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The Gate Of Ivory (Ivory #1)

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  616 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews

is what lures people from all over the galaxy to the world of Ivory. Ivory, exotic and dangerous, where everything is for sale, and law exists only to protect the most powerful families. And to anthropology student Theodora of Pyrene, Ivory --- the one place in the known universe where magic works and where those who command it can control society -
Published November 1990 by DAW (first published 1989)
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Pace-wise, this is a leisurely story, stretching over more than a year. Theodora - a stranded scholar - is hired by a noble sorceror, Ran, and gets tangled in his business and family affairs while trying to earn a ticket back to her previous planet.

This is a story which I like primarily because I like the heroine (skeptical, dogged, reluctant to be vulnerable), and it's definitely a story for those who like a big dose of world-building, and a bunch of minor problem-solving and self-discovery of
Rachel Neumeier
Jul 25, 2014 Rachel Neumeier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's another book (and trilogy) I know I've mentioned before, because I really love this book and both the sequels, TWO BIT HEROS and GILT EDGED IVORY.

GATE OF IVORY was published 25 years ago, in 1989. It definitely belongs to the (vast) category of old books that really ought to be hauled back into view, but I don't expect it will be. It and the two sequels were reissued in an omnibus version at least once; I remember making a friend buy it at that time.

Even that was a good while ago, thoug
Jul 15, 2011 Dancce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
This is a good book.
This is indeed a very good book.
I can't quite understand why it isn't more widely known. It definitely deserves more attention.

Theodora, a young woman keen on fables, legends and mythology, ends up stranded on the planet of Ivory - no money, no connections, no anything. She tries to get by, but Ivory isn't really healthy for foreigners; hell, it isn't even healthy for her natives, what with all the sorcery-only-works-here, murders-for-sport, addictive tea-that's-not-tea and c
Aug 12, 2011 Jenne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenne by: Jo Walton
Shelves: sf
Strangely cozy, for a science fiction novel. Not so much about Big Ideas--I really liked how it focused on mundane things like baths or how to get a bank account or a job when you've lost all your regular support system. It just happens to be on a planet where there's magic, and the magic isn't especially mystical, it's just how things work, you know?
I think I give this 2.5 stars of science-fiction-fantasy melding weirdness.

I liked reading this, but I honestly couldn't tell you what happened in anything but the broadest of terms. I don't know how much of my confusion is down to the author not really bothering to explain anything, or explaining using overly-flowery language that actively made it harder to understand a situation, and how much of it was down to the copy I read being a badly formatted ebook (which I borrowed off a friend and di
Jan 16, 2009 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read four copies of this to death. Wish she would go back to writing books instead of screenplays for TV. Sigh.
Why have I nevet heard of this book? Awesome. Loved it.
Sep 29, 2014 Lark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, first-person
I really enjoyed this story.

I've always enjoyed the "dump a person into a new world and see how they adapt to the crazy". And this book does it well. Theodora finds herself abandoned on the planet Ivory and she can barely scrape a living out of dealing tarot cards. But when a mysterious stranger comes to hire her to read his cards, she could not have imagined it would put her in the middle of a play for power of one of the great houses on this planet. But it is an offer she cannot refuse.

Aug 04, 2011 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Gate of Ivory, by Doris Egan, is a charming sci-fi novel (first in a series) that was recently recommended as a book with a strong female protagonist. Published in 1989, The Gate of Ivory is the first-person narrative of practical scholar Theodora of Pyrene, stranded on the universe's only magical planet after a sight-seeing trip goes awry. Theo spends the majority of the book trying to get off the world of Ivory, but events, in the form of sorcerer Ran Cormallon, keep interfering. The book ...more
I love this book and this series in general. I read it a while ago, though I still keep looking around for more books by this author, who seems to have found writing for television (series such as House) more lucrative. Damn her and damn capitalism! I want books!

I especially remember enjoying the witty dialogue and creative world-appropriate exclamations favored by the heroine. I must re-read and write a proper review.
May 13, 2010 Jeffrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
at one time, this was one of my favorite books. I still take it out every decade or so and re-read it.

The author now is an executive producer and writer on House.
Jamie Collins
A nice little fantasy/sci-fi/romance novel. I don’t usually like spaceships and sorcerers in the same book, but it’s not so bad here. There’s very little spaceship, so this is mostly fantasy.

Our heroine Theodora, an academic on an interplanetary “grand tour”, is stranded on the violent planet Ivory, where the only thing keeping a person from being casually murdered is an established web of family or associates who will avenge your death.

She’s working as a Tarot card reader (“I’m just as phony as
Jul 23, 2014 Erica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I often wonder why more older books aren't re released as ebooks. This is one that has the potential to do extremely well I would think. But I digress...

The gate of ivory mixes technology, magic, aliens, space travel, and a myriad of other things. And pulls it off. Seriously. I bought this book since it wasn't available through any library and figured that for a few bucks I would take a chance. I figured that the technology aspect would be a bit outdated, having been written in the late 80s, but
Amanda Markham
Three and a half stars. Being an anthropologist, I'm a sucker for anything where the main character is an anthropologist in sci-fi, especially if it's written by a woman (am yet to see a man write a book with an anthropologist as the main POV).

In that regard, the book was a let down. There's almost nothing about the influence of the discipline on Theodora's character or her story.

Whilst I enjoyed the book enough to decide to chase down secondhand copies of the other two books in the series, I
Crystal Carroll
Theodora, a stranded myth and folklore student, is hired by the head of a merchant household to read tarot cards. Adventure ensues.

The title refers to the ancient Greek legend that true prophetic dreams come through Gates of Horn, while false dreams come through Gates of Ivory. Ok, so I'm a geek, I love details like that. The story is told in the first person from Theodora's point of view. Theodora, named after the Byzantine Empress, is a hoot.

She sounds just like a Literature/geek/myth archet
Katherine Hunter
I don't understand why this book and it's 2 sequels aren't more widely read and adored. It's science fiction; it's fantasy. It has a flawed protagonist. The writing is witty. No one saves the planet or the universe but the protagonist works on trying to get back where she thinks she belongs while tangled up in the internal dynamics of a magic wielding family. There's a passage where Theo (the protagonist) wishes she was a marsupial that was hilarious. Several times I laughed out loud at the obse ...more
Samuel Lubell
Mar 05, 2013 Samuel Lubell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, fantasy, re-read
It has spaceships and machines, so it must be science fiction. It has magic and sorcerers, so it must be fantasy. But it's both. Unlike the Darkover books or the Warlock series where there is a scientific explanation for the magic, this book just says magic works on the planet Ivory and leaves it at that. I guessed (or maybe vaguely remembered) the villain too easily but thought the character of Theodora, an anthropology student marooned on a somewhat primitive planet who gets over her head with ...more
Disappointing. This book had been recommended to me highly, AND the main character is an anthropologist (I can't help it, I get excited when fictional characters have careers I might have picked), but there was in fact very little I liked about it.

It's a science fiction novel that feels like fantasy, given the high levels of technology in some areas (interplanetary vessels!) and low levels in others (no trains?), plus... magic works? I guess? The magical system has no real set of rules, and just
Nick Fagerlund
Pretty decent but not great. I actually wish it had grabbed me a lot more than it did, because it had some interesting things going on -- it came to my attention in a rec thread (I forget whose) asking for interplanetary magic-based fantasy. (Digresion: Come to think of it, every Star Wars product that doesn't mention "midichlorians" would count as that, right?) The main character does anthropology, there are smart thoughts about what an interplanetary economy could actually consist of, the cult ...more
Liat Gubi-van Dijk
Oof. So many disappointments lately, and this time I can't even blame the translation, because I read this in English. What went wrong? The premise seemed intriguing, the main character has a fun voice, all the reviews here on Goodreads were pretty good. I still don't know why, but I just couldn't get myself to care about the characters. Maybe it was the lack of a proper exposition, a chance to actually get to know the characters, because they all felt distant and not real enough for me. Maybe i ...more
Gosh this was fun. Finished over the course of the in between bits of an otherwise awful day, so maybe the contrast helped. Its actually got quite a lot going on under the surface - theres tragically twisted family dynamics, some intrigue, a smidge of romance, all sorts of thematic stuff on culture, morality, loyalty, assimilation, etc, but its very minimally written (reminds me somewhat of Zelazny) - virtually no description or internal monologuing, and the plot is amazingly straightforward and ...more
Feb 27, 2012 andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a light-hearted read - so well-written, a nice blend of science fiction and fantasy, with great great characters that will stick around in my head for a long time.

oh, and i laughed out loud a handful of times and giggled in between those laughs as well. i especially loved this bit: "...hardly anybody on Ivory used the actual keyboard, they preferred to talk or write on the screen pad. Ran was one of the few people I knew who punched the keys. Probably something to do with his aggressive instinc
May 21, 2014 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, fantasy
Excellent, well written, great character development, a unique blend of fantasy and scifi, just enough humor to soften the hard edges. The heroine is a female version of the traditional "everyman". Easy to identify with and yet outperforming all expectations. This book will surprise and delight. Not only will I read the rest of the trilogy but Doris Egan will be one of my "goto" authors.
Emily (BellaGrace)
Loved it. It's a little science fiction, a little fantasy, a little romance with characters that are likable and a bit of humor thrown in too. Don't expect anything dark or bloody or even complicated. Just a good, entertaining read.

I can't remember where I heard about this one - and no one on my Good Reads friend's list has read it or even marked as "to read" - and I admit, I was a bit skeptical - books written in the 80s can be cheesy. I'm adding this one to my favorites list.
Apr 11, 2015 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book 1 of a trilogy. A young woman visiting a planet with her college mates gets left behind, and while struggling to survive is hired as an assistant to a sorcerer. She becomes entangled in the schemes of his family members, and must choose which side to support or return to her home planet.

Entertaining story, good writing, look forward to continuing the series. Wish it were available on ebook.
Jul 24, 2011 Jien rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hardly remember when I read this book (luckily I found my 2008 book list, chronologically organized), but I remember the plot was not particularly interesting. Although, fragments have stuck with me, so I modified the star rating by +1 two years after initially writing this review. Something about magic and a "middle river" martial art. And poison tasting. Also spaceships.
Jul 21, 2016 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy

(trigger warnings not recorded for this book, but there are triggers present)

Underwhelming plot, characters, and setting. This book reads very much like a first novel (apparently it is a first novel). As a result of these two factors, I'd be confused to find this book rated with more than three stars by any reader. Also as a result, I find it hard to recommend.
Jun 13, 2014 Bea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, favorite, z__eng
I liked the book years ago, when I read the Czech translation. I decided to try the original now, for it's quick read. And I found it still enjoyable. To sum up what i liked - fast paced and good story, likeable heroine, amusing tidbits,witty dialogues soft touch of magic... Well although I shelved it as a fantasy, in fact it's blending of F & SF.
Emma Cifrino
Oct 07, 2015 Emma Cifrino rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Theodora's head may not be for everyone, but I certainly enjoyed it. I think this would appeal both to Diane Duane fans and people who love Pamela Dean's Tam Lin. It has Duane's emotional depth combined with snappy humor and Dean's rich symbolism (which I was not expecting, but found completely delightful).
Sep 12, 2015 AE rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, in some ways, disappointed me in the beginning, because it was a slow boil that felt directionless. I waffled at quitting, I waffled a lot. However, the ending was satisfying, and I can solidly say a 3 star read.

As for continuing on in the series? Well, that's harder to say. Waffling again, I guess.
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Doris Egan (1955—) is an American screenwriter, producer, and writer. She has worked on Smallville, Dark Angel, and House as well as many other television programs.

Also publishes as Jane Emerson.
More about Doris Egan...

Other Books in the Series

Ivory (3 books)
  • Two-Bit Heroes (Ivory, #2)
  • Guilt-Edged Ivory (Ivory, #3)

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