Reviews of Gate of Ivory, the (1989)
This book in definately not one that I would recommend to frieds for reading.
The action is set in a universe, where humanity has discovered usable space travel, and the world we live in now has become part of their legends. Of all planets, or colonies, magic is said to work only on one, and it is illegal, albeit heavily used.
The main characters are the narrator - Theodora of Pyrene, a studend from a planet calld Athens in literature. She came to Ivory via starship and forced to stay (she was robbed and missed the ship to Athens) on a planet, where corruption was casual, and the government exists only to gather taxes.
Theo (as she is often called) does card reading for a living (although she doesn't have any talent) and one day is approached by a sorceror - Ran(the other main figure), who is interested in her card reading skills. At that point I was imagining that she would develop a skill with magic and we'll see some action, but alas, that is not the case. The only magic action is a duel at the end, and it is rather boring, the kind that we've read in fairy tales.
The characters aren't well developed. The author seems to have rushed the book, after reading it I still had the feeling the heroes are total strangers for me. Although the culture of Ivory is very different from ours, Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber are different too, but you get to know the characters, their motivation.
Here it seems, people look to living as to their boring job, almost everybody is indifferent to everything (which is one of the philosophical ideas of Ivory). This seems close to the buddhist view of detachment, although it's a not caring one, but a 'piss-off detachment', which is really not interesting.
I don't know how extensive is the authors's knowledge about eastern philosophy, but the portraited one doesn't come even close to it.
The story is told wholly by Theo(which I liked), and I even didn't get to know her, she doesn't seem to know why she is doing what she is, and she doesn't try to understand it.
She has a sexual relationship with Ran, but they do not have a true love connection, their communication is in sort full of 'riddles' - nothing is direct, nothing is pure, nothing is truthful.
As a comparison of two 'series' that I read recently - Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, and Martin's - Song of Ice and Fire, even the most boring moments from those books are more interesting than "The Gate of Ivory".
I can't recommend this book to anyone. If it were 100-200 pages longer, with no major additional plot events, just focusing on the magic and the character devellopement, that includes more dialogue, it would be a much better book.
As a conclusion, I'd say the book's flavour is it's greyness. The way the author has developed her characters, there isn't even one that you look forward to reading about.