The Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars

The Gods of Mars (Barsoom, Book 2)
Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1918

Warlord of Mars (Barsoom, Book 3)
Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1919

Premise: Sequels to A Princess of Mars. John Carter has at last returned to Mars, only to find he is still far from regaining his place and his love. He arrives in the Holy Valley of Dor, where the people of Barsoom take their final pilgrimage in the hopes of reaching Heaven. What he finds there is anything but peace and happiness, though. He'll be lucky to live through the day, and if he manages to fight through the ranks of the therns (the white Martians who inhabit the Valley) and reach the outer world again, his own people may condemn him to death for returning from the sacred lands!

If you like action and good comradeship and exotic locales, if you like evil monsters and valiant warriors and beautiful women, if you get shivers when the narrator says “Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!”then I think you owe it to yourself to check out this series.

The epic tale begun in A Princess of Mars reaches new heights in these two books. Hardly a page goes by without John Carter fighting a room full of foes or a giant killer beast or spying on the enemies who would dare keep him from Dejah Thoris. This is science fantasy, a sub-genre that we see very little of these days.

The second and third books in the Barsoom series really go together. The second ends in a cliffhanger, and both build upon the events of Princess of Mars to lead straight toward the climax of the third book. I did enjoy the second (The Gods of Mars) a bit more than the third, but by the end of Warlord, I was fully on board with that one too.

John Carter has fully embraced his life as a Prince of Helium, so when he discovers that the religion of Barsoom is an evil lie propagated by the therns for their own purposes, he is determined to return to the people of Mars to spread the word to everyone. This causes an uproar and a lot of problems, but I liked a lot of how the book dealt with characters trying to understand the news. (It eventually turns out that even the therns are being lied to and betrayed by their beliefs.)

The books have the same balance of humor and epic adventure that so charmed me in the first volume, although I think the prose is a bit smoother here. There is a particular running gag in the first half of The Gods of Mars that caused me to laugh aloud, although I would understand if some think it corny.

There's a wide cast of characters, new and returning, although only once did I get confused and have to flip back a few pages to check someone's identity. I especially liked John Carter's reunion with Tars Tarkas, his brother-in-arms and leader of the Thark tribes.

The female characters are still mostly there to be rescued and fought over, but they're interesting nonetheless, with many skills that are sometimes just as useful as prowess in battle. Although at least once, Dejah Thoris bashes someone with the manacles she's wearing, and I thought that was pretty awesome.

In these books we are not only introduced to the evil white therns, but also the remaining secret populations of black and yellow Martians. (Really coal-black and lemon-yellow, not Earthly skin tones, incidentally.) Both at least start out as deadly enemies to John Carter, and the black Martians, who call themselves the First Born, are described as some of the most callous and savage people in these books so far. It is a bit cringe-worthy, but I will add that the only race that does not have any representatives willing to befriend our hero and fight for the side of truth and freedom are the white therns, so take that how you will.

I thoroughly enjoyed these books, and I look forward to reading more of this series!

The Gods of Mars: 5 Stars – An Awesome Book
Warlord of Mars: 4 Stars – A Very Good Book

A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars are all available on Project Gutenberg.


  1. "This is science fantasy, a sub-genre that we see very little of these days."

    Actually, due to Star Wars among other things, science fantasy is absolutely everywhere. The Barsoom books, as well as Burroughs' Venus/Amtor series belong to a distinct and largely defunct sub-genre known as "Planetary Romances".

    Re the Martian races: According to Burroughs, the Red Martians, who are the pinnacle of Barsoomian evolution, are said to have arisen from a mixture of black, white, and yellow Martians. (Don't expect modern genetics from a book written in the early 1900's.)

  2. Given that I wrote this review before the recent resurgence of Star Wars, and the dividing line between "science fantasy" and "planetary romance" is pretty fuzzy, I'll stand by the comment when it was written.

    I don't expect modern genetics, but I'm also going to mention how aspects of a book appear to a modern audience.


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