Doris Egan's The Complete Ivory is an omnibus of three novels, The Gate of Ivory, Two-Bit Heroes, and Guilt-Edged Ivory. I'd read The Gate of Ivory on the plane coming back from New Year's and liked it, but put off reading the rest because it was good travel reading, and I had a lot of that coming up.
The setup is that there are four planets in this sector (which was cut off from the rest of the galaxy some time before the story). On Ivory, and only on Ivory, magic works, for a few people. Our narrator, Theodora, was stranded there; she is telling fortunes in the marketplace to try and earn her passage back to her home planet, when Ran Cormallon shows up and offers her a job—telling real fortunes with a special deck of cards. Being Ivoran, Ran neglects to tell her a number of important details about the job, like what happened to his last card-reader . . .
The three books each tell a separate story, but together form a very loose arc showing the progress of Theodora & Ran's relationship. I enjoyed these a lot; they're one of the odd series that is science fiction but sometimes feels like fantasy, but the place that science and magic occupy in the complicated societies on Ivory has been worked out pretty carefully. The story moves along briskly, and I quite enjoy Theodora's company.
[Theodora's contraceptive implant has run out, and she's just got her first menstrual period in years. While on a grueling hike with people much taller than she is.]
Why doesn't anybody ever warn you about these things? I thought about all those marvelous stories I'd read back on Athena, the legends I'd fallen in love with—the heroes setting off to seek fortune and adventure. Knights and damosels rode forth to do battle at castles perilous, and the damosels never had this problem. And hobbits and tall elves strode swiftly over the earth, and the hobbits never had any trouble keeping up. Of course, hobbits were supposed to have great endurance.
If only I were a hobbit. A male hobbit.
I'd recommend these, particularly to Bujold readers, but more generally, to people who like their adventure with plenty of meat on the bones of the characters and the culture.
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