Arabella The Traitor of Mars by David D. Levine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the third volume in the Adventures of Arabella Ashby, a steampunk, alternate history, Jules Verne-esque pulp Regency adventure. Following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in the previous book, Arabella Ashby and her now husband, Captain Pradash Singh of the Honorable Mars Company airship Diana, return to Earth to find that England, as the solar system's only remaining superpower, has set its sights on Mars.
I'll be honest: I didn't like this volume quite as well as the first two. The "science," of course, is completely unbelievable: Mars inhabited, with its own native species! Venus the same! A solar system filled with air--the "interplanetary atmosphere"--that airships can navigate! But this has been baked into the books from the start, so the reader must grant this suspension of disbelief and move on. If a particular reader can do so, of course. I could. The reason I didn't like this book as much is the frenetic, tightly stuffed plot that seemed to come at the expense of character development.
This book covers a twelve-year time span, and A LOT happens: the Mars Rebellion, the overthrowing of English rule, and Arabella's life on Mars afterwards. This is not to say that the rebellion tale isn't good in and of itself--the fight scenes, especially, carry on the excellent tradition of the previous books. One can smell the smoke of the cannon balls and feel the heat of the burning sails, and the splinters of the broken masts. But I would have preferred a little less action and a little more about the characters, especially the natives of Mars who seem to be given pretty short shrift in favor of our human heroine.
It's just a bit of a letdown, especially compared to the previous book, Arabella and the Battle of Venus. But it's still a solid story.
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