AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3 out of 5
Doctor Who: Molten Heart
A Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) adventure featuring Ryan, Yaz and Graham. The TARDIS travellers cause a stir when they arrive inside a planet where the living rock inhabitants are unaware of the surface of their own world, let alone life on other worlds. However, cracks in the interior of the sphere threaten the rock people's very lives and only the Doctor and her companions have the experience which could save them.
Immediately before reading this book I read 'The Good Doctor' by Juno Dawson, which is a brilliant Who story that totally nails the Thirteenth and her companions. The comparisons that generated whilst reading this book didn't do it any favours. First off, the portrayal of this TARDIS team (I just can't bring myself to say 'fam') is just ever-so-slightly off here. I think it's that they all feel a little generic and none of them feels distinctively like their on-screen analogues, each of them lacking much depth of character. It could be argued that this book came out before Series 11 had even finished airing so the author wouldn't have had much to work with, but that doesn't hold up when you consider that Dawson's book came out before this one.
The plot is also pretty thin and unfolds more or less entirely predictably. Far worse, however, is that McCormack singularly fails to instill a sense of wonder or realism into the subterranean world and culture she's created here. Nothing about the rock people feels terribly original or complex and the total lack of thought given to the science of this world-within-a-world makes suspension of disbelief all but impossible. Not sure what I mean? Then consider the scene where the Doctor and Ryan go white-water rafting on a river of lava and at no point does the author even mention that this would be hot (not to mention dangerous).
A shallow and half-hearted disappointment.
2 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Glamour Chronicles - Royal Blood
An original adventure featuring the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his companion Clara Oswald. The Doctor and Clara arrive in the city of Varuz, where they're mistaken for ambassadors from a hostile neighbouring power. Although the culture of Varuz seems medieval, the Doctor is intrigued by their electric lights and laser swords. Matters become further complicated when a group of knights arrive in search of the Holy Grail and led by a man claiming to be called Lancelot.
Right, first off, let's address the whole 'Glamour Chronicles' thing. The back cover claims that this book is part of a trilogy all about the Doctor's search for the Glamour but it should be said that, as far as I can tell, there is no unifying narrative between these three books beyond the overuse of the word 'Glamour'. What makes this all the more frustrating is that at no point do we ever really get a sense of what the Glamour is or why it's so important. All we're really told is that it's something that makes people want it and which shapeshifts to fit their desires. Where does it come from? What is its purpose? And what significance does it have for the Doctor? None of these questions gets even the beginning of an answer. We're just supposed to accept it on face value and even then, it's only an irrelevant substory to the main one about Varuz. It feels almost as if the whole Glamour thing was awkwardly crowbarred in after the rest of the book was written, as if the 'trilogy' idea was an afterthought. Also, we're supposed to just ignore the fact that the Glamour is suspiciously similiar in nature (and, of course, name) to the Enamour that featured in McCormack's Eleventh Doctor novel 'The King's Dragon'.
As for the main story thread about Varuz, it's just simply boring. The pseudo-fantastical setting is totally wasted and the political wrangling of the court feel like a very bad attempt at mimicking the complexity of the likes of 'Game of Thrones'. And, much like the Glamour/Enamour thing, the setting feels suspiciously similar to Geath from 'The King's Dragon'.
To top it all off, the author fails to do a particularly good job of capturing either Clara or the Twelfth Doctor (who is among my favourites).
2 out of 5
Doctor Who: The King's Dragon
Featuring the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) and his companions Amy and Rory. The space/time travellers arrive at the city of Geath, famed for twelve thousand years of peaceful democracy, only to discover that it has become a monarchy where everyone is obsessed with King Beol and his golden dragon statue. Soon the Doctor realises that the dragon is a part of a dangerous substance known as Enamour and that Geath is about to be caught in the middle of an eons-old civil war.
McCormack has done a great job of capturing the spirit of Matt Smith's version of the Doctor, especially in terms of his stream-of-consciousness speech patterns and his penchant for sarcasm. It was very easy to hear Smith's voice saying the lines I read in this book. Amy and Rory are fine too, but to be honest they're not among my favourite companions. Rory is too boring and Amy is too arrogant.
Whilst the story isn't massively ground-breaking and Enamour is more or less just a mass-produced version of the One Ring, I did enjoy the fact that the author constantly plays with our expectations of who or what the villain of the piece is, with some apparent baddies turning out to be heroes and some benevolent characters turning out to be violent antagonists.
Overall, an enjoyable but not remarkable read.
3 out of 5
Doctor Who: The Way Through The Woods
An original adventure starrring Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor and featuring his companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Across the centuries countless people have disappeared into Swallow Woods but when the Doctor, Amy and Rory discover that a disaster that will destroy the woods and the nearby town is immanent, they attempt to discover the alien secret within the woods. Soon, however, Amy and Rory are separated and trapped whilst the Doctor is in police custody on suspicion of kidnapping.
I've not been blown away by McCormack's Who novels in the past, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this one far more interesting and involving. I liked the way that she introduces us to the concept of Swallow Woods, a place that all the locals unconsciously know to avoid, which even the Romans diverted their otherwise straight road around. Also well thought-out was the way the author hops around in time, with the ongoing narrative simultaneously taking place in the present (when the present was 2011) and in 1917.
There are just two negative points I'll raise. The first is the scary werewolf picture on the front of the book. Whilst there is a creature in the book that it's clearly intended to represent, the image in no way correlates to the description in the book and may well lead those who do judge a book by its cover to expect a very different kind of story than what we get (honestly, I was hoping for a psuedo-sequel to the Tenth Doctor TV story with the werewolf). The other negative element to the book is just how conveniently everything wraps up at the end. This wouldn't be so bad if not for the fact that the TV series itself establishes that causality doesn't work the way it's portrayed here, where we get a much more casual 'Back to the Future' approach to changing history.
Other than the nitpicks, a pretty enjoyable adventure for this beloved incarnation of the Doctor and his best companions.
4 out of 5
Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious - All Flesh Is Grass
The conclusion to the Time Lord Victorious multimedia crossover. Attempting to stop death itself, the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) has brought about the destruction of the Kotturuh. However, seeing that their future self has gone too far down a dark path and has to be stopped, the Eighth (Paul McGann) and Ninth (Christopher Ecclestone) Doctors have formed alliances not only with each other but with the undead and with the Daleks.
This book picks up where the previous novel, 'The Knight, The Fool And The Dead' by Steve Cole, left off with a three way standoff above the homeworld of the Kotturuh. However, after this confrontation there is a bit of a time jump in which, as I understand it, several of the other stories of the crossover happen. Between that and there being little to no explanation of why the Eighth Doctor is on a Dalek ship and where the Ninth Doctor's new vampire chums come from, there's a lot that this book glazes over. I've not read/listened to/watched any of the Time Lord Victorious stories in other media, so I was understandably confused to begin with about alot of elements here.
It's not impossible to enjoy this novel only having read the first one, as you'll see in a moment, but it is disorientating to begin with. In fact, the way McCormack tells the story doesn't help, jumping all too rapidly from one character's POV to the next without giving us time to get to grips with any of them. In short, the first third of this book is a bit incoherent.
All that said, the book does eventually settle into telling its own story and when it reaches that point it immediately becomes vastly more enjoyable. Put simply, how could you not enjoy seeing these three Doctors team-up to prevent the Daleks from conquering the universe before either they or the Time Lords technically exist. And make no mistake, although this is ostensibly supposed to be a Tenth Doctor story, it is a fully-realised multi-Doctor novel of a kind we've not seen before. All of this book's best moments come from seeing how the Doctors react to and interact with one another, be it the Eighth failing to notice the reaction of his two replacements when he talks about going home to Gallifrey or the Ninth and Tenth matching wits and manic grins. Honestly, it feels so satisfying to finally see the Ninth Doctor in a multi-Doctor story at all. (Please Christopher... 60th anniversary special... please!)
Having experienced so little of it, I can't honestly say if this is a fitting conclusion to the Time Lord Victorious event but I will happily say that, the latter half at least, is a very, very enjoyable Doctor Who story.
4 out of 5