" and "Cagebird".

(3) Iona Andrews' series about Kate Daniels. It is postaplocalyptic Atlanta, Georgia; magic and technology switch back and forth, causing havoc for humanity. Kate Daniels is a freelance mercenary who takes on any challenge from evil mages to vampires to the mysteries of her own past; and the leonine king of the shape-changers.

See Magic Bites on Goodreads.

fajrdrako: (Default)


Book Questions: Name a book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)

    A series I wish had gone on longer: the SF trilogy by Karin Lowachee, comprising "Warchild", "Burndive" and "Cagebird". Fascinating characters, interesting and believable world-building, and a protagonist - I'm thinking of Cairo Azarcon here - I just couldn't get enough of. How I wish there was more.

    A book series I wish would just freaking end already: George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire", which was wonderful through, say, the first three books; then has become more and more dull as it continues. It should have got to the point and ended by now.

Shield...

Jan. 15th, 2014 09:13 pm
fajrdrako: ([SHIELD])
Watched this week's episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at Pim's place tonight

Love that show more all the time. Skye's story is getting more interesting.

Also: reading "Freedom and Necessity" by Emma Bull and Stephen Brust. Amazing story.

Ulysses

Sep. 12th, 2013 10:58 pm
fajrdrako: ([James Joyce - Ulysses])


Several years ago I decided to read The Iliad that year, and did so. It worked so well I decided in 2012 to read another book I'd been planning to read for years, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I didn't quite get through it, but that's no big deal, the book isn't going away anywhere. As Barbara Kingsolver said, this project isn't written on tablets.

So this year I resolved on January 1 that I was going to read James Joyce's Ulysses. Since I'd heard it was a difficult book, I tried to persuade the people in one of my Dunnett reading groups to take it up as a group reading project, but only one other person was interested. Pity.

By August, I was thinking I should maybe get started. By September I was wondering if I might pick another book as my special project....

Then a while I was washing dishes in the kitchen and listening to an unknown radio station. A woman was being interviewed about James Joyce - she teaches university-level classes on his works. She mentioned that there was a local group who met every month to discuss Ulysses in a pub. I wondered what city they were in, envying them.

Turns out it was Ottawa. I made a note of the woman's name, and e-mailed her.

And then went today, for my first discussion of Ulysses. They're up to chapter three, so I had to rush through chapters one and two over the past few days. It's a little difficult to speed-read Joyce, but hey, I did it. And I read chapter 3 with somewhat more care.

And fell in love with his style, his content, his observations, his words. With the fact that he mentions Pico della Mirandola and Perkin Warbck and has phrases like illfounded heresiarch and ineluctable modality of the visible.

What really surprised me was the tone. I expected something dark and difficult -I knew there were themes of death and disillusionment. I didn't expect to find it funny.

I'm told that it gets more difficult after chapter three. We shall see.

We were each asked to pick a favourite line for discussion - it could be a sentence, or a passage, or a phrase, or a line. The really hard thing was picking only one bit. I chose something from the beginning of the chapter, where Stephen thinks of a snatch of song:


      Won't you come to Sandymount,
      Madeline the mare?


    Rhythm begins, you see. I hear. A catalectic tetrameter of iambs marching. No, agollop: deline the mare.


I loved the image of marching iambs, and I had to look up "catalectic" - it means unfinished, or cut off. I love the way the image works (for me) from the centre out: first I chose just the key phrase "catalectic tetrameter of iambs" and then added the "marching", and then the rest... like constructing blocks of ideas.

Iambs marching.

But it was so hard to pick. I also love Shut your eyes and see - which, to my disappointment, no one picked. And "We have nothing in out house but headache pills," which says so much to me. And the image of "a dryingline with two crucified shirts", and... so many more.

One which pretty much describes my life: "We don't want any of your medieval abstrusosities."

I'm having such fun with this. The more I look, the more I see. And the more I want.

Joyce's writing reminds me of two of my favourite writers, ever, not counting those he quotes or cites, like Shakespeare and Milton. He also reminds me of a few writers I don't much like, like Ezra Pound and Lewis Carroll, but the significants ones he brings to my mind are T.S. Eliot and Dorothy Dunnett. Now, T.S. Eliot was pretty much his contemporary and I suspect some cross-pollination there: one might have been a fan of the other, and influenced, or they might each have been reflecting a certain way of seeing the world and talking about it that was in their time. But Dorothy Dunnett was born after Ulysses was published. I wonder if she was a fan.

fajrdrako: (Book pile)


Portrait of the Book As Golem

So here I am at the river bank,
harvesting clay for my novel,
hands slick with the dark stuff,
as prolific as birth blood.
Back at the house, I turn it
on the wheel of life, make a golem,
knead the long ends into legs, hands,
twist the plot like a load of challah,
build the creature, the avatar,
With my left point finger, closest
to the heart, I write the name of G-d
on his vast, unknowing forehead.
Animation always surprises.
He rises, looks about in wonder
like the first man in Eden,
his eyes still full of innocence.
I hand him an AK47 and a full clip,
and let him seek out readers.
I am done with this one now.
I turn to the next book,
my conscience clear as Eve’s
and damned for my own eternity.

    “Portrait of the Book As Golem” copyright © 2013 Jane Yolen
fajrdrako: (Default)


From Shelf Awareness:

Interviewer David Powell: You are brilliant at capturing the romantic aspect of life, the sexual longing and fulfillments of the flesh. How do you approach this as a writer?

Guy Gavriel Kay: You do know this is almost begging for a joke about due and diligent research.... Honestly, I think it is another element of fiction that comes back to imagination and empathy, and perhaps also, in a larger sense, to a core belief in respecting my readers. In assuming they are interested in, and willing to explore with me, complex figures experiencing complex lives, which can (and will) include the erotic and emotional.

Interviewer David Powell: You stand out among modern male fantasy writers in being able to portray strong, fully realized heroines (Lin Shan in your new book [River of Stars] is only one example). What influences in your life made you more attuned to writing credible females?

Guy Gavriel Kay: Thank you. I admit I used to feel very flattered when readers made comments like this. But as I get older I have come to worry about what is embedded in the comment. If we can only write from our own stance or perspective, how do we do any fiction that is not autobiography? How does a woman write a man? A young author do an elderly character? An Australian or Indian novelist create a Canadian? A decent person create an evil character? In the end, all of this comes down to imaginative empathy and to craft, and these are central to the writing process.

fajrdrako: ([Tigana])
Tigana - Chapter 10

Alessan, Baerd, Devin, Sandre, Erlein, and Catriana arrive at Castle Borso in the southern mountains, where Alienor of Borso, widow of the previous lord, has a magnificent castle and a formidable (or notorious) reputatation. Alessan had referred to Alienor as 'a friend' and there is past history between her, him, and Baerd. Alienor seems clever to the point of dangerousness, and flirtatious. Devin stops Erlein from revealing Sandre's identity by punching him. Alienor doesn't mind. She gives Alessan a message - that his mother his dying. Distressed, he says he will go to her when tomorrow's meeting is over. Devin does not know what that meeting is about, or who it is with.

During the night, Alienor comes to Devin's room and takes him back to her bed, where they have sex. Then she ties him up and they have sex some more. Then he ties her up and carries on. Eventually she dismisses him, and he feels sad and angry. He goes to Catriana's room to talk more frankly than they had talked before. She talks about her shame that her father, who was from Tigana, took his family and left Tigana before the Battle of the Deisa, because he wanted to survive. She is ashamed of his cowardice. She tells how she fought with him when she learned the truth, and left home, and met Alessan and Baerd, who knew she was from Tigana because of her ring. Devin then falls asleep in her room, but leaves before she awakes just after dawn.

Characters in this chapter:
Alessan and his company
Alienor of Borso, also called Alienor di Certando

- - -

Chapter 10 puzzled me as to its purpose. I had to listen to it a second time on audiobook before the light dawned: It's about time being out of joint, expressed as a sexual metaphor.

Just as Tigana is erased and under a pall, the land under the tyrants is askew and personal relationships are all messed up. Alienor, who should be a proud matriarch, and who is trying to be one in her way, is a sort of voracious sexual figure preying on young men - not in a particularly nasty way, but not in a loving way either - some sort of grey area between consensual and otherwise.

Inversely but in a parallel sense, Catriana is frigid and isolated because of her father's refusal to fight for Tigana. Logically there is no connection, but the sense of family shame - and perhaps the curse on her homeland - has made her unable to connect closely to anyone, friends or lovers.

So her first sexual experience is a matter of anger and shame for her, and she can't help associating Devin with that and treating him as if he was into taking advantage, even though she knows it isn't true.

And it's all mixed up with the political. None of them have normal relationships - Alessan is a wanderer, Devin lusts after a girl he can't have (or possibly two of them, if you count Alais), Baerd has the pain of lost incestuous love, Catriana can love no one but her cause, and Sandre's entire family is dead at Alberico's hand, which presumably puts a damper on the idea of remarrying. (Besides, he's supposed to be dead.)

We don't know about Erlein, but I'd hazard a guess that the combination of music, politics, and wizardy that he lives with has messed him up, too.

Then over the sea, Dianora deeply loves the man she set out to kill. An insoluble paradox that has completely messed up her life.

fajrdrako: ([Tigana])
Tigana - Chapter 9

Part Three - Ember to Ember

Ember Days are the holidays, marked by ritual, at Spring and Autumn equinoxes.

The map: the Highlands of Certando.

Alessan, Baerd, Devin, Sandre and Catriana have been travelling for six months. They kill an informer. They come to an estate, where Devin climbs into a barn and kills the guardsman while he is asleep - it's the first time Devin has killed someone. Things go badly for Alberico over the summer, and he retaliates by raising taxes, and killing and torturing dissidents. Verses lampooning him keep appearing. Brandin sends him a letter requesting more women like Dianora from his lands. Alberico gets more and more angry.

Alessan and his company have a routine where, in disguise, they talk to the townspeople in the taverns in such a way to incite their resistance to Alberico and their desire for freedom, and to make them see the common cause they have with the other duchies and provinces of the Palm to throw off the Tyrants. Alessan and his companions are, of course, behind most of the events which frustrate and bedevil Alberico. In Devin's point of view, we contemplate his relationship with Catriana, which is going nowhere.

They meet up with a musician name Erlein di Senzio, who turns out to be a sorcerer, who is then ritually bound to serve Alessan, to his great resentment and resistance. He tries to escape, but cannot. and the others try to make peace with him.

Named characters in this chapter:

  • Alberico the Tyrant
  • Alessan, Prince of Tigana
  • Devin
  • Catriana
  • Duke Sandre d'Astibar
  • Baerd, son of the sculptor Saevar, Dianora's brother
  • Taccio and Ingonida, a couple in Ferraut who bought a bed
  • Karalius, leader of the First Company of Barbadians (in Alberico's army of mercenaris)
  • Grancial, leader of the Second Company of Barbadians (in Alberico's army of mercenaris)
  • Siferval, leader of the Third Company of Barbadians (in Alberico's army of mercenaris)
  • Tomasso bar Sandre, now a folk hero
  • Adreano, a poet executed by Brandin
  • Brandin of Ygrath
  • Ettocio, a bartender
  • Alienor of Castle Borso
  • The daughters of Rovigo, Selvena and Alais
  • Burnet de Corte, leader of a troupe of musicians
  • Erlein di Senzio. musician and wizard


fajrdrako: ([Tigana])


Tigana - Chapter 8

Another substantial chapter, from Dianora's point of view.

Dianora is at court, and tries to get Rhamanus appointed to govern north Asoli. Brandin tells her how he has practiced a traditional ritual run up a mountain, she teases him about it. He tells her he saw supernatural creature on a rock, but does not know if a guardsman saw her as well. He does not know what it means, but Dianora, who knows, is shaken.

A singer from Ygrath comes to play for the King. The musician Camena di Chiara pretends to be about to shoot her with a crossbow; Brandin defends her with magic, but he was actually the target of the killer, as Dianora realises, as she saves him. Camena was acting as a Chiaran patriot; Isolla was acting on behalf of Brandin's abandoned wife and/or son back in Ygrath. Brandin kills Isolla by magic, and Rhun hacks the body with his sword, crying "Music! Stevan!"

Dianora wants comfort, but Brandin sleeps with Solores that night and, angry and desolate, Dianora remembers her past and her first love. She remembers living in Tigana after he Battle of the Deisa, with Ygrathan soldiers tormenting the boys of the city, including her brother. Her mother's insanity and the atmosphere of despair lead her to take her brother Baerd as her lover; but he sees as reselka - the same supernatural creature Brandin has seen - and knows he must leave Tigana, and Dianora.

The prophesy of the reselka is told as poem:

    One man sees a reselka
    His life forks there.
    Two men see a reselka
    one of them shall die.
    Three men see a reselka
    one is blessed, one forks, one shall die.
    One woman sees a reselka
    her path comes clear to her.
    Two women see a reselka
    one of them shall bear a child.
    Three women see a reselka,
    one is blessed, one is clear, one shall bear a child.

Characters in this chapter:

  • Dianora
  • Rhamanus, Captain of the ship that brought her to Chiara
  • d'Eymon, Brandin's Chancellor
  • Rhun, Brandin's Fool
  • Scelto, Dianora's castrate friend and servant
  • Brandin of Ygrath
  • Isolla of Ygrath, a musician
  • Camena di Chiara, a musician
  • Doarde, a poet
  • Neso of Ygrath, a courtier
  • Naddo, an apprentice of Tigana
  • Baerd, Dianora's brother and lover


fajrdrako: ([Tigana])
The scene has switched to Chiara, the island to the north of the Peninsula, where Brandin of Ygrath is based. We're into Dianora's point of view, in the palace of Brandin of Ygrath. The Grand Dukes used to throw their rings into the sea - a reference to the Venetian custom, but also a revisitation of the legendary history of Chiara and the story of Onestra. We learn that Dionora is now thirty-three - about the same age as Alessan - and remembers Tigana. Through her point of view, we meet Brandin - so it's not as the conqueror who was Valentin's enemy that we see him. It's an intimate portrait. We see her making him laugh. She is the favourite in his harem or "saishan".

We learn that Dianora was the daughter of Saevar, the sculptor we met in the Prologue who was a friend of Prince Valentin. Her father was killed in the battle when she was fourteen, her home and her father's art destroyed, and her mother lost to dewspair. Dianora lived and planned revenge by becoming close to Brandin, and geared her life to this goal, her "Twin Snakes". Then failed to accomplish her goal, because she fell in love with Brandin. Her view of him is new and unexpected: "[His] voice was knowledge and wit and grace to her, water in the dryness of her days. Whose laughter when he set it free, when she could draw it forth from him, was like the healing sun slicing the clouds." Quite a contrast to the picture we have of Alberico.

Through Dianora's mother, we get a description of Tigana as it once was, and the Palace by the Sea, and its destruction.

Named characters in this chapter:
Dionora di Tigana bren Saevar
Saevar di Tigana, her father, a sculptor who was killed at the Second Battle of the Deisa
Solores di Corte, another woman in the saishan, implied to be Brandin's pervious favourite
Scelto, a castrate, her friend and servant, aged about sixty - from Khardun (the land north of the Peninsula)
Vencel, in charge of the saishan, a teller of tall tales about himself
Hala, servant to Solores
Iassica, a new girl in the saishan
Tesios, her servant
Nesaia, Chlymoene - other women in the saishan
Chloese, a woman in the seishan, now dead
Girald, Brandin's son in Ygrath, now Regent of Ygrath
D'Eymon of Ygrath, Brandin's Chancellor
Dorotea of Ygrath, Brandin's Queen, still in Ygrath
Rhun, the Fool, a deformed shadow of Brandin, at least partly controlled by magic
Doarde, a poet
The Governor of Sevanien (formerly Avalle of the Towers)
Arduini, his chef
Osraria, a famed architect of Tigana, the first to build towers in Avalle
Neso of Ygrath, a nobleman whom Dianora doe not like
Rhamanus, Captain of a Tribute Ship for Brandin, who took Dianora to Chiara

Between scenes of Brandin's court at Chiara, we have the story of how Dianora came to be in Brandin's saishan, having pretended to be a serving-girl from Certando. Since Certando was under Alberico's rule, there had been fear that her siezure might spart a diplomatic (or military) incident with Alberico, but no one cared.

We get to see some of Brandin's magic in action as it is used as a sort of telephone service to communicate with Rhamanus. The contrast with Alberico continues, as Brandin seems to have a sense of fair rule and does not torture or execute those who displease him.
fajrdrako: ([Tigana])


Tigana - Chapter 6

This chapter is rather peaceful after the previous two.

The chapter starts with the sentence: "As it happened, the long path of that day and night did not lead back to the inn after all."

Anything beginning "as it happened" makes me think of Dorothy Dunnett.

I like the idea that Tigana is "almost purely an abstraction" for Devin, though it means everything to him.

I also love the sentence, "Devin wondered how often men did what htey did, made the choices of their lives, for reasons that were clean and uncomplicated and easily understood as they were happening."

They they meet up with Rovigo and his family, and go to Rovigo's place - and it appears to be purely an impulse of Devin's, but it turns out that Alessan has had dealings with Rovigo and Rovigo is already allied to the freedom-fighters of Tigana, and we get a chance to see how someone not born in Tigana is incapable of hearing that word.

We meet Rovigo's wife and daughters, and see the way Rovigo teases them all the time. I find Rovigo rather amazing - he should be too cute, but he isn't. He hits just the right note. His love of his daughters shines through, and his teasing keeps him from seeming soppy about it.

The family:
Rovigo, the father, Captain of the Sea Maid
Alix, his wife
Menka, the housekeeper

The daughters:
Alais, whom Devin likes
Selvana, who is somewhat boy-crazy
two younger girls

Devin sees the "sociable and relaxed Alessan" as being close to his essential character.

I like Catriana's toast "to kindness on a dark road". Literal or metaphorical or both. Bringing to mind Dante's line "I found myself alone in a dark wood" and reminding me of the Dante quote at the beginning of the book.

We learn the nature of Alessan's oath with his blue wine: "Tigana, let my memory of you be like a blade in my soul." This also explains the title of the section. And I love the exchange:

Rovigo: "Forgive me, both of you. I should not have asked. I have opened a wound."
Alessan: "The wound is always open."

So they decide to go into business with Rovigo, to pursue the business of Tigana.

* * *
We get the viewpoint of Alais, who loved Devin's singing and haws "wide, alert eyes". It would be hard not to like Alais. Her assessment of Alessan's age would put him in his early to mid thirties. She sees that Catriana and Devin don't love each other, though there is "something" between them.

She goes to her room with Catriana, and they make conversation. Catriana is by turns brittle, patronizing and apologetic.
* * *

We get the viewpoint of Tomasso, tormented and thrown in a rat-infested dark prison, facing torture in the morning. I'm not sure what building this dungeon is attached to - the Sandrini Palace? Somewhere in the city? His father comes to him, and he thinks it's dream or a hallucination. Sandre gives him the vial of poison, which Tomasso drinks, still thinking it's a dream or vision, particularly since, in this dream of vision, his father loves him.

I thought Tomasso's story unbearably sad.


fajrdrako: ([Tigana])


Apropos of my reading of Tigana, Tor's website has a question and answer session with Guy Gavriel Kay.

My favourite bit:

    Bad news: You’re about to be marooned alone on a desert island—name the five things you would bring along.

    A:Five extremely accomplished, well-read, exquisitely civilized survivalists with encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, film and therapeutic massage.


fajrdrako: ([Tigana])


I consider this a pivotal chapter. *The* pivotal chapter. We finally learn what is really going on, and what the title "Tigana" means.

The chapter begins with Alessan wishing he could shoot Alberico. I like it that Devin knows he could not have made the shot; there is a limit to his skills. Or is this a hint that everyone in the Palm knows how to shoot and hunt? Or a reminder that he grew up on a farm, and probably hunted for food as well? Or is it a hint that he is not just a farmer, but a gentleman and the son of a gentleman, who was taught, Renaissance-fashion, all the noble arts?

It probably doesn't mean any of these things: it's just to point out either Alessan's skill, or Devin's sense of the practical. Or it means all of these things, all at once, a sort of all-purpose passage characterizing everyone.

I love the line, "'Did I shoot?' he asked pointedly."

If I understand correctly, Baerd has not been fully explained. Is he a friend, servant, nobleman, soldier - ? Clearly he is Alessan's friend, but his background is unclear. If I were to guess, I'd guess he is a nobleman with a background similar to Alessan's - begging the question, at least at the beginning of the chapter, as to what that is. He says that Beard is dearer to him than anyone else.

I like the whole passage where Catriana is uneasy about Devin's role, Alessan defends each of them and pretty much tells them both to grow up and stop bickering. I originally compared Catriana to Christian Stewart, but now I think she's more like Marthe: brittle and tense all the time. I like it that Baerd teases Alessan for lecturing someone else for 'too much pride' - but how much is too much, when it's pretty much all you've got?

But then we see that Catriana's lack of trust in Devin is because she thinks he's from Asoli. Alessan knows he isn't, because of the tune he said his father taught him. That gave him a reason for bringing him into the action - recruiting him, as it were.

The 'enormous thing', the fulcrum and focus of the whole book, turns out to be a history lesson - based on the prologue, which we know now was about 18 years earlier, when Brandin's army fought Valentin's army on the banks of the Deisa, and Valentin was decisively defeated. As he had expected.

I like the word 'liquescent'.

I like the contrast we are beginning to see between Brandin and Alberico. Though both are sorcerors, Alberico is "only a wealthy, ambitous minor lord" while Brandin is a ruler. But Brandin has a grudge - Prince Valentin killed his only son in battle. So in retaliation, Brandin destroyed Valentin's kingdom of Tigana completely, and not just physically. Having destroyed its cities, its towers, its art and its architecture, he erased the name of Tigana from the world. Except for those born there.

I wondered why he didn't erase the name from everyone including those born in Tigana, but the answer is easy enough: to make them suffer.

Interesting passage, in which Devin considers the importance of memory. Another theme of the book. Devin sees the name Tigana as something stolen from him. It isn't just the memory of Tigana that is important, it is the name of Tigana - the magic of words. Perhaps there's an implication that the magic is stronger when words are sung - or maybe it's that song is a way to preserve memories.

Though Catriana sings the song of Avalle of the Towers, she doesn't seem to have much to say about Tigana here. Perhaps because she is younger than Baerd and Alessan? Or more naturally reticent and self-defensive?

I like the double-edged reflection that Devin joins the ex-pat freedom fighters by his own choice, and at the same time has to do it because Tommaso will name him to Alberico under torture and he'll have to go on the run.

When Devin apologizes to Catriana for 'this morning', I wasn't sure why: she seduced him, not the other way round, and he meant nothing demeaning by it. His apology reminds me of the scenes in Barrayar in which Kou apologizes to Drou for raping her, when that isn't what happened and she's furious with him for not valuing or rightly perceiving what happened. Does he think he should have run screaming from the closet as soon as she touched him? Or is he basically apologizing for not knowing about Tigana, not knowing about political schemes, and not recognizing her as a compatriot? And why does she think she is the aggrieved party? Whatever they are thinking, this does not look or feel like a budding romance.

So they go back to the hunting lodge and find (almost) everyone dead. Alessan's reaction (and his prayer) seem very prince-like to me. But someone is alive and his identity took me by surprise. (Yeah, I've read the book before, but I'd forgotten this part.) No wonder Sande d'Astibar had been talked about so much - he isn't dead, he's alive, in a sort of Romeo-and-Juliet scam to get himself invited to his own wake.

Interesting that both Sandre and Tomasso are do suprised that Taeri killed Herado. How much of a wimp did they think Taeri had always been? Was he too underestimated? They thought he was clever and decisive enough to join their conspiracy in the first place.

So he names Alessan as prince of Tigana and I like the way we were set up so that Alessan's full name is something of a climax itself. Just one revelation after another in this chapter.

And another, smaller revelation, which is more about 'how' than 'what': Sandre himself is a sorcerer. Proving that Alberico and Brandin aren't the only ones with magic, much as they have tried to eradicate other magic-users. Turns out that the Princes of Tigana, though not sorcerers themselves, can bind wizards to them. Presumably Valentin never had a chance to bind Brandin, which would have saved a lot of trouble in the first place. Or was Brandin's power just too strong? (I'm assuming there is no practical difference here between a wizard and a sorcerer, though in some books, there is.)

Through all this scene, I quite like old Sandre. If we're playing "he reminds me of", he reminds me of Piotr Vorkosigan. Crusty, angry, indefatigable old warrior.

So we get agreement between Sandre (whose enemy is Alberico) and Alessan (whose enemy is Brandin) that they both have to die, not just one of them, and presumably at pretty much the same time. Which makes the situation all the more challenging. Obviously this is why - this is one of the reasons why - Baerd would have stopped Alessan if he'd actually tried to shoot Alberico at the beginning of the chapter, but it makes me wonder what would have happened if Alberico's discorporation spell hadn't worked and he had been killed by Scalvaia in the hunting lodge. We'd have a different story, I guess. I suppose Alberico didn't think to discorporate the arrow, rather than himself? Or perhaps it would have used even more power. Or perhaps Alberico, though horribly cruel, isn't very clever.

I like it that Devin is worried about his commitment to Menico and the concerts, and that it turns out they don't have to just run immediately. Sandre can prevent Tomasso from revealing them to Alberico.

"Don't expect to recognize us" - cute.

fajrdrako: (Default)


Tigana Chapter 4

Named characters:

  • Tomasso, son of Duke Sandre of Astibar
  • Sandre, Duke of Astibar (now in hte coffin)
  • Gianno, son of Duke Sandre, Tomasso's older brother
  • Taeri, son of Duke Sandre, Tomasso's younger brother
  • Fabro and the Canziano family, now eradicated for an assassination attempt in which they were innocent
  • Herado, illegitimate son of Gianno
  • Scalvaia and Nievole, two lords of Astibar
  • Burnet di Corte, another musician (presumably with is own troupe)
  • Devin
  • Alessan
  • Goch, one of the Duke's servants
  • Baerd, an armed colleague of Alessan
  • Alberico of Barbadior, Tyrant of Astibar, Tregea, Ferraut and Certado

    I don't know if moons can be called characters, but they have names: Vidomni is the white one, Ilarion is the blue one.

    (1) We had't seen a lot of the consequences of conquest, but mention is made of the Barbadian mercenaries who patrol at night to impose curfew. There is more when we see Alberico's excessive reaction to an assassination attempt. Our sense of Alberico's power and tyranny escalate through this chapter till we meet him ouselves.

    (2) It becomes clear that the funeral is a heavily orchestrated political event created deliberately by the dead man.

    (3) Tomasso's sixteen-year-old lover was executed "discreetly". How do you execute someone discreetly? Was it made to look like an accident? Or a random crime?

    (4) There is a mention of Alberico's invasion involving sorcery. I'm not sure if magic has been mentioned before. Then we hear that sorcerors can't be poisoned.

    (5) We learn that the Sandreni palace has been closed up for a long time. A city-state without a heart at its core?

    (6) I wonder why the moons are two different colours?

    (7) Alessan makes his appearance, through the window. Very Lymondesque. We learn that he is not an ex-shepherd from Tregea, but we don't actually learn who he is, though he says is lineage is old. Alessan believes the fall of Alberico is a necessary step to the death of Brandin, as they are the balance of power in the peninsula.

    (8) Alessan changes the balance of the power in the room by showing that he knew what Sandre had arranged, and added security precautions of his own. Then he demands leadership of their cabal.

    (9) The text says the morning had changed Devin. Changed in what way? More curious? More reckless? More interested in politics than fun? Thinking less about himself? Or more? And what changed him - knowing that political upheaval was being plotted? Sex with Catriana? A successful performance for a Ducal party?

    (10) Devin does "a bit of a flip" when he comes out of the half-loft, and I wondered if he'd had training in dance or actrobatics somewhere along the way. (We know he used to climb trees.)

    (11) Alessan seems to have known about, or counted on, his curiosity bringing him there. Or is it more than curiosity? But Devin did not know Alessan would be there.

    (12) If I am thinking of Alessan as a Lymond-analogue and Devin as Will Scott, it seems that Catriana would be Christian Stewart - brains and red hair. Are there other analogues I've missed?

    (12) We come to the matter of Alessan's real name, which he cannot say. Though I have been drawing Dunnett parallels, here I see a Tolkien touch: "Alessan" isn't far in sound from "Elessar" and Aragorn also had different names, some of which he couldn't speak till an appointed time.

    Anyway, this seems to be a sore point with Alessan.

    (13) "We can never truly know the paths we have not walked." Paths are important in this book.

    (14) Alessan and Tomasso exchange a look which Devin neither forgets nor understands. Alliance against Brandin and Alberico? Prescience? Something else? Why does Devin not forget it - is it just because he doesn't understand it?

    (14) I love Alessan's speech: "My third glass of a night is blue. The third glass is always of blue wine. In memory of something lost. Lest on any single night I forget what it is I am alive to do." Coming back to the theme of memory/knowledge issues. We don't know what Alessan needs to remember.

    (15) The arrival of Alberico. Nasty. I love them moment when he smashes his fist down on the coffin and smashes the Sandreni arms.

    (16) Herado was the traitor. No wonder he was so afraid.

    (17) Alberico does a major act of magic to save his life - discorporates and recorportates. I love the way this scene is written: it's really a fairly ordinary sword-and-sorcery scene - someone tries to shoot the magician and the magician saves himself with a burst of magic - but it's written in an unusual way.

    (18) So many people in the room are dying that I am starting to think about the ending of Hamlet.

    (19) Interesting that we get Alberico's viewpoint for a bit. Frustration. Seems he has his hope of becoming Emperor himself. There are hints that he is a sadist.

    (20) Interesting line: "He had just shattered the three most dangerous families left in the Eastern Palm." I wonder about the implications of that. Does he mean there is a family as dangerous in the Western Palm, or that the family that would be dangerous no longer exists?

fajrdrako: ([Tigana])


Tigana - Chapter 3

My comments seem arid, in view of the material. As I reread I am mesmerized by Guy Kay's words: and not the words themselves, but their cadences, their beauty, the sense that they mean more than they say but the different levels are dancing around elusively, like music in counterpoint that you can only partly hear.

Devin is nervous about his performance at the Duke's funeral.  He follows Catriana through the palace, where she hides him in a secret closet and has (quiet) sex with him, presumably to distract him from the conversation in the outer room, between three men.  Afterwards, he successfully sings the death lament.

Named Characters:

  • Devin, the singer with Menico's troupe (and our viewpoint)
  • Aldine and Nieri, the dancers
  • Eghano, the drummer
  • Catriana, the other singer
  • Taeri, one of the conspirators, who mentions someone named Gianno


(1) Interesting that Albertico is decribed in the first line as 'cautious'.

(2) I like the irony/humour that Astibar is known for asceticism but most of what we have seen of it involves drinking.

(3) I liked Edhano's philosophy: "We do what we always do. We make music.  We move on."

(4) I like the use of dance to impose gravity.  I also like the sense that this troupe is good - not just going through motions or in training, but really superbly expert.  You'd have to be first-class to be part of it.

(5) Catriana seems to change character three or four times in this chapter:   by turns practical, sexual, standoffish and shy. We re reminded that she is from Astibar, so may have political or familial interests in Astibaran politics.

Come to think of it, she reminds me of the description of Astibar we had above: ascetic, despite giving the impression of being otherwise.  A facade that is one thing and a reality which is another, though we can't tell which is which.

(6) I don't think Alessan is even mentioned in this chapter.  We are reminded of Alberico, but not Brandin.

(7) I had the sense of the Palace of Astibar as dwarfing the people within - many corridors, staircased, arched chambers, massive fireplaces, and so on. (Like the Medici palaces?)  Perhaps a metaphor for the way the politics  are bigger than the individuals?

(8) The sense of peformer's anxiety before a show seemed very real.
fajrdrako: ([Tigana])


Tigana: The Prologue

Before we get to the Prologue, we have two quotes: one from Dante's Paradiso, one from George Seferis, "Stratis the Sailor Describes a Man".

    All that you held most dear you will put by
    and leave behind you; and this is the arrow
    the longbow of your exile first lets fly.

    You will come to know how bitter as salt and stone
    is the bread of others, how hard the way that goes
    up and down stairs that never are your own.
    - Dante, The Paradiso

    What can a flame remember? If it remembers a little less than is necessary, it goes out; if it remembers a little more than is necessary, it goes out. If only it could teach us, while it burns, to remember correctly.
    - George Seferis, "Stratis the Sailor Describes a Man".

I want to keep these in mind, and see at the end of the book whether I think they are important to the themes. The second one, I understand: it's a book about perceptions, memory, and change.

The first one... it's about the war between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, which was topical and important to Dante, and mostly forgotten now. But it's about war, loss, and exile - life in an unfamiliar world, and not by choice.

Yes, very apropos.

Then there's a map. I love books with maps. This is The Peninsula of the Palm, where the story is set. We have rivers and mountains, and a pretty compass rose with south marked, rather than north.

A note on pronunciation: pretend it's all in Italian. Which means terminal vowels are all pronounced, and it's all pretty straightforward. "Chiara" is "Key arra", "Ciorone" is "Chore own". But Ferraut? That looks French. Ah well. Just like in real life, place names aren't logical and languages get mixed up together.

Setting: a place with two moons. Two armies are encamped on the banks of the Deisa (visible in the middle of the map), about to do battle. We are in the viewpoint of Saevar, a sculptor, who is talking to Prince Valentin, who has two sons, Corsin and Loredan. The enemy leader is Brandin of Ygrath.

Trialla - a kind of bird, presumably. I infer that its song is pretty.

Named places: Ygrath (the home of the enemy they are fighting), Quileia (to the south on the map) and Barbadior - and Empire to the East.

Valentin does not want to fight, and feels it is certain his side will lose. He believes that the memory of his homeland and its accomplishments will live on, even when his army is defeated.

* * *


I don't usually like Prologues. I could rant about why I don't like then, and what I particularly don't like about them. But I like this one. It's beautifully written, with a contrast between the peaceful beauty of the night and the friendship between the men, and the violent battle they are about to face. It sets a scene, with a Prince who loves peace and art and his people, and an artist who loves the Prince and his family.

It's as if everything is poised to happen.

Tigana...

Mar. 21st, 2013 10:55 pm
fajrdrako: ([Tigana])


I've embarked on a reread of Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana, and I think I want to talk about it here. We're going to be discussing it on one of the Dunnett email lists, and this will help me keep on track - and if anyone here wants to comment on my comment, or read along with me, I'd be thrilled.

I first read it in 1990, when it came out, after hearing Guy Kay do a reading from it in Toronto, at the SF convention "Ad Astra".

I read it again about a decade ago.

I think it's time to read it again. I remember the general story, but not the details. It's one of my favourite fantasy novels of all time. Well, of course it is: Kay's two primary influences were J.R.R. Tolkien and Dorothy Dunnett. It doesn't get better than that.

Found this wonderful cover art from the Croatian edition of the novel - art that actually depicts the contents of the book!



I'm listing a few links here, but I'll warn anyone who hasn't read the book and wants to: don't look at the reviews before reading it. Don't read the blurbs, don't look for a synopsis, because there will almost certainly be spoilers. And the book is more fun without spoilers. On need to know basis: It's about a musical troupe and freedom fighters in a culture like Renaissance Italy.

Links, in case I might like them later:

There are many reviews on line, some good, some bad. (Really!) I may explore them more later.

fajrdrako: (Default)


A friend of mine just mentioned today in passing that she loves to reread books, but she feels guilty when she does so - because there are just so many good books out there.

It never occurred to me to feel guilty about rereading. I see it as a tribute to a good writer. I am currently rereading Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold, and Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. Two excellent books by two of my favourite authors. And those aren't the only books I'm in the middle of... I mean, I read other books too.

I had forgotten how very beautiful Tigana is.

fajrdrako: (Book pile)


I am in a book club, and I am on an email discussion list where we want to discuss books.

In both cases, we are looking for books to read. Do you well-read people have any suggestions? What books are good for nice, meaty discussions?

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