Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

August 28, 2009

Tigana part 4 – The Price of Blood

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Sam @ 4:45 pm

The map this section opens with is of the Sanctuary of Eanna, where Alessan’s mother is cloistered. It seems to be your bog-standard monastic community.

The first chapter, on the other hand, is Dianora’s narration; she goes out walking, and we see what Brandin’s done to the Grand Duke of Chiara’s formal garden. It used to be very neat, tidy, open, pretty – contained and ruled. Brandin had it remodeled to be much more of a wilderness, with narrower paths and dense trees – “deliberately shaped to give a sense of stillness and isolation, and even, at times, of danger.” Dianora reaches a T-junction, hesitates, and turns west “because her heart always did that”. She sees a riselka, and the riselka throws a pebble into the pool, giving her a vision; Dianora knows “her path leads to the sea”. She felt desire for the riselka, but it made her weep. This is the same kind of purposeless, frustrated, mischanneled desire that a lot of the other sexual imagery in the book seems to be aiming at – not that I necessarily agree with the text’s apparent idea of healthy and unhealthy sex, but it’s fairly internally consistent. Of course, it doesn’t say anywhere that people will stop having kinky bondage sex when the curse is lifted…

In Chapter 14, we’re back to Alessan, Devin, and Erlein. On their way north-west they’re being chased by a band of brigands who’ve taken them for Barbadians. When the truth becomes apparent, Alessan tells them about Tigana; most are just confused, and one – Naddo, who later turns out to be the last apprentice of Baerd’s and Dianora’s father – was born there. “Immune to the spell, or another victim of it.” One of the other bandits suggests turning the three in to the Ygrathen garrison, and abruptly dies with a dagger in his back. Captain Ducas isn’t going to condemn the brigand who stabbed him; they all join up with the Cause.

There’s a Barbadian patrol out, with a Tracker to sniff mages; this turns out to be the “first true battle” of the rebellion. The first to die is the Tracker; he’s a twelve-year-old boy. We see quite a lot of Erlein’s character arc here, as he and Rinaldo di Senzio – another of Alessan’s mysterious friends-and-allies, an old blind Healer – blow up at each other over the issue of collaborating with Alessan, and using Senzio as the battleground.

In Chapter 15, we get Devin’s POV as they cross over into Lower Corte; he’s trying hard to feel it as Home, and we see a great deal of landscape porn. (Including a river – flowing north before it curves west to find the sea. This is a perfectly accurate description of the course of the book from now on.) On the other hand, most of what he’s feeling gets embodied in, or reified by, Alessan.

“Devin knew that he was not the first and would not be the last person to find in a single man the defining shape and lineaments for the so much harder love of an abstraction or a dream.”

This is another interesting theme running through Tigana – whether a Prince has the liberty to be a man, or whether he has at all times to be his country before all else. Whether that kind of sacrifice is something to be admired, or whether – as Erlein shows us quite pointedly – it’s a dangerous lunacy is an open-ended question.

At the Sanctuary, Alessan’s mother is living under the identity of one of her ladies who killed herself after Second Deisa. She’s dying, but still bolt upright, back straight and full of rage, for Tigana and against Alessan, condemning him for gambolling around the Palm playing music while Tigana is still cursed.

Alessan: it would be easier to die.
Pasithea: “You would buy Corte’s freedom, and Astibar’s and Tregea’s, at the price of Tigana’s name. Of our very existence in the world. At the cost of everything we ever had or were before Brandin came. At the price of vengeance and our pride.”
Alessan: I learnt about all the provinces’ pride.
Pasithea: What is a peninsula that we should care for it? Tigana is where Adaon lay with Micaela when the world was young.
Erlein: Everyone has stories.
Pasithea: Nobody else will sing ours!
Devin: Yes, they will. Everyone will. Because your son is going to succeed.

Then Pasithea breaks the news to Alessan, and to the reader as well: Brandin has abdicated as King of Ygrath, to be King of the Western Palm. People are singing his name in the streets of Stevanien.

At this point, Devin realises that someone’s spying on them, and gives chase. When he comes to a locked door, Erlein is there, and opens it with magic – he chose to follow, chose to help, giving the lie to his earlier bitter comments about having had all choice taken from him. Inside, a young monk is trying to make a psychic link to Brandin; Devin stabs him before it can go through, in another of those had-to-be-done moments. They don’t grieve; but Danoleon, the High Priest of Eanna, and another of Alessan’s friends, does, because the young monk had been born in Avalle.

Chapter 16 opens with the words “Spring came early in Astibar.” We get Alberico’s POV; his reaction to Brandin’s abdication, and to the letters from Quileia, is to mass troops at the border with Senzio. Moving over to Rovigo and his daughter Alais, they’re both restless; he wants to go to the far south, see the ice-floes breaking up and the river beginning to run again, carrying the floes crashing and grinding down to the sea. Now that’s fairly unsubtle, as far as the water imagery goes! He settles for a voyage to Tregea, and asks Alais to accompany him; it’s her dream to voyage with her father. “A woman cannot live a life at sea. Not in the world as it is.” He’s going to do everything he can for her, though. This is another of those breaking-rules images, like the sex thing and the single candle lit on the Ember days; you take the little freedoms where you can, when the greater are denied you. Which echoes a comment Alessan made after Pasithea breaks the bad news to him; “That may be a gift, not a curse.”

Next, we switch to Catriana, Baerd, and Sandre, who are travelling and spreading word of a summer Rising. In Tregea, Baerd can’t help decking a Barbadian mercenary who gropes Catriana, and they have to separate. Rovigo catches her and guides her to more-or-less-safety, giving everyone the perfect excuse for the classic scene where she cuts off her hair, because it “would give her away”. I’m unconvinced by this, because I have quite a few friends with ten or fifteen years’ uninterrupted growth of glorious red hair, and generally it does bundle up quite small. But that’s petty realism intruding, and the scene’s important to the book.

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