Carolyn Cushman, reviewer
When last seen in The Gate of Ivory, our heroes Theodora and Ran were on their way to the university world Athena – she glad to escape the Machiavellian, magic-using people of Ivory, he determined to woo her and bring her back. In Doris Egan’s sequel, Two-Bit Heroes, we find the two back on Ivory, seriously contemplating marriage. Ran gets a job offer that takes him into the remote provinces, and Theodora joins him for a sort of pre-marriage honeymoon – but the two are mistaken for notorious bandits and have to flee for their lives, running straight into the arms of the infamous outlaw himself.
If this sounds a bit sensational, it’s supposed to; the title refers to the heroes in popular serial plays on Ivory. The action isn’t quite as episodic as that might suggest, but this novel has definite cliff-hanger tendencies, with raids, arrests, last-minute escapes, occasional bits of magic, and even a bit of romance, as Theodora and Ran’s frequent spats provide most of the comic relief.
The story turns into a deliberate Robin Hood take-off when the scholarly Theodora recounts her favorite tales, and accidentally gives the bandits some big ideas. It’s great fun, but nothing serious, and compared to Egan’s first book some of the novelty of the setting is lost, and with the protagonists prepared to marry, most of the romantic tension is gone, as well. Still, this sequel manages to stand well on its own, going off in new directions to provide a satisfying, high-spirited adventure.
Don D’Ammassa, reviewer
In this sequel to The Gate of Ivory, Theodora returns to the one world in the universe where magic apparently works, partly because of the lure of its unique qualities, partly because she has fallen in love with a man she met in the first volume. Nowthe two of them are caught up in a series of intrigues and adventures as they are forced into the company of a band of outlaws and must seek to avoid discovery by their companions or capture by the authorities. At the same time, Theodora is learning to use her own sorcerous powers. A rousing adventure tale with likable characters and an interesting setting. Great cover, too!
Sister Avila Lamb, reviewer
The second volume of Egan’s Ivory novels, sequel to The Gate of Ivory, can stand alone because of the skillful recapping. I take exception to the title – Theodora and Ran are not “two-bit heroes.” In my opinion, they are full-fledged heroes as they take on a new job, which is to investigate the advisability of a marriage alliance involving nobility. It is a job fraught with danger and difficulty. However, the intrepid pair need the money promised. You know what happens to the best-laid plans – their specific job sinks into the background as they become deeply involved in a conflict between government and outlaws. Ran, the sorcerer, and Theodora, the scientist, make a lively pair in a lively story. Great fun to read. Let us hope for more of their adventures.
Margaret Miles, reviewer
Folklore student Theodora really had meant to return to the intellectual calm of university life on Athena, but her fascination with Ivory’s sorcerous culture – and with the professional sorcerer Ran Cormallon in particular – embroils her in another Ivoran adventure. She and Ran are in the process of being married (an Ivoran wedding stretches over four successive lunar conjunctions) when a sorcery/investigation job in the outlaw-ridden Northwest Sector lands them in the hands of Stereth Tar’krim, the most famous outlaw of them all. The outlaws want an Imperial pardon; Theo just wants freedom for herself and Ran. Not even a folklorist could really have supposed that a casual mention of Robin Hood in Stereth’s hearing would solve everybody’s problems.
In this sequel to The Gate of Ivory, Egan adds an increasingly sure hand with major characters and plot to the talent for culture-building which the first novel demonstrated. Her handling of the minor characters is less accomplished – many of the outlaws never become more than relatively faceless names – but in another book or two, at this rate, she’ll have that mastered as well. Meanwhile, Theo is becoming a really memorable central character/narrator, and her wry, self-amused, you’re-not-going-to-believe-what-happened-next commentary is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the whole hair-raising adventure. Her tone, in fact, is reminiscent of the best romantic-suspense heroines. Egan’s science fiction/fantasy/romance has appeal for readers of all three genres, and fans of writers from Lois McMaster Bujold to Marion Zimmer Bradley to Elizabeth Peters will all find something to enjoy here.