In the world of Ivory, created by Doris Egan, magic is real. It isn't real in any of the other planets humanity has colonized, but on Ivory, sorcery works. On that world, Theodora of Pyrene makes her life as a fortune-teller. A former scholar, Theodora made a mistake which resulted in her missing her trip back home, and now works in the market-place. Then, Ran of Cormallen showed up and offered her a job, reading the cards for him. From there, Theodora becomes enveloped in the politics of Ivory, a world where assassination is an art, an art reserved for the families with enough money to pay to make it an artform instead of a crime. All Theodora wants is to go home, but once she becomes entangled with Ran, she has become a pawn in a fight for the future of Ivory, and where they stand in the galaxy.
This work contains the following tropes:
- Functional Magic: Sorcery on Ivory follows specific rules, albeit ones that are poorly documented.
- Handicapped Badass: Eln Cormallon, who was born without sorcerous abilities in a family whose business is sorcery, then was left unable to walk as a youngster. He compensated by studying sorcery more deeply and learning more about the theory of it than any of its practitioners have done, to the point of being supremely dangerous when involved in a sorcerer's duel.
- Love Potion: It's specifically noted that sorcery cannot create love, only create its symptoms. Those aware that they are being influenced by a love potion know that their accelerated heartbeat and increased temperature are only symptoms. Ran specifically teaches Theodora how to interpret the symptoms in the first book because he's worried she might be under such a spell. In a later book in the series, Theodora accidentally ignores the effect of a love spell because she assumes the increased heartrate and dryness of mouth around her captor are due to her being kidnapped.
- Memory Jar:
- This is a fundamental part of Ivoran tradition, with people trusting their memories to artifacts retained within the family. Due to the nature of Ivoran society, this often includes memories of how a person was killed...
- Theodora is gifted a more active version of this, an onyx cat which holds the emotions and thoughts of the last person to hold it. She uses it to simultaneous inform Eln of her intention, and to paralyze him for the strike.
- Theodora receives a bluestone pendant which contains the memories of a noted legendary bandit Annurian, which she occasionally credits with the sudden knowledge of a particular area of survival.
- Retired Badass: Theodora performs tinaje for "The Old Man", who she is later informed is Vathcar Annurian, a famed bandit and assassin, who after many years of military service, has retired in relative obscurity.
- Tarot Motifs: Theodora begins using a more traditional Tarot deck, then moves on to using the Ivory version, augmented that, once she is attuned with the deck, she can touch a card and be transported to an astral plane where she can glean further insights.
- Title Drop: Near the end of the book, Theodora muses on a classic belief that "false dreams came through the Gate of Ivory and true dreams came through the Gate of Horn", and how she got it backwards.