The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In Mary Gentle’s Golden Witchbreed (1983), Lynne de Lisle Christie is an empath hired by the Extra Terrestrial department of her government as an envoy to introduce her society to that of an undeveloped planet called Orthe. She experiences at first hand the mixture of curiosity and distrust evinced by the natives and shares in their complex, feudal culture.

When TAn Suthai Telestre (also known as Suthafiori, the flower of the South), the Crown of the Southlands of Orthe, requests that she tour the countryside, visiting the Hundred Thousand households composing the populace, she discovers the deep hatred that some Ortheans bear for the technological advances of the Dominion. She survives numerous assassination attempts against her as well as a murder contract intended to discredit her. The Ortheans apparently associate her and her kind with a long-dead race of technologically advanced aliens, the Golden Witchbreed, who held the Ortheans in slavery until an infertility virus destroyed their race. Caught in a civilization she longs to understand but cannot trust, Christie struggles to redefine her perceptions in line with the Orthean point of view.

Close friends such as Talmar Haltern nre nsuth Bethru-elen, Achil Maric Salathiel, and amari Ruric Orhlandis seem to accept her humanness with equanimity, although the physical differences between humans and Ortheans are striking. Close encounters with the fenborn, a swamp-dwelling native of...

(The entire section is 456 words.)