Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine
I’m a picky science fiction reader, but that doesn’t mean I’m against it. And if you throw a sci-fi or fantasy novel at me and say anything “Jane Austen,” chances are I’m going to read it. See: Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories and Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars books. I was scanning my library’s new science fiction and fantasy books, when David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars appeared and had the tagline of “would have amused Jane Austen” attached to it. Obviously, I picked it up.
Reader, I enjoyed it so thoroughly.
Arabella Ashby was raised by a family colonizing Mars in the Regency era. As a teenager, Arabella connects more with Mars, farm cultivation, and combat than the fine arts of young ladies, much to her mother’s dismay. Upon her return to England, a series of family tragedies forces her back to Mars, where she must save the family enterprise and her brother’s life. She gains passage onto a ship as a young man and gains the favor of the enigmatic captain when she works with automatons. Yet her journey is only beginning when she arrives on Mars.
This is a highly enjoyable tale. There are just some times when you want a rollicking good adventure story, and this one delivers. Arabella is feisty and enterprising without being a Mary Sue, and I appreciated it. I’m looking forward to seeing what Levine can do next. He has plenty of room to build this intriguing and steampunk-ish world. If you like Regency or steampunk writing, Jane Austen, or Jules Verne, you’ll probably enjoy this book as much as I did. 4.5 stars.