Orthe. Where rashaku fly and wirazu scramble. Where four-breasted, long-maned human-like natives live and die by the harur-nilgiri and the harur-nazari–razor-sharp paired blades no ambidextrous Orthean would be without.
Enter Lynne Christie, envoy of Earth Dominion. Her mission: to establish first contact with Orthe's government and evaluate Orthe's readiness for further Dominion relations, a mission delayed mysteriously by her predecessor's untimely death upon the Inner Sea. She discovers she will be scrutinized as the prime exemplar of Dominion behavior by a populace universally hostile toward strangers, change, and alien technology. Unknown to Christie, she will also have to dispel rumors she is not an off-worlder but merely an especially cunning and treacherous survivor of the Golden Witchbreed.
T'an Christie has barely settled in the island city of Tathcaer when she is unexpectedly ordered by the Crown to voyage through Orthe's outlying provinces to learn Orthean ways and demonstrate her goodwill. But this proves difficult in the face of repeated attempts to assassinate her both by stealth and sword and the Church's sinsister charge that she is, after all, nothing more than Witchbreed.
A hunted fugitive, the kazzas on her heels, Christie treks Orthe's Great Fens, discovering its other aboriginal race, the fenborn. On the Barrens beyond the Wall of the World, she stumbles upon outcast barbarians dwelling among the ruined cities of the Witchbreed – cities that even in decay surpass any she has seen on Orthe or elsewhere in the galaxy. There she undertakes to master the ancient game of ochmir and slowly begins to unravel the riddle of Orthe.
Troubled, confused, she must return to the Court – only to be betrayed once more. Responding at last to the subtly insistent summons of the Brown Tower, she races to refuge, and there meets the Hexenmeister. Through him the truth of Orthe and of the Witchbreed is at last revealed.
But the sternest ordeal lies ahead. Christie must search deep within herself to find the strength to face her greatest challenge – the treachery of Kel Harantish, where the last survivors of the five-thousand-year-old Golden Empire prepare to rule the world once again as absolute masters over absolute slaves.
Mary Gentle is one of the world's most acclaimed writers of fantasy and science fiction; ASH, the largest single fantasy work ever – longer even than THE LORD OF THE RINGS – combines the authentic details of Bernard Cornwell and the magical storytelling of Terry Goodkind.
Mary has a number of academic degrees, including an MA in War Studies, and has hands-on experience of sword-fighting and armour, amongst many other useful talents.
She lives in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.