The Serpent (novel)

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First edition
(publ. Hodder & Stoughton)

The Serpent is a novel by Jane Gaskell. It was first published in 1963. It is the first part of the Atlan series, a set of four (or five) fantasy novels set in prehistoric times. The following novels are Atlan, The City and Some Summer Lands. The stories are set in Atlantis and South America.

The Serpent was also published split into two books, titled The Serpent and The Dragon, hence the confusion over the numbering of the volumes.

Plot summary[edit]

The protagonist of the novel is Cija (pronounced 'kee-yah'), the illegitimate child of the Dictatress of a small kingdom and a priest of high rank. The story itself is written from her point of view. She was kept in a tower and looked after by servants until she turned 17; until that time she had not met any men and believed that men were extinct and women ruled the world. She was also raised to believe she was a goddess, related to the gods of her country, to whom she refers to as her "cousins".

When she is 17 years old, her mother releases her from the tower and gives her as a hostage to Zerd, the half-Human, half-Reptilian warlord, leader of an invading army on their way to conquer the mysterious continent Atlan. Cija is secretly instructed by her mother to seduce and kill Zerd. Eventually she succeeds neither in killing Zerd, nor in warning the Atlantean empire about the invaders, but she ends up being married to Zerd and becoming Empress of Atlan.