When you look at a book in a contemporary fantasy series, and it name drops “Mars”, and has a tripod on the cover, you have to wonder if someone’s gone insane.

And the title, “of Mars” implies, well, people, on Mars, which with this being a very scientifically grounded series, seems… off.

But worry not, Diane Duane has it all covered here, successfully delivering on promises you’d think can’t be kept.

Like some of the best setting-based stories, Mars itself is almost a character here, and certainly Duane and her characters have done far more homework than I have, and it the geography of Mars plays a part in the novel (and provides chapter titles).

An interesting conceit in the novel is that any time a nearby planet weighs as heavily in popular consciousness as Mars does in ours, it’s a sign that something more is going on. And of course, much more goes on during the novel. Along the way, Duane pays tribute to the continuing popularity of Mars in popular culture (referencing two versions of War of the Worlds, B-movies, and of course Edgar Rice Burroughs). I’d point out the psychological reasons of being the second brightest ‘star’ in the night sky, and more easily visible than Venus, which never strays too far from the sun from our point of view, but it still makes for a sensible “there’s a secret here, if we can find it” hook.

Meanwhile, personal threads with Kit and Nita continue. It’s been long enough since reading the previous books that I don’t remember some of it, but they’re generally introduced well enough to pick up without much trouble. I certainly would recommend going back to the start of the series than picking up here (or anywhere else), but I do recommend the series as a whole, and this book in particular.