Jason Gridley is able to establish radio contact with Mars. Ulysses Paxton is the Earthman that they find to reply. He proceeds to tell the story of Tan Hadron a Padwar in the navy of Helium.

Tan Hadron is a lowly Padwar(lieutenant) in the Helium navy. He comes from a poor but proud family. Because he has some minor family connections to royalty he gets routinely invited to parties. At one he falls madly in love with Sanoma Tora from a wealthy family. Sanoma is beautiful but incredibly vain and shallow. She wants nothing to do with a lowly Padwar.

Sanoma’s beauty does attract the attention of Tul Axtar the mad Jeddak of Jahar. Tul Axtar has grandiose plans to conquer all of Barsoom and is assembling an army. He also has developed a secret weapon on immense destructive power. His agents kidnap Sanoma for his large harem. Tan sets off the rescue Sanoma. Along the way he ends up rescuing a girl from savage green men. He finds out that Tavia has escaped from Tul Axtar’s harem and agrees to help Tan.

Tavia is sort of a tomboy. She is witty, intelligent and good with a sword. What follows is an incredible adventure. The two encounter incredible beasts, savage peoples and a mad scientist. After rescuing Sanoma Tan starts to have serious doubts of his love. Sanoma’s shallow and cowardly personality begin to get on his nerves. It is dealt a serious blow when Sanoma betrays him to save her own life. Tan Hadron finally realizes that Tavia is his true love. After defeating Tul Axtar he proclaims his love and finds out in the end that Tavia is actually a princess. Because in Burrough’s books you can’t fall in love with an ordinary woman.

The seventh book in the Martian series is one of the best since the first three books. It goes back to the sense of wonder and swashbuckling adventure that I always associate with this series. There are strange beast, exotic peoples and strange science and an equally stranger scientist. Throw in a mad ruler hell bound on conquest and you have the makings of an excellent adventure.

Tavia is actually an atypical heroine for Burroughs. Mostly the women in the stories exist to look pretty and be rescued. Tavia is witty, self-sufficient and can handle a sword. The story does have elements of an 80’s teen comedy. You have the handsome man madly in love with the popular girl. But later he discovers he really loves the awkward geeky girl that at the end is revealed to be both beautiful on the inside as well as outside. Yep Burroughs was decades ahead of his time.

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