Dark Horizons

Dark Horizons Cover

"No one can escape the burning..."

2012 has so far been pretty Doctor-less in the TV department, but thankfully we have plenty of new stories to go round in other forms. Whether you divulge yourself in the tie-in audiobooks, comic strips or novels, there's always a new adventure out there to feed our withdrawal symptoms. One that is definitely not to be missed is the latest novel release, out this month. In Dark Horizons, the Doctor encounters a kidnapped princess and the burning that can't be stopped. So, just another day in the office really - read on for our review!

We're sure you'll agree that getting your hands on a new Doctor Who novel is always an exciting occasion. When we received Dark Horizons in the post, it was particularly inviting thanks to its stunning cover, as designed by Lee Binding. With the promise of Vikings and a dead TARDIS at the bottom of the ocean (does it get much better than that!?), it had all the makings of a Doctor Who classic. At the start of the first chapter, we join the Doctor in the middle of a game of chess - the only problem being, it's no fun when he's playing by himself (plus he always loses)! In his quest to find a chess partner to challenge on the Lewis Chessmen set, he instead gets caught up in the midst of alien incursion (story of his life, eh?), as he arrives in Scotland and meets a tribe who are living in fear of a mysterious evil that beckons in the sea.

A great thing about a novel is that it has the potential to go places that are somewhat out of reach of the TV series' budget, and Jenny Colgan takes full of advantage of this. In the opening chapters, for example, she throws us, quite literally, into the deep end, taking us to a burning ship in the middle of the ocean. The ship and its crew - including one of the heroes of our tale, Henrik - are being attacked by what they have no other reason but to assume is the Gods. But this creature is far from godly, as it burns a tidal wave of terror across the surface of the water, turning to ash anything that dares get in the way of its destructive path. The epic scale of this attack is brought to life by Jenny's imaginative writing, but this is just the start of the drama. When the surviving crew members are stranded on the Northern shore, after being saved, as usual, at the last minute by the Doctor, another dilemma arises. Can the two sides trust each other when they are 'supposed' to be sworn enemies?

"The Doctor leapt up. 'Hello, everyone!' he announced. 'Welcome to Party Island.'"

Without giving too much away, one of my favourite moments in the book is seeing both parties bond over a good old fashioned, in this case literally old fashioned, knees-up. After being brought together by a much greater force, they start to realise that they really aren't so different after all. Within this, Princess Freydis, a daughter of Wolvern, who was being taken against her own will to Iceland to marry "the fattest man anyone had ever seen" Gissar Polvaderson, begins to wonder whether or not she may be better suited to this world rather than the glory and riches of her inherited royal destiny.

Initially putting the extraterrestrial threat to one side (that can wait!), the Doctor sets out to bring the two sides together - at the end of the day, they're all humans in a desperate fight against an unholy enemy. It is in these moments that it is most clear that Jenny is a lifelong fan of the series. She perfectly captures the Doctor's desire to show doubting humans their potential, and she effortlessly manages to maintain Matt Smith's quirks and idiosyncrasies throughout - and t it looks like she had a lot of fun writing him indeed! For the most part, the lack of Amy and Rory in the story goes unnoticed, as the story is very much about how the Doctor deals with the complications of not just an alien force, but also the forces of two opposing groups of humans, who could do just as much damage to each other as the alien itself. Saying that, I couldn't help but imagine Amy's reaction to the Vikings (if her thoughts on the Romans are anything to go by...), and how Rory - when put up against one - would have faired in upholding his masculinity in front of his wife...

The pace of the story flows nicely, and before we know it, and after various events and shenanigans, the TARDIS is falling down, down, down to the bottom of the sea. We particularly enjoyed Jenny drawing comparisons between the underwater world and the solar system here - as the Doctor himself notes, we are so desperate to explore the stars when there is a whole other world right below us at the heart of the ocean. The fact that his beloved blue box begins to show signs of resistance, though ("She really, really, really doesn't like the water very much!"), adds another level of tension as the ship plummets to the eerie depths of the Atlantic Ocean, but where else better for the Doctor to have a face off with the enemy? You'll have to read it for yourself to discover who - or what - the culprit is, but I will say that it's an interesting and fresh premise for a villain, with an excellent pay off at the end of the book.

And that's all I'm going to say! In a nutshell, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dark Horizons - it's got burning ships and rabbits and the return of the Doctor's space suit, but most of all it feels like a Doctor Who adventure, and as fans we can ask for nothing more. Throw in some appreciated Classic Doctor Who references and a mention of Martha Jones, and what more could we possibly want? So, anyone for a game of bladderball...?

Review posted 4th July 2012

Dark Horizons is published by on 5th July 2012. Find out more...
- Pre-order Dark Horizons on Amazon!
- Read our exclusive interview with Jenny Colgan about the book
- Follow Jenny on Twitter @JennyColgan