Set in 1812, Arabella is a young woman who has grown up on Mars but now is expected to marry and live the life of a society woman in England. That doesn’t go over so well, and Arabella is desperate for the freedoms she enjoyed as a child. When her brother’s life is threatened, she needs to get to Mars in a hurry. She disguises herself as a boy and signs on to serve on the fastest trading ship.
What you get in this book is a mix of alternate history, science fiction, and nautical adventure. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Arabella is a strong character and really develops as part of the ship’s crew.
I found one thing off-putting in this book. Arabella falls for the Captain, and the way Levine writes about this felt really inconsistent with her character, who would never get all drippy about anything else, and wouldn’t risk exposing her identity, when this trip is her one chance to save her brother. Levine develops a strong friendship between Arabella and the Captain, which I appreciated. But this book made me think that this is how men think women fall in love (e.g., getting gushy about someone’s face or their physique) when in fact I think a strong, smart woman like Arabella would fall in love in a very different way (think Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, who comes to love Darcy for his character, not his chest).
You’ll need a little suspension of disbelief with this book, beginning with the idea that the British have colonized Mars in the 1700’s. Arabella is at times way too capable, and you might find her ability to pass as a boy on a ship unrealistic, although I thought Levine explored that aspect of the story really thoughtfully (even describing her experiences in the head).
This a fun book with lots of action, adventure, and a strong character. I love a book that melds genres (nautical fiction, Regency fiction, science fiction) and this book suited me perfectly. It’s just right if you’re looking for a light, entertaining read.