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Change In Focus
on 13 February 2009
"Thuvia, Maid of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs is the fourth book in the Barsoom series, and it is quite a bit different than the previous books. The first three books focused on John Carter, and his love of Dejah Thoris, but they are barely mentioned in this book. Instead, the focus switches to focus on John Carter's son, Cathoris, prince of Helium, and the title character Thuvia, princess of Ptarth, both of which were introduced in the second book of the series "The Gods of Mars", but were fairly minor characters in both that and the third book of the series. This book was originally published in three parts in "All-Story Weekly" on April 8, 15, and 22 of 1916. It was later published in book form in October of 1920.
Most of the book deals with things with which the readers of the series are already familiar, such as the different kingdoms of Red Martians, and the warlike Green Martians, but there is one very interesting new development and that is in the ancient city of Lothar, and in particular the phantom bowmen who defend that city. The entire Lothar sequence is certainly the highlight of the book, with the unusual Jav, who is the first Lotharian they meet, and Tario, Jeddak of Lothar. Also, the character Kar Komak who is one of the phantom bowmen is a good addition to the cast of characters.
The story is rather simple. Cathoris is in love with Thuvia, as is Astok, Prince of Dusar, but Thuvia herself is already promised to Kulan Tith, the Jeddak of Kaol. Who Thuvia favors is kept somewhat secret, though the reader can pretty much guess. Astok is determined to have her, and so he kidnaps her and frames Cathoris in the process, hoping to start a war and prevent the truth from being learned. Cathoris falls into their trap, and he and Thuvia disappear from the known world. Cathoris does his best to protect Thuvia as she gets passed from captor to captor, while the circumstances of what is going on in their kingdoms is unknown to them.
This book falls short of the first books of the series for a number of reasons. Many of the devices used here were used before. One would think that so many plots and deceptions had taken place in the past, that it would not automatically work so easily in making people believe that Cathoris was a kidnapper. The fact is, though, that these hokey devices worked in the earlier books, because Burroughs did a much better job of keeping the action going and telling a complete story. This book is much shorter than any of the prior three, and the ending feels like it is cut at least a chapter short as only some of the issues raised during the story end up being resolved. One never really gets to know Kulan Tith, and so his actions in the end feel empty of significance, a mistake which Burroughs did not make in the earlier books.
For those who were content with the first three books, there isn't enough here to justify coming back to it, but for those who want more, it does add something to the series. I am only going to rate this one two stars, because I feel it is significantly weaker than its predecessors, but for those who are big fans of the series, you probably will still get something out of it.