[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/atlanserpent_6227.jpg]]

''Cija--Princess of Atlantis--fights for her life in a savage world of lust and violence[.]''

--the blurb on the Paperback Library edition of ''Atlan''





''Atlan'' (also known as ''The Atlan Saga'', originally published in the 1960s through the 1970s) is a series of British fantasy novels written by Jane Gaskell. The books take place in a prehistoric civilization--"before the continents had changed," state some of the back cover descriptions. Gaskell's intent seems to have been to combine every prehistoric myth into one lengthy narrative. The primary thesis of the novels is that they tell the story of how the human race ''really'' came to be. For instance, Gaskell explains in the introduction to the first novel that the legendary Mesoamerican country Aztlan is synonymous with the lost continent of Atlantis (hence the title of the series), among other alternative historical tidbits.

Princess Cija, the heroine, begins as a naive seventeen-year-old kept sheltered in her royal tower. Her mother, known only as the Dictatress, has maintained her daughter's ignorance because of a prophecy that Cija would destroy the kingdom if she ever left her tower. As a result, Cija believes that the male half of the human race has gone extinct, that female humans reproduce through laying eggs, and that there is no land war going on around her. When the half-man, half-reptile General Zerd invades Cija's home country, the Dictatress offers him her daughter in marriage after instructing her to kill him. Zerd takes Cija prisoner, and there begin some intercontinental adventures that change the princess irrevocably....

Flawed and obscure though it is, ''Atlan'' is notable for its originality. It's also probably the only series that can be accurately described as a Gothic JungleOpera, influenced as it is by Mervyn Peake's ''Literature/{{Gormenghast}}'', the works of Rider Haggard, the ''Tarzan'' series, old Gothic novels, and obsolete anthropological studies. If nothing else, this series probably represents the dying days of the pre-''Literature/LordOfTheRings''-influenced fantasy genre, which would never revisit the "elder Earth" theme in quite the same way. Tanith Lee has cited this series as an influence on her work (see ''The Storm Lord''), and Gene Wolfe's ''BookOfTheNewSun'' takes some rather obvious cues from Jane Gaskell's magnum opus.

In order, the books are:

* ''The Serpent''
* ''The Dragon''
* ''Atlan''
* ''The City''
* ''Some Summer Lands''

''The Serpent'' and ''The Dragon'' were originally published as one novel before they were divided for publication.
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These novels provide examples of:
* AllMenAreRapists: Not literally ''every'' man in the series is a rapist, but Cija's suspicions of the men she meets on her travels are often well-founded. She spares the reader the details.
* AnachronismStew: One might think that this series takes place in the Mesozoic era, given the descriptions of people riding dinosaurs. However, this impossible coexistence is merely one of several preposterous elements in the series. All evidence indicates that the events of the series predate life on Earth as we know it. [[note]]For that matter, the timeline in this series is jumbled and bizarre. Not only do dinosaurs inhabit Earth at the same time as the human race, but some of the reference books cited in ''The Serpent'' and ''The Dragon'' describe, variously, events that occurred in the Cambrian period, ancient Greece, and pre-Columbian America.[[/note]]
** At one point in ''Atlan'', a character uses the word "lesbian," even though the novel is set several million years before the existence of the isle of Lesbos. Similarly, the first book contains the words "homosexual" and "sublimating." These linguistic anachronisms may be excused by the author's note in ''The Serpent'', which explains that the manuscript has been "translated" into "the language of our day."
* UsefulNotes/AztecMythology: A major influence on the series, as was Theosophy.
* BittersweetEnding: The conclusion of the final novel.
* BlueSkinnedSpaceBabe: The Atlanteans are blue-skinned ''Earth'' people, and Cija describes herself and her serving women as having "blue-white" legs.
** Terez, the dancing girl in ''The Serpent'' and Smahil's ''other'' mistress in ''The Dragon'', has golden skin.
* BrainlessBeauty: Cija, initially.
* BrotherSisterIncest
* CampGay: In ''The Serpent'', Cija encounters Lel, an effeminate boy who describes himself as "wishing [he] had been born a girl." [[TransEqualsGay Before the reader can assume that Gaskell included an impressively early example of a transsexual character in a fantasy novel, Lel appears as the catamite to a decadent aristocrat from a court full of "woman-hating men."]]
* ClassicalAntihero: Cija begins as a pitifully weak heroine and improves as she grows older.
* ContemptibleCover: Several editions of the books have blatantly sexual or otherwise unappealing covers. The Orbit editions, the first of which is pictured above, invert the trope with lush landscape covers that present the narrative as ''more'' tasteful than it is. (The covers of the Pocket editions, though not the most dignified, portray the contents of the books more accurately than any others.)
* DisappearedDad: Cija grew up without a father, but she eventually finds him. The results are not heartwarming.
* DistressedDamsel and TheIngenue: Cija absolutely fits the definition (see OneGenderRace below).
* ForegoneConclusion: After all, it ''is'' the [[EverybodysDeadDave story of Atlantis]].
* GoodGirlsAvoidAbortion: Cija wants to keep her [[spoiler:half-human]] fetus at first, but her mother urges her to abort it.
* GratuitousRape: Every now and then.
* HalfHumanHybrid: General Zerd. His daughter Seka is three-fourths human.
* InfantImmortality: Possibly averted in ''Atlan'', in which Cija's son Nal wanders off in the middle of an earthquake.
* InterspeciesRomance: Zerd was born by a reptile mother to a human father. Zerd's marriage to Cija also counts, despite the lack of actual romance in their relationship.
** In ''The City'', Cija wanders into a grove inhabited by apes, where she becomes a bull ape's paramour. He goes so far as to [[HalfHumanHybrid impregnate her]], which she strangely welcomes. In fact, she loves him more than any of the actual men she meets.
** When Cija finds her father in a temple, she notices that he has married an alligator.
* JungleOpera: ''The Serpent'', ''The Dragon'', and ''The City''.
* JustBeforeTheEnd: See ForegoneConclusion. [[spoiler:In this case, however, the end is a new beginning.]]
* LostWorld: The setting as a whole qualifies (being lost temporally in the same way as Middle-Earth, not just physically), but the titular island of Atlan (short for Atlantis) merits this term especially, being shielded by a force field and accessible only via an underwater tunnel.
* MaleToFemaleUniversalAdaptor
* MarsNeedsWomen: Cija's aforementioned non- and semi-human lovers count, but there are equal-opportunity instances as well.
* MaybeMagicMaybeMundane: Is Cija actually related to the nebulous deities of her country's pantheon, or is she just full of herself? Her inadequacy may seem to suggest the latter, but the interspecies reproduction throughout the series implies that the laws of nature in this prehistory are not what they are now. (That said, the series contains no magic-users.)
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: Cija sics her carnivorous riding bird on a man who sexually abused a young girl. The bird succeeds in killing the man, but at a terrible price....
* NoWomansLand: One of the villages Seka visits in ''Some Summer Lands'' has shades of cultural misogyny. Girls and women are not counted in population records, and mothers refer to all their children, regardless of their sex, with masculine pronouns--feminine pronouns themselves are considered insults.
* ObfuscatingStupidity: The Dictatress urges Cija to use this tactic on her enemies. Problematically, Cija ''is'' genuinely stupid at first.
* OneGenderRace: As a child, Cija was taught that the human race consisted entirely of women who reproduced by laying eggs. Learning that the storybook creatures called men actually exist surprises her.
* PhysicalGod: Cija believes that she is directly related to divinity and insists on referring to herself as a goddess.
* RagnarokProofing: The first book is supposedly a translation of Cija's diary, which must have [[spoiler:survived an apocalypse millions of years ago]].
* RoyalsWhoActuallyDoSomething
* ScienceMarchesOn: One of the most overt instances of the trope in action. Both ''The Serpent'' and ''The Dragon'' conclude with bibliographies of mostly discredited reference books. Most famous among these are Robert Graves's ''The White Goddess'' and James Churchward's ''The Lost Continent of Mu''. [[note]]The Margaret Murray hypothesis, on which this series depends to a certain extent, wasn't discredited until the 1970s, but ''Some Summer Lands'' was published in 1977, thus pushing it into MST3KMantra territory. Then again, Gaskell didn't really have a choice by that point.[[/note]]
* SexSlave: After running from Zerd's castle, Cija gets kidnapped and sold into slavery at a brothel, but she escapes before being forced into any more sex acts.
* SilentSnarker: Cija's daughter Seka is mute. She also narrates ''Some Summer Lands'' in a far more perceptive and sarcastic manner than her mother could manage.
* SweetPollyOliver: Cija travels in drag in the second half of ''The Serpent''.
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