Atlan by Jane Gaskell

Atlan is the second (or third, depending on the series edition) book of Gaskell’s tales of the goddess-hostage-fugitive-empress-scullery-maid-exile-et-cetera Cija in an antediluvian world of feuding kingdoms, Atlanteans, dinosaurs, unicorns, and battle-birds. A preamble chapter “The Road” is in the voice of a new character, the rogue Scar, but the rest of the book is still Cija’s diary, increasingly unbelievable as a document transmitted intact from prehistoric times.

In this book, Cija becomes a mother, and sheds many of her youthful principles in efforts to survive. Perhaps two-thirds of the chapters might have been titled “Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire,” as the imperial status that she attained at the end of the first book makes her a target for abuse and exploitation as often as it protects her. She frequently finds cause for reproaching herself, and her various associates, companions, and lovers all have a touch of ambivalence, but tend more to the bad than the good.

As the military and political situation in the Atlan capital heats up, Cija is sent into the continent’s interior to be sequestered at a half-ruined castle. The second half of the book, set within and around this castle, has a very gothic tone to it. The phenomenon of “Old Atlan,” which embraces humans, animals, plants, and even architecture in some unexplained genius loci becomes more active and important in this installment. The end of the book clearly concludes an episode of Cija’s saga, but has much less sense of resolution than the previous one, which delivered her to the throne of Atlan. I don’t have a copy of the next volume (The City), but I guess I’ll keep an eye out for it, without too much urgency. [via]