Two-Bit Heroes – Reviews

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.

SF Chronicle
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.

4 thoughts on “Two-Bit Heroes – Reviews

  1. Having just read the morning paper (crash wiping out the Promenade in France and Mr. Trump supposedly naming his running mate) and then
    picking up Two Bit Heroes for a re-read, which I do from time to time,
    it occurred to me that Mr. Trump would fit in very well on Ivory. And
    that I really, really would like to have Theodora spend a paragraph or two
    on Mr. Trump — possibly including Stereth?

    Jane Egan, we miss you back there. Or was there ever another City?

  2. Thank you for not forgetting! It’s been so long since I’ve been in the world of books. I will return (she vowed, squinting up into the sun of a foreign land, remembering the cool streams and hills of her youth). I’m not done with that world yet.

  3. Adore the Ivory books, my favorite comfort read, reread them once or twice a year. My copy of the Complete Ivory is well worn and the font appears to be shrinking as I grow older and blinder especially now that I am used to reading larger font on my ereaders. Will they every be released in ebook?

    Will you ever write books again? TV is all good and well but I love your books so. Only books that comes close to giving me that warm happy feeling while reading are Wen Spencer’s Elfhome books. Please start writing again, preferably the fourth Ivory book :), but I’ll happily read anything you write.

  4. Oh god, are really going to write another Ivory book? This would be so wonderful, really.
    I first stumbled over Two-bit Heroes as a teenager – in a supermarket, of all places! It was a translation into German, the cover was ugly as hell … but since it was also s*** cheap, I thought I couldn’t do too much harm to buy it.
    To cut it short: I soon realised that I would need the other two novels as well and found them after some serious searching book stores and places that sold books as well. (In a time before the internet, I might add.)
    During a stay in the US, I bought the trilogy in English and am currently re-reading it … and I’ve been thinking all the time that I would love to hear more from Theo, Ran, Kylla and also Stereth and Sembet Triol … I liked him a lot. God, it would be awesome to read about them again, really! Please, please say you’ll write about all of them again!

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