Let’s say you like the Regency era, but you also like space opera, and really like Patrick O’Brian. And Mars. Normally, mixing all of these disparate elements together would be a hot mess, but David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars is awesome. I am completely in love with this book and want another one yesterday.
Where to start… How about Mars? The book opens on Mars and it’s the Mars of Edgar Rice Burroughs with vast alien civilizations, but it’s seen through the lens of British colonialism. Wait—that makes it sound dry, and it’s not. Well, I mean, it IS a desert, but the plot is about as far from dry as you can get. What I mean is that Arabella has a nanny, effectively, in the form of Khemel, her Martian protector. They have a genuinely affectionate bond, but the book doesn’t gloss over the way the British Empire created exactly these dynamics here on Earth.
What I love about the book is that it’s smart, and it’s smart without sacrificing forward plot momentum.