Another long post – quite fitting, for the last one. I might well return to Tigana in the future, but this covers the last book of five. We begin with a map of Chiara, and Dianora’s POV, remembering a dream of drowning and that today she’s going to go into the sea.
For the first time, Brandin tells Dianora he loves her, and that he’s going to ask her to marry him. She wants to tell him to let Tigana go, but knows grace doesn’t come that easily. “Not in the world in which they lived.” There are a lot of references to the imperfection of this world here, and to “Finavir”, the world beyond the world. Not having re-read the Fionavar Tapestry in years, I don’t want to comment further on this. Brandin says, I am bound myself to this peninsula by love and grief, and by my own nature, and those three things will hold me here. Alessan, of course, could have said exactly the same.
We now learn Dianora’s plan; she’s going to do the Ring Dive, and thereby legitimate Brandin as Grand Duke of Chiara. And she’s lying, because she doesn’t intend to bring back the ring from the sea. When Onestra di Chiara drowned, the ceremony was discontinued, and that proved a very bad omen indeed for Chiara. Of course, the ceremony was originally just a political ploy by the priests, but that doesn’t stop it being real.
Devin, Erlein, and Alessan are watching from a ship in the harbour – again, we see Kay’s favourite technique for showing disguise and concealment, whereby he tells us about a crowd and a few people in it, then we learn that it’s our protagonists. Brandin makes a speech (of course) before he throws the ring, and names himself Brandin di Chiara. This is an interesting thing to happen – on one level, by adopting the “of Chiara” title, he’s being Nice, submitting himself to adoption. On another, though, he’s saying, I’m one of you now. You’re just like me – offering the island a partnership on his terms, rather than subjugation and conquest. And after that long, I can’t blame them for liking it. There’s a good argument to be made that it really is good for them, too – that the Ygrathen overclass has been fairly thoroughly assimilated. Some lines about the changes in saishan practices from Part 2 show us that one nicely.
These ideas of assimilation and change are at the heart of Tigana, of course – it’s no accident that the novel is set twenty years after Second Deisa. We have protagonists who were born in Tigana, but have no memory of it themselves (ripe for exploitation by a passionate demagogue with a fancy title and a quick tongue), but it hasn’t been long enough for the occupiers to retire, settle down, and raise children to leave home and be new, cosmopolitan citizens of the multi-ethnic Palm.
I’d be (and frequently am) the last to deny that most countries in the real world were formed by a process of invasion after invasion, waves of peaceful or violent settlers changing the face of the land and forcing the previous inhabitants to shift over. After all, less than 1500 years ago the Old North covered pretty much everything from the Humber to the Clyde, until the expanding Kingdom of Northumbria (amongst others) pushed it back. And whilst I might mourn for Rheged, Elmet, and Manaw Gododdin, there’s no way I or anyone else am going to raise the banners now. We’re all mongrels in Britain, and most of the rest of the world too; and if you start talking about links between land and genes, it’s only a short step from there to Blood and Soil, and that’s a step nobody gets to take around me.
We don’t have any sense of a history of invasions and genetic mixing in the Palm, but there’s no way I’m going to call Kay on that as an unreasonable assumption – it’s a pretty standard simplification for an author to make, especially for a peninsula occupied by proud, warlike people and cut off by a high mountain range to the south.
Anyway, back in the narrative, Alessan is getting himself drunk (to the extent of forgetting his oath that his third glass should always be blue wine) and wondering whether he’s done the right thing. He could have stabbed Brandin; he feels a kinship to Rhun, Brandin’s fool. (Foreshadowing, here; we find out very near the end that Rhun is Alessan’s father. Brandin has been keeping his enemies close, hasn’t he…) On the other hand, when a drunkard refers to Dianora as a whore, Alessan can’t help but deck him – and the barman gives him a drink on the house. Blue wine, on Devin’s urgent suggestion. My notes here have “Alessan goes upstairs, to Erlein – Erlein really cares for him now, it seems” and that makes the text sound a lot more homoerotic than it actually is. In all his self-doubt, Alessan actually apologises to Erlein – and looking back, I’m fairly sure this is actually the first time we get Alessan’s POV at all, when he’s feeling uncertain and doubtful. The people around the Prince are taking up the strain for him, even Erlein. Invasion & occupation force you to make choices, and none of your choices are good; and they help you to see the choices those around you are making, and (if you can) to forgive them for it.
With Chapter 18, we start on Revolution again, at Solinghi’s in Senzio. You can tell we’re coming up to the big finish now, because just about everyone’s here – though yet again, we start off without names, seeing our protagonists as strangers see them. The text mentions “a Senzian harper, a piper from Astibar, and a young Asolini tenor” – it’s not as though they could be anyone else. (And of course Devin’s a tenor… all the best men are. Though tenor voices would have been more common in the era in which Tigana is set than they are now.) This technique brings in another reminder of alienation, of not being allowed to own their own names, and of the power that can bring as well as the pain.
About a page and a half later, the rest of the conspirators turn up, and there is an Emotional Reunion – even including Erlein. But most of all, Baerd gets to meet Naddo again for the first time since Naddo left Baerd’s family in Avalle, and the narration tells us just how obviously gay they are. It’s really sweet.
Alais is with the conspiracy, after Rovigo tells her everything; Baerd wanted to keep her safe, but Catriana backs her up. “No right to decide that they must huddle in their homes waiting to see if they are still slaves or not when the summer ends.” Spring might be the season of revolution, but summer has always been the season of war. The other choice quote from this chapter is Alessan’s – “Perhaps I’m mad, but the real madness would have been in pretending nobody’s going to die.”
After a brief interlude with Alberico, we see Catriana’s POV – she’s going off on her own to do something drastic, and hasn’t told the others because they’d try to stop her. Her plan is to redeem her father’s rejection of Tigana and assassinate the Barbadian ambassador during sex with an Ygrathen-made weapon, and then jump from the window to her death. It works flawlessly, except that the other revolutionaries have worked out her plan and are waiting below. Sandre tells Devin to cut his hand (to cut two fingers from his left hand) so he can save Catriana with the extra power that being bound to the Palm will give him. That’s quite a sacrifice, and in any decent D&D game it would work… but not here. He can’t control the power, and she falls.
Back at the inn, they respond – unsurprisingly – by getting drunk and playing music. The text refers to this performance of the Lament to Adaon as “the music that marked the beginning of war”. Upstairs, in Catriana’s room, they start planning what to do about the Tracker that probably caught Sandre’s magic.
“If there’s a Tracker in town then anyone near me is extremely likely to be captured and killed.” That’s Erlein, as he climbs through the window with Catriana. This would be an incredibly cheesy moment, if we hadn’t already seen them try – and fail – to save her, and if that act of deliberate, willed assistance to his captors weren’t a really important character moment for Erlein. Without any prompting, Alessan frees him from the binding he used.
And the truth is, I have been made to realize tonight – by you and Catriana, both – that there are limits to what I wish to do or see done for any cause. Even my own.
This is an important turning point in Alessan’s own emotional journey, too – he’s beginning to truly see himself as a man as well as a Prince. This has been happening throughout the section so far, of course – we see it in getting his own POV and in the way the others move to equality with him. When Catriana wakes, Alessan tells her there’s nothing to redeem, and that he loves her – “You are the harbour of my soul’s journeying”. Yet another water metaphor, of course. The stern Prince, with the memory like a blade in his soul, remembers that his mother cursed him at the last; he is discovering that duty is not objective, and that those we love can disagree with us, and that love is still possible.
In this world, where we find ourselves, we need compassion more than anything, I think, or we are all alone.
Chapter 20 starts with Dianora’s POV for a perspective on Brandin. Alberico, we learn, is torching the land as he moves into Senzio, in retaliation for the ambassador’s murder. Brandin hates Alberico, not just in political opposition; there’s no love, no pride, no passion in him. Nothing but ambition.
Now we move into action scenes, or possibly Action Scenes, because there’s a pitched battle going on, and Brandin’s sorcery is opposing Alberico’s. The three Revolutionary wizards link up and join with Alberico, making it much harder for Brandin, who sends his Guard after them. Naddo dies; Devin is wounded. Alais kills the Ygrathen who harmed him. Rhamanus, the captain who first took Dianora to Chiara (and her friend) falls, but he won’t break his oath and surrender; Dianora watches a stranger kill him. It’s Baerd.
Sandre reaches out to Castle Borso with his power, drawing in the combined power of the Night Walkers; Brandin is so hard pressed that he has to undo the spell that cursed Tigana, and at that point the wizards of the Palm withdraw, leaving Alberico defenseless and then dead. So here we see Brandin’s priorities – it’s not his vengeance, or even his own life, but his people. He invokes one of the oldest battle tropes, No Retreat – and adds “Not before the Barbadian”. So ironically, he’s showing here just how much he has in common with the Tiganese, and the people of the Palm generally, valuing that quixotic nobility and devotion to principle, to those bound to him.
With the undoing of all Brandin’s spells, the one that bound Rhun is gone too, and we slip inside his POV to learn just how badly, how dreadfully, he was tortured – twenty years as Brandin’s puppet, dead to the world and almost to himself, unable to do anything for himself and forced to give expression to Brandin’s soul. “You should have killed me by the river.” Valentin di Tigana waits till Brandin meets his eyes to kill him – “the way a Prince kills his enemies”. That’s really rather poignant, given what his son’s been doing all these years. Dianora knows the Prince, and cannot stand the compassion in his eyes; Brandin’s Chancellor kills him, but hesitates for him to speak one final word. Tigana. Dianora leaves Scelto, her servant, to tell the revolutionaries the truth, and goes down to the sea.
It was Morian, come in kindness, come in grace, to bring her home.
Scelto decides to end the cycles of revenge, and lies for Alessan’s sake – the sake of the man, not the Prince. “Who was he?” “No-one very important.”
Alessan tells Scelto that he has enough of blood, and he intends to do what he has to without any more killing – and this is in response to a question about the Ygrathen soldiers.
We don’t hear anything more about them in the epilogue – it’s entirely focused on the protagonists’ future. Sandre is going back to the Ducal palace in Astibar, and Baerd is rebuilding the towers of Avalle. Devin intends to do everything, and we hear that Alessan will most likely be named King of the Palm soon. And then the three men see a riselka.