Serpent, The: The Serpent Paperback – 24 Sep 1975
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You, Cija, shut away from the Outside for all your seventeen years, you must act now. He is the demon. He is the conqueror. He plans to destroy the secret continent and make its rivers run as red as his snake-skin in the lamplight, make its plains lie as scarlet as his dragon-skin in the dusk. he is faithless - but you must make him marry you. Only thus can you overset the prophecy which says you will bring disaster to the country. kill him, and break your birth-fate
Top Customer Reviews
The serpant follows the story of the goddess Cija as she leaves the seclusion of her childhood tower and is forced out into a harsh and brutal world.She has been instructed by her mother to assassinate Zerd, the reptillian General whom she has been offered to as a hostage.All this sounds very ho-hum; believe me, it isn't!
Cija is one of the most original creations I have found in the fantasy genre.Immature,snobbish,frightened...yet at the same time brave, funny and utterly likeable.Because the book is writtten in the first person, you really live through Cija's eyes and Gaskell has an entrancing,vivid, poetic style which sits very comfortably with her often slangy, very modern heroine.
The world she describes is set in pre-history before the continents divided,when the earth had no moon.So you have soldiers riding Diatryma,the giant birds of the Pleistocene era, as well as dinosaurs;yet all this blends in seamlessly with the plot and her world is so wellimagined and conceived that you never once question some of the more fantastic elements.
Yes,it has its moments of extreme oddness.And Cija's relationship with Smahil turns out to be rather unsavoury.
Also, sometimes I felt that her use of metaphor could have been edited; some of her descriptions are a little long winded.But these are the minor flaws of a very youthful writer.Above all her world is consistant and her characters believable.Cija is not easily forgettable.Read more ›
For anyone who hasn't read the five Atlan books, then they are a must. I can't wait to read the next saga.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I've never actually read a "historical romance" novel, but The Serpent is rather like what I imagine them to be, though The Serpent is set in a fantasy prehistory, when the Earth had no moon and dinosaurs, giant snails, and half-reptile people lived alongside ordinary humans.
Cija is a princess who has spent the first 17 years of her life locked up in a tower with her female servants, due to a curse and a prophecy. She has never even seen a man; in fact, she was told that men were extinct. When a foreign army takes over Cija's country, Cija's mother has to give Cija to the invading army's general as a hostage. Cija's mother tells Cija to seduce the general and stab him in the neck in his sleep. This is not so easy as Cija's countrymen might hope, because the army with which Cija now marches is full of beautiful girls who are all trying to seduce the general, who, despite the fact that he has scaly skin like a grey snake's, is a real hunk. Can Cija triumph over her rivals and get into the snakeman's bed? Can Cija bring herself to murder the hunk, even if she has the chance?
The pace is slow, and the plot is not resolved as this is the first volume (300 pages long) of a series. There are many characters, most of them involved in catty relationships based on envy and jealousy. The whole thing is kind of squalid and cynical. Neither Cija nor the snakeman general is interesting enough that I cared whether they fell in love or killed each other or whatever. At times I wondered if this book was meant to appeal to the S&M crowd; people get flogged, women get raped, there are lots of slave girls who get groped and beaten, etc. Gaskell throws in some jarring anachronisms; one of the characters talks about "sublimating" sexual desire, and the army's quartermaster demands that requests be made in "triplicate" and carries around a little notebook. (Aren't paper and ink expensive in this preindustrial society?) Gaskell also tosses in an impassioned plea for government regulation of chemical fertilizers and preservatives. There are also lots of "literary" descriptions of the weather, landscape, light playing on gilded columns and reflecting off panes of glass and so on.
I read the Pocket Books 1978 edition of this 1963 novel, the one with the Boris Vallejo cover and the Soho Weekly News blurb. ("A thrill a minute!" we are told.) I counted ten phallic symbols in Boris's cover painting; see how many you can spot!
Not really for me, but Gaskell is admirably ambitious and seems to have an extensive vision, so 2 stars.