The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Cija pronounced Key-a), hereditary goddess of a small realm in prehistoric South America, spends the first seventeen years of her life confined to an abandoned castle tower because it has been prophesied that she will bring about the downfall of her nation. The people of her country have been told that she died shortly after birth. Meanwhile, she has been taught that men no longer exist, so when she first encounters Zerd—the half-man, half-serpent to whom her fate is intimately tied—snooping around her tower, she thinks he is an extremely ugly, and insolent, woman. She is shocked when she learns not only that men exist but also that Zerd has conquered her nation and she is to be handed over to him as a hostage. In addition, her mother tells Cija that she must overturn her birth-prophesy by getting Zerd to fall in love with her, then killing him.

Cija fails in her attempt, escapes from Zerd’s entourage, and begins a wide variety of adventures. She is raped more than once, tills fields, works as a cook, and becomes the mistress of a hostage-turned-soldier named Smahill. When Zerd finds her, she flees, in the process discovering that he produces poisonous venom. Cija stows away on a riverboat. Upon being discovered, she is taken to live in the court of a religious government. There she learns that Smahill is her half-brother. Eventually, she finds the way to Atlan, immediately before Zerd invades. She marries Zerd and becomes empress of Atlan.

The marriage soon proves to be loveless. In Atlan, Cija gives birth to a boy, Nal, who is...

(The entire section is 643 words.)