Read-along: Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle (Week 3)


Christie’s playing the Orthean game now and she’s been holding her own so far. But perhaps the planet and its people still have a few surprises left, who knows? Details for this read-along can be found here on imyril’s blog and each week the prompts will be posted on the Goodreads page here.


It’s week three, parts six and seven have been devoured (they were delicious), and now it’s time to ruminate over what it all means and where it’s all going …

I don’t have to tell you there are SPOILERS this far in, right? There are. Big ones!


Week 3: Parts 6 & 7

Christie is reunited with more than one old acquaintance in this section. What do you think about Ruric, Haltern and Suthafiore’s return to the story? Do you feel any differently about any of these characters now that you know a little more about the many facets of Orthe?

I’m so happy that they’re back! And am really quite relieved that neither Ruric or Haltern are dead, (although as Lisa from Dear Geek Place pointed out, we didn’t see either of these possible deaths, so it wasn’t terribly likely that they’d actually happened. I’m far too emotional a reader).

Do I feel any differently about them? I feel like I understand all of the Orthean characters a lot less than I did. I’m glad to see these familiar faces again, but we’ve been on something of a whirlwind tour of Orthe last week and this, and I’m starting to appreciate that this is an old planet with a lot of complex history. To be more specific: I was getting ready for bed one evening last week and still thinking over the Roehmonde section, when I wondered: “even when a language is established between two species how do you ever know that what you mean by, say, ‘love’, is what they mean when they use the same word?”

Here I am seeing the return of Ruric and Haltern as a happy thing, but how do I know that they are really Christie’s friends? Ortheans clearly feel differently about where their loyalty lies and in what amounts (is it loyalty they feel? Affection? Commitment?), and they don’t seem to see some of the conflicts that we would see, say between their lover and their telestre. I don’t know if I’m making much sense, but this is where my head is at right now.


Christie also meets Ruric’s ashiren Rodion. Care to share any of your thoughts and/or feelings about ker or ker storyline?

I wasn’t happy to see Maric replaced by Rodion at first, especially while the new ashiren was being such a sulky sod. And then when Christie left ker at the telestre-house on the road, I thought perhaps ker only purpose in the story had been to show the change from ashiren to adult.

Now I have a kind of begrudging respect for her. And I’ve been far more interested in her since Blaize made it known he fancies her and she reciprocates. I wanted to see an Orthean romance up close (not too close, you understand?) and now I have one and I’m all eyes! The body language, the quarrels, the surprise pregnancy! It’s better than a trashy magazine!

I still want Maric back though, please.


Ouch! Christie has been well and truly framed for the death of Kanta Andrethe. Do you think she was right to run? Got any theories about who might have actually killed Andrethe, and why?

Heck yes, she was right to run! We’ve seen how they do justice on Orthe a couple of times now and they’re useless at it. I don’t think Ruric or Haltern could have helped, and we all saw how Rodion was dismissed as a “Halfgold” when it was suggested ke could confirm Christie’s story about her lost knife.

I did suspect Rodion was the killer for, like, half a minute. But that doesn’t seem right and I have no other suspects at present. I am even more clueless as to why Kanta Andrethe might have been murdered. Orthean politics, no doubt, but more than that I couldn’t say.


And then … the Hexenmeister cometh (it’s all going on, isn’t it!). He claims to be the only person truly able to speak for all of Orthe. Do you agree? What’s your impression of him?

I don’t like him. I’m fascinated by the Hexenmeister as a role played by an unbroken chain of individuals – that’s kickass. But this old fella unsettles me. He’s manipulating people (his exchange with the Emperor-in-Exile left a bad taste), he’s occasionally snappy and grumpy, and I don’t feel like he’s compassionate. I could have read him completely wrong, but I don’t think so.

As for his speaking for all of Orthe, I can appreciate the argument, but I’m not sure I agree with it. For all that he carries memories of all the ages of Orthe, he is also at a remove. He does not live with Orthe so much as he observes it from high in his Brown Tower, while his agents scurry around bringing him news from below. He is capital ‘S’ Suspicious. (And his name is just plain silly).


Seeing the Brown Tower and the Rasrhe-y-Meluur, Christie is finally faced with something she has suspected for a while: Orthe isn’t a pre-tech world after all. It’s an extremely post-tech world. Tech that far exceeds anything Christie is familiar with as a space-faring envoy for the Dominion. Do you have any thoughts on this aspect of the story that you’d like to share?

Only to say that I really love this aspect of the book. Back when Christie, Blaize and Maric were in those massive, old ruins (was that Kirriach? I can’t remember now) waiting for the barbarian woman to return with her people, I was completely taken with the glimpse it provided of a clever, ancient civilisation. Now I’m blown away all over again by the sheer scale of that civilization’s remains. Honestly, how Christie isn’t terrified by what this all means is beyond me.


And, finally, Christie ‘meets’ the shadowy Emperor-in-Exile. What are your first impressions of this player of the game?

Have to say this did make me snigger a bit as it’s so very Fantasy to have this wise old dude in one tower and this hot-headed young Emperor-in-Exile in another!

It’s taken me a while to get the shape of this part of the story in my mind clearly. So much has happened and in varying amounts of detail that I was slow to pick up that some people in the Southlands have been taking the Emperor’s gold to … disrupt the human-Orthean relationship? And I don’t know what this might mean for Orthe, for Suthafiore and the Southlands, or for the Dominion. The more I learn, the less I understand, so I’m going to cry off answering this question … I don’t yet know what I think of him.


The next post for this read-along can be found here:

Week 4 – Part 8

8 thoughts on “Read-along: Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle (Week 3)

  1. “even when a language is established between two species how do you ever know that what you mean by, say, ‘love’, is what they mean when they use the same word?”

    I think we both picked up on this in different ways this week – it’s definitely been playing on my mind throughout this section. Back in week one, Christie sees Geren and thinks ‘man’ then corrects herself that yes okay male and local human analogue but not homo sapiens human so maybe man isn’t the right word but it’s what she’s got so she’s sticking with it.

    Since then, most things have been in English with no ‘watch out, misunderstanding possible’ tags – but, well, everything is open to re-interpretation.

    It’s a theme I’m loving: Christie’s understanding of love is different to an Orthean expectation of arykei. Christie’s expectation of ashiren is wonky because she brings Earth baggage about childhood and adolescence. Ortheans keep being described as human… and well, they’re the local human equivalent, but very definitely not human like us (and oh hello bias that Ortheans get human, but fenborn are always fenborn. Tch).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I thought they were a vital genetic component of current Ortheans…
        I wonder how far back Orthean memory-dreams can go? Not far enough for that I guess…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s