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I Belong

Early Review: Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

Arabella of MarsTitle: Arabella of Mars

Author: David D. Levine

Genre: Science Fiction/Steampunk

Series: The Adventures of Arabella Ashby (Book #1)

Publication Date: July 12, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0765382814 (Tor/Macmillan)

ISBN-13: 978-0765382818 (Tor/Macmillan)

Reviewed by: Kristie


Ever since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, they proved that space travel was both possible and profitable.

Now, one century later, a plantation in the flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby. A tomboy who shares her father’s deft hand with complex automatons. Being raised on the Martian frontier by her Martian nanny, Arabella is more a wild child than a proper young lady. Something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.

Arabella soon finds herself trying to navigate an alien world until a dramatic change in her family’s circumstances forces her to defy all conventions in order to return to Mars in order to save both her brother and the plantation. To do this, Arabella must pass as a boy on the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company with a mysterious Indian captain who is intrigued by her knack with automatons. Arabella must weather the naval war between Britain and France, learning how to sail, and a mutinous crew if she hopes to save her brother from certain death.

Quick & Dirty: A fun, imaginative story where I had to set back everything I know about space travel for a distinctly strange steampunk style world.

Opening Sentence: Arabella Ashby lay prone atop a dune, her whole length pressed tight upon the cool red sands of Mars.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Arabella of Mars is an intriguing take on space travel and colonialization. Be prepared for a complete re-write of space travel with a heavy dose of steampunk. Space travel and exploration would be spectacular if the rules of this universe actually ruled this universe. Travelers can go through space without worrying about how to breathe since it is made of the air that we breathe but gravity still is an issue. Read this article on how the author developed the world and technology that was needed to traverse to different planets. I should also note that vegetation is much more prevalent on planets and asteroids unlike the barren landscapes that we’ve learned about in school.

Arabella was born and raised on Mars. Her father owns a tree plantation that grows the wood needed to make the ships that travel through space. Arabella is a tom boy in spirit, she has learned everything she can from her Martian nanny (itkhalya) about strategy and Martian history. One day Arabella is hurt from playing around and her mother insists that the family (Arabella and her two sisters) return to Earth. Her mother uses this as an opportunity for the females of the family to move back and hopefully find husbands.

Arabella does not enjoy her time on Earth. She knows that her mannerisms and speech are foreign to the upper class with which her family associates. Then one day, Arabella learns terrible news which just gets even worse when she finds out that someone is out to murder her brother who is still on Mars. Arabella takes off immediately for an adventure to get back to Mars. She cannot wait for conventional means so she disguises herself as a boy and is able to gain employment on a ship to Mars with her knowledge of automata.

The trip to Mars starts off a bit slow detailing the jobs put to Arabella while also explaining ship terms and how space works in this world. Then things start picking up when one bad thing after another being to happen. Arabella needs to get to Mars quickly and it just seems the universe is conspiring to get her there late.

When I read the synopsis for Arabella of Mars I really thought it felt like a young adult book. I really wasn’t too far off the mark. The book does censor itself, so there are no bad words within. Although I will say that I did get lost in some of the boat and space travel terminology. I do like to learn when I read, I don’t think I’ll retain much of this information since I’m never around boats and the space travel is completely different from reality.

Arabella speaks of the injustice of women in this world a lot. Martian teachings and Earthling teachings vary in how they see women. As much as she tries to conform to Earthly rules, she can’t stand it. She often speaks her mind much to the chagrin of the males surrounding her, although only one actually listens to her. Arabella is smart and cunning but she still has a lot of learning to do which she does on the ship. The ending was a bit of a surprise. I was 100% sure the ending was something else that I don’t want to spoil so I was surprised when that didn’t actually happen.

The story follows Arabella in third person point of view. I found the writing style a bit funny because of the censorship, it made the parts of the book where Arabella is being told her female sensibilities are too delicate for certain matters and subjects translate that the reader was also too sensitive for those words.  The writing is also extremely scientific. If you have no qualms about scientific terms and theories than you should love this book.

My favorite “character” has to be Aadim, the automata navigator, who may or may not be cognizant. He helped supply some spookiness and humor to the story.

Overall, Arabella of Mars is a fun, imaginative story where I had to set back everything I know about space travel for a distinctly strange steampunk style world.  I am intrigued by where the story would go from here. I know I would really like to learn more about the Venus of this world. Plus, the war with France is still on-going. I recommend this story for readers who really like unique space adventures.

Notable Scene:

She did notice that a lock of his hair had dislodged itself from under his bandage and now rested against his closed eyelid. Perhaps it tickled, causing at least some of his restless motion. Tenderly she brushed the lock aside and tucked it back under the bandage.

And then came a sound—a brief whirring of gears, somewhat reminiscent of the clearing of a throat—that made her look up.

The sound had come from Aadim, the navigator. His head had turned to face her, so that the green glass eyes sparkled in the sunlight slanting in through the unbroken panes of the cabin’s great window.

Dismayed by the automaton’s apparent attention, Arabella quickly drew back her hand from the captain’s forehead.

For a moment longer the shining green eyes seemed to lock with hers. Then, with a sound of gears, the head swiveled back to its previous position.

Heart pounding, Arabella cast her gaze about the cabin. Amidst the clutter and damage, the automaton’s lenses still glittered intact in their brass fittings. Surely the turn of the navigator’s head was only a reaction to her own rather sudden motion, a purely mechanical response.


The Adventures of Arabella Ashby:

1. Arabella of Mars


FTC Advisory: Tor/Macmillan provided me with a copy of Arabella of Mars. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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