Review: Doctor Who: Royal Blood by Una McCormack

royalbloodDoctor Who: Royal Blood by Una McCormack

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Doctor Who: The Glamour Chronicles

Date Published: September 8th, 2015

Publisher: Broadway Books

Pages: 240 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: An original adventure tying in to the ninth season of Doctor Who, the spectacular hit series from BBC Television, featuring the new 12th Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi.

“The Grail is a story, a myth! It didn’t exist on your world! It can’t exist here!”

The city-state of Varuz is failing. Duke Aurelian is the last of his line, his capital is crumbling, and the armies of his enemy, Duke Conrad, are poised beyond the mountains to invade. Aurelian is preparing to gamble everything on one last battle. So when a holy man, the Doctor, comes to Varuz from beyond the mountains, Aurelian asks for his blessing in the war.

But all is not what it seems in Varuz. The city-guard have lasers for swords, and the halls are lit by electric candlelight. Aurelian’s beloved wife, Guena, and his most trusted knight, Bernhardt, seem to be plotting to overthrow their Duke, and Clara finds herself drawn into their intrigue…

Will the Doctor stop Aurelian from going to war? Will Clara’s involvement in the plot against the Duke be discovered? Why is Conrad’s ambassador so nervous? And who are the ancient and weary knights who arrive in Varuz claiming to be on a quest for the Holy Grail…?

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This is a spoiler-free review.

As I’m sure you know or can tell, I am a massive fan of Doctor Who, and I find the book series to be so fun, especially when waiting for new episodes. As soon as this particular novel was released, I was immediately intrigued by it. I love stories dealing with politics and conspiracy within a kingdom—particularly anything set in a medieval or medieval-esque time period. Unfortunately, I ended up feeling very disappointed by this novel. While it is a quick and light read, there are many, sometimes glaring, issues that are impossible to ignore.

In this novel, the Doctor and Clara find themselves in the land of Varuz where tensions are high, war is on the horizon, and secrets are profuse. Aurelian, the duke of Varuz is struggling to keep his city from falling apart completely. His enemy, Duke Conrad, is eager to capture the city for himself, and Aurelian is contemplating making Varuz’s last stand against the waiting army. After The Doctor’s path collides with Duke Aurelian’s men, he is mistaken for a holy man, and he and Clara are taken to the court of the duke. Aurelian is eager to receive The Doctor’s opinion on the decision, and the pair plan to leave as soon as he has given one. But The Doctor and Clara are soon enraptured by the fate of Varuz and the potential treason going on behind-the-scenes.

Even though I finished this novel a few months ago and have spent time thinking through it, I’m still finding the majority of the plot somewhat baffling. I’ll start off by saying that one of the biggest problems pertaining to the actual text itself is the massive amount of typos and grammatical errors. Frankly, I am stunned that they were so prevalent—you can find at least one spelling or sentence structure issue on every single page. It is as if no one bothered to proofread before publishing the book. This ended up being quite distracting, and made the lack of polish of story as a whole even more prominent.

After reading the synopsis of this book, I was very intrigued—it sounded like a story or episode of the show that I would have adored, and I wanted so badly to enjoy it. I love reading the novels about the Twelfth Doctor, especially ones containing Clara as I think she is a strong and intelligent protagonist. The interplay between the two is always enjoyable—they have so much chemistry and make a fantastic pair, balancing each other well. This is what I was hoping to find in this tale of their adventures, but I came out feeling very lukewarm about absolutely everything.

The plot just did not live up to it’s potential, and this could have been such a wonderful one in so many ways. It promised mystery and drama and suspense, but proved to be lacking all three. Too many facts are revealed too rapidly, and then it is essentially a slough to the end. Personally, I think it was a mistake to write this storyline in first-person in general, but even more so because of the character McCormack chose to be the main narrator. This choice ruins all of the enigmatic nature of the plot, the primary element on which it is heavily riding. We also spend a far too short amount of time focusing on The Doctor himself, a pitfall that the novels in this series sometimes run in to.

McCormack’s writing is sufficient, but definitely mediocre and much weaker than I was expecting. There are a number of aspects of the various settings in the novel that are depicted with a reasonable amount of detail, however, the world-building is quite wholly inconsistent. For me, there were times where I found it challenging to imagine what the city of Varuz, and the outside environment in general, looked like. This adds another challenge when trying to become immersed in the world.

I also found the character depiction in this story to be very hit or miss, particularly with the Doctor and Clara. Early on, McCormack does a decent job of replicating the personalities of the characters we already know and love. However, she soon slipped up, and they began to come across the wrong way. Their personalities are in constant instability—one moment things are matching up and then they suddenly talk or act in ways that are completely uncharacteristic of the characters from the show. The side characters in the narrative are, for the most part, very bland and one-dimensional. They are not built up well enough for the reader to feel any sort of connection to them.

While I generally judge these types of books on a bit of a different scale due to the simple and fun nature of them, this particular installment had a greater quantity of weaknesses than I typically find. With this all being said, it is still an interesting enough novel, and makes for a light, quick read. Despite its flaws, the imperfections do not make it so difficult that it is impossible to understand. And while this should not be entirely the job of the reader, one’s imagination and inner editor can easily fill in the gaps and make corrections when needed. As always though, the books from the Doctor Who literature series are always nice to have around when the show is in between seasons.

2.5 TARDISes

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Top Ten Tuesday – April 18th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten things that will make you instantly want to read a book. It was a little tough thinking up ten things that turn me on to a book, which is odd considering I will read just about anything I can get my hands on. I guess that goes to show that I will give any book a try, but I somewhat rarely feel that need to instantly pick up a novel. However, there are a few cases where this is true.

Time Travel or Parallel Universes – Anyone who knows me knows that I am absolutely addicted to books about time travel and/or parallel universes. Honestly, this is one of the only cases where there is practically no hesitation on my part. I will literally read anything I find that involves either time travel, parallel worlds, or (preferably) both!

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Books About Books – I think many book lovers out there can relate to this one! I love reading books in which reading and literature plays a huge part. This can come in the form of the characters being book nerds like myself, the setting being somewhere like a bookstore or library, or a storyline that is shaped around either a real or fictional book within the book.

Recommendations – I’m not one who typically gives into major hype about books—I have been disappointed many times when I get sucked into that. However, if a friend that I trust and share a similar reading taste with highly recommends something, I will pick it up straight away. People like my best friend Lizzie, and my awesome blogger besties Heather and Anna, are to blame for much of my ever increasing TBR pile!

Retellings – I am a complete sucker for retellings. Whether it’s a retelling of a classic novel, folklore, or fairytale, that’s pretty much all I need to know before I pick it up. This can occasionally amount to me reading a really crappy version of a story I love. But many times I have discovered some absolutely wonderfully crafted retellings with their own unique twist.

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Interesting Magic System – I love love love fantasy novels! This is the primary genre that I read, but I do get a bit picky with them, at least in recent years. There are a lot of novels that deal with the same subjects over and over again, and those don’t make for the best reading experience. However, any fantasy novel with a unique-sounding magic system will instantly pique my interest.

Modern Fairytale – As I mentioned, I love fairytales and folklore, and I love present-day novels that give off that fairytale or folklore feeling. I find those types of stories to be absolutely beautiful and captivating. I really hope I can write a story like that one day.

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Highly Praised Classic – I am a huge fan of classic literature—I was always that weird kid in English class that loved almost every book they made us read! So if a classic is highly praised, either by people I know or just in general, I will most likely pick it up. I won’t say I always like them, but I’ll at least give them a try!

Little to No Romance – I’ve talked about this many times before, that, despite being a hopeless romantic, I actually really do not like reading about romance in novels. Sometimes a little bit is nice, bit I find that there are so many instances where it completely overshadows the actual plot. So if a novel boasts little to no romance, that’s definitely a plus for me.

Noir or Gothic – I love noir and gothic everything! Books, movies—you name it, I love it! So of course, these are major turn-ons for me when it comes to finding books. If it has a noir or gothic setting, I’m getting my read on! 😛

Sounds Like Sherlock Holmes – And finally, the most embarrassing book turn-on I have to admit. I typically don’t go for books that are compared to other books I love because ninety percent of the time, I end up feeling disappointed in a book that may have been great if I weren’t holding it to the highest possible standard. However, the one thing that gets me every time is when a novel (or a character in a novel) is compared to Sherlock Holmes…or Doctor Who (hence my love of the Jackaby series!).

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Honorable Mentions

Gillian Flynn, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Ness, Victoria Schwab – …Enough said… 🙂

What are some things that make you instantly want to read a book? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned for next Tuesday when I talk about my book turn-offs!

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Review: Doctor Who: The American Adventures by Justin Richards

doctorwhotheamericanadventuresDoctor Who: The American Adventures by Justin Richards

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 25th, 2016

Publisher: Penguin Random House (UK)

Pages: 192 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Travel through time and space with the Twelfth Doctor in these six brand new adventures, set in a host of locations across the US and eras from throughout US history.

An invisible spacecraft turns up at the Battle of New Orleans, an alien presence is detected at the 1944 D-Day landings, and ghosts take over New York’s subway tunnels as they’re being dug in the early 1900s…

Filled with mystery, excitement and the Doctor’s trademark wit, these timeywimey stories will delight any Doctor Who fan.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I always love reading any Doctor Who tie-in stories, especially when we are all anxiously waiting for a new season to be released. I have also read a number of Doctor Who novels authored by Justin Richards, and I tend to consistently enjoy his writing style and his depictions of the various Doctors over the years. This is only my second experience with stories written about Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, and I had a fun time reading these short tales of his adventures. While this is targeted at a younger audience, I still feel that this book is something that can be universally enjoyed by Whovians of all ages.

These stories follow the Doctor’s journeys through various notable time periods in American history, as well as in present day America. Because of that, I found it to be a very unique read due to the fact that he is somewhat rarely portrayed traveling through the United States, particularly in the tie-in novels. It was great to see how he insert himself into many historical moments that I grew up learning about.

Though this was not the best collection of stories and I had very mixed feelings about them, I still found them to be solidly written. Creating a compelling story in a very small number of pages is incredibly difficult—it is an entire art in itself. There is not much time to flesh out the plot and the characters. This can make everything feel very rushed, as well as make characters come across as being a little bit flat. I found this to be somewhat true of this collection at times, but overall, I think Richards did a decent job with the length of each text.

Richards’ writing itself was a high point for me. His narration style is very fluid and not at all hard to find yourself getting pulled into. It is wonderful to see these skills in the tie-in stories, as they are generally simple reads, still composed using quality storytelling. I have found—in my personal experience with his work—that Richards’ is also a master at capturing the personality of whichever Doctor he is writing about. Even in this shorter format, it truly feels similar to watching an episode starring the twelfth doctor.

Now, I’ll talk about each individual story and my feelings on them. This will also remain spoiler-free.

All That Glitters (Rating: 3/5)

This story takes place in California, 1849, during the gold rush. Josh Langham is panning for gold in the Sacramento River when finds an odd metallic object. As he begins to pick it up, fatigue overtakes him and he passes out. Suddenly, he begins terrorizing the nearby town and townspeople, breaking in to homes and attacking his people who have all known him as a kind and gentle man. We follow the Doctor as he attempts to figure out what has caused Josh to act in this most unusual way.

I found this story to be just alright. It was a very simple plotline without much action, so it felt a little too slow-paced for my liking. Despite this, it was still intriguing to read, and there was a good amount of mystery. The build-up was a bit too much compared to how the story ultimately ended, but it was a decent read.

Off the Trail (Rating: 3.75/5)

The Doctor finds himself on the Oregon Trail, 1846, in this story. Hattie and her family are traveling the Oregon Trail in a large wagon train when suddenly, they begin to encounter strange noises and unnerving sightings of a creature outside their wagon one night. When they emerge the next morning, they find themselves exactly where they were but completely alone—the other parties in the wagon train have disappeared without a trace. It’s up to the Doctor to rescue the family from a deadly enemy and return them to the missing train.

I liked this story quite a bit—I think that it was my second favorite of the collection. I’ve always enjoyed stories about the Oregon Trail, and this science fiction twist was very captivating. Richards did a good job of building up the suspense to a heart-pounding climax. This story was also one of the more fleshed out ones in terms of both the setting and the characters. Everything was well-described, and I feel that he really utilized his writing talent to create a developed story in a short amount of time. Overall, it didn’t completely blow me away, but it was still a fascinating and unique narrative that I would have loved to see as an actual episode of the show.

Ghosts of New York (Rating: 4.5/5)

Taking place in New York City, 1902, this was by far my favorite of the short stories. This story involves the construction of the New York City subway tunnels, with a nice helping of ghostly activity. Soon after a tunnel roof collapses, killing three workers, a man named Pete begins seeing the ghost of one of his deceased coworkers. Other workers begin to experience this strange paranormal phenomenon as well. Then, of course, the Doctor swoops in, ready to discover the source that is causing these ethereal figures to appear. With many of the other workers too afraid to follow him, only a young man named Tom is brave enough to join in the quest for answers.

I absolutely loved this story. Anything containing ghosts and spookiness is right up my alley. One of the interesting realizations I had while reading this one was that the side character and the Doctor were much more well-developed. This may be due in part to the fact that there is only one sidekick on this particular mission. The only issue I had with the plot was that, when they found the source causing the ghosts to appear, it was not very well explained—I had an extremely hard time picturing it in my head. Nonetheless, this was an absolutely fantastic story and I very much enjoyed it.

Taking the Plunge (Rating: 3/5)

The Doctor comes into the present day in this story that takes place in Florida, 2017. Strolling through a theme park named Adventure World, the Doctor is simply people-watching when he comes across some peculiar occurrences. He meets a family as they first come into the park—two parents and their highly energetic and excited son. They are headed to the popular ride, “Space Plunge”. But when he runs into them again coming back from the ride, they have lost all energy, and look tired and empty. It’s time for the Doctor to inspect “Space Plunge”, and figure out what is sapping the liveliness out of all of its riders.

Though it was not one of my favorites, I still quite enjoyed this story. It was fairly unique and unpredictable in many ways. However, this was one story were the length really was a detriment to the plot. It felt as though not much happened, and that the problem was solved far too easily. This is a story that could have been expanded upon a lot and made into a more complex tale. I think it was just not right for this format, but I still liked aspects of it.

Spectator Sport (Rating: 2.5/5)

Set in New Orleans, 1815, this was unfortunately one of the stories that fell a bit flat for me. The Doctor lands the TARDIS during the Battle of New Orleans, and watches from the sidelines, upset at the idea of humans waging war against each other. All of a sudden, a woman using a perception filter comes rushing up to where he stands on a hill, stating that she has been looking for him all over. She takes him back to what she calls the “safe area”, which turns out to be a ship where people travel back in time in order to watch various battles throughout history.

This story was my least favorite—I found it rather hard to get in to and I did not like the idea of the plot. Not that much really happened, aside from the Doctor reprimanding everyone for getting enjoyment out of the fighting. Of course, there was a bit more depth to the plot other than that, with an assassin being loose on the ship, but this did not take up enough of the story. I could see the potential in this narrative, but is just didn’t reach it.

Base of Operations (Rating: 2.5/5)

Transpiring in the United States, 1944, this story just did not click with me, and unfortunately ended the collection on a slightly sour note. This story is set on an army base during World War II, right before the D-Day landings in Normandy. The TARDIS picks up signs of a rouge transmat system coming from inside the base, and he decides to infiltrate it in order to find the source. Along the way, he encounters some unusual activity, and finds out that not everyone within these walls is who—or what—they appear to be.

I’m not quite sure exactly what it was about this story, but I had a hard time getting into it. I wasn’t particularly interested in most of the characters and the story felt far too rushed. Once again, it was too expansive a topic to try to cover in a story as short as this one. The aliens were sort of interesting, but again, there was not enough time to really connect with the story and understand them. It was not bad by any means, but I just personally didn’t get quite as much enjoyment out of it.

Overall, I am very glad that I had the chance to read these stories. Despite my tepid feelings when it came to parts of it, this book was still great for a Whovian like myself. I also love seeing authors producing stories for a younger generation of fans. All the novels are relatively easy and straightforward reads, but this one is particularly well suited for early readers.

Richards fluidly sweeps readers up into the action-packed adventures and quirky antics of the Doctor, and I think these short stories make the show and the characters widely accessible, and will draw in more of a following that will stay strong through all the coming years of the show.

 

3.0 TARDISes

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Review: Doctor Who: The Stealers of Dreams by Steve Lyons

thestealersofdreamsDoctor Who: The Stealers of Dreams by Steve Lyons

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Doctor Who: New Series Adventures #6

Date Published: September 8th, 2005

Publisher: BBC Books

Pages: 254 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In the far future, the Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack find a world on which fiction has been outlawed. A world where it’s a crime to tell stories, a crime to lie, a crime to hope, and a crime to dream. But now somebody is challenging the status quo. A pirate TV station urges people to fight back, and the Doctor wants to help – until he sees how easily dreams can turn into nightmares. With one of his companions stalked by shadows and the other committed to an asylum, the Doctor is forced to admit that fiction can be dangerous after all. Though perhaps it is not as deadly as the truth…

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This is a spoiler-free review.

This is a particularly interesting review for me to do because my experience with this novel shifted back and forth between reading a physical edition and listening to an audiobook. I will say upfront that I am not a huge fan of audiobooks, feeling like they detract quite a bit from my personal reading experience. The quality of the audio, the style of the narrator, whether those aspects are good or not, audiobooks and I have never gotten along especially well. That being said, when I found this one, I decided, why not give it a go—and to be honest, I ended up relatively pleased with my choice.

In this novel, the Doctor, Rose, and Jack find themselves entering a world where fiction and fantasy has been made illegal. There are no writers or novels, and those who are caught engaging in the creation of stories—or something as simple as dreaming—are imprisoned in “The Big White House”, where they are meant to be “rehabilitated”. In this society, being found to be “fiction crazy” is as bad if not worse than the act of murder. However, an underground society of dreamers is rising up, taking to the airwaves on a pirated radio station and attempting to bring fiction back to the people. When the trio accidently get split up, they become deeply involved in the dangerous workings of this truth-obsessed city.

Out of all the Doctor Who novels I’ve read so far, this ended up being one of my favorites. The plot is not an incredibly new or unique topic in fiction, but it’s nevertheless always an interesting one. And of course, Lyons puts his own unique flair on this familiar concept. As a writer and reader, I find it both fascinating and terrifying to imagine what the world would be like if we were not allowed to create and fantasize. This theme is inherently captivating, and Lyons has formed it into a fast-paced novel. With plenty of suspense and mystery, as well as a twist ending I personally did not see coming, this is quite an enjoyable read.

I thought that Lyons did a rather solid job of portraying the ninth Doctor, Rose, and Jack. The three go their separate ways early on, so the majority of the narration switches between each person’s exploits every chapter or so. Jack was a particularly strong character in this story, and I really enjoyed his parts. Occasionally, the narrative felt a bit jumpy and jumbled because it switched around so frequently between each storyline, but this did not affect my experience too drastically.

The additional characters were also well crafted and fit nicely into the world they belonged to. We get to see people on either side of this society—those who enforce the eradication of fantasy and those who secretly defy the law. Their interactions with the main trio and their individual views added some great dimension to the plot. I liked that whether obsessed with truth or fiction, their interpretations of life were so limited and so dependent on clichés. It shows how desperately we need a proper balance of each in our lives.

The audiobook I listened to for part of my reading experience was the unabridged audio, narrated by Camille Coduri. This is not one of the slightly abridged ones, acted out by one of the cast members, though I would like to give one of those a try some day as they seem like they would be fun. When it came to this particular book, I actually did not mind the narration for once. I admit, I’m still not sold on audiobooks in general, but my experience with this novel was overall a positive one.

Coduri has a fairly pleasant voice to listen to, and her delivery—though quite unique and slightly unusual, in my opinion—was something I found to be very enjoyable. I feel as though her style might not be something that is everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked well enough for me. She gave each character a distinctive voice and did a respectable job of portraying the appropriate emotion in each scene. One of the major pitfalls of an audiobook can be adding too much or too little voice acting into the narration. Coduri’s performance was very three-dimensional, her acting complementing the story as a whole rather than distracting from it.

I’ve said before that I tend to hold novels from this series to a different standard than most. They are not inherently poor quality novels by any means—they feature a lot of strong writing and storytelling. However, they are much more along the lines of fun reads than great literature. That being said, this was one of the better ones, both in content and quality. The plot was intriguing and that, along with the portrayal of the characters, stayed very true to the beloved television show. It was a great addition to the series and I would highly recommend this novel to all Doctor Who fans out there.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: Doctor Who: System Wipe by Oli Smith

doctorwhosystemwipeDoctor Who: System Wipe by Oli Smith

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 19th, 2015

Publisher: Penguin Random House UK

Pages: 160 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The Doctor finds himself trapped in the virtual world of Parallife. As he tries to save the inhabitants from being destroyed by a deadly virus, Amy and Rory must fight to keep the Doctor’s body in the real world safe from the mysterious entity known as Legacy . . .

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

In this story, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves in 2222 A.D.—the end of the world, or one ending at least. When investigating a sole source of power in a completely empty and decimated Chicago, the Doctor enters and becomes trapped in the virtual world of Parallife. Here, the characters, who have been left behind by their players, have developed minds of their own and created a society. However, their way of life is threatened as a darkness approaches, wiping out everything in its path. Meanwhile, Amy and Rory have to escape destruction themselves, as a horde of robots move in to demolish what is left of the city.

I am rather conflicted in my feelings about this book. The concept for it was so interesting and would have easily made a fantastic episode of the television series. The idea of a virtual world controlled by abandoned characters who have each developed a consciousness holds an incredible amount of potential. Throw in a force that is systematically destroying that world and you have what should be a unique and intense ride.

This was a story that I desperately wanted to love, but I was very dissatisfied with a lot of it. I found this novel was lacking the suspense and intrigue that is characteristic of the Doctor’s adventures. I expected far more excitement than I got, and I ended up disconnecting from the story frequently. There were so many missed opportunities to create apprehension for the reader in both the real and virtual settings, and this caused me to have trouble becoming invested in any of it. I believe that part of it was due to the fact that this is not a full length novel. The concept of this plot is far too massive for the size of the story it was squeezed into.

Another of the main aspects of this novel that I had very mixed feelings about was the character depiction. Due to the length of the story, Smith is not given very much time to get the reader familiar with new characters. Despite this, he manages to create an intriguing and likeable cast that complement the story well. I thought that Blondie was a very good imagining of a video game character come to life. She was relatable because she acted in ways that any gamer would immediately recognize. Daryl was definitely my favorite addition. He was adorable and hilarious and very reminiscent of the type of side character typically seen in episodes of the show.

On the other hand, the depiction of the main trio left me a bit disappointed. I personally did not feel that Smith accurately portrayed these three characters that we all know so well. Something was off about them all the way through. Their actions and dialogue clashed with the personalities of the original television show versions, and that ended up breaking my immersion in the story. The characterization of the Doctor, Amy, and Rory is arguably the most important part of a novel like this, but unfortunately, I thought this was an area that Smith did not succeed in.

The writing itself was another aspect of the story that has caused me to have some mixed feelings. A lot of the writing is strong—Smith’s descriptions are fairly vivid and detailed, at least in the first half. At the start, I had a clear image of both the real and virtual worlds in my mind as I read. I enjoyed a lot of what Smith created, particularly in the world of Parallife.

However, I started to have some difficulty later on in the story. About halfway in, the imagery became a bit muddled for me, and I frequently struggled to make sense of it. This was frustrating, as I found that I could not sufficiently picture anything that was occurring. I also felt as though Smith did not take full advantage of the whole concept of the virtual world—it lacked the intrigue that I expected from it. While he described Parallife well, he did not utilize it to create a solid amount of suspense and tension in the plot.

Despite the negative reaction I had to a number of things in this novel, every once in a while, there was something thrown in that would make me love it. There were moments of great humor that made me laugh out loud. There were references that gamers like myself, especially fans of open world RPGs, could easily connect with and that made my nerdy self very happy. These things really pulled me back in and kept me going to the last pages.

In the end, though the concept for the plot was intriguing, the story as a whole ended up falling a bit flat for me. There were some ideas that I really loved, but the actual execution of those ideas left a lot to be desired. A story as short as this is always going to provide obstacles for the author in terms of building a world and carrying out a storyline, and I definitely think the length is the cause of a number of the issues I had with it. Overall, this was not a terrible book by any means. It could have been better, but even with the problems I had with it, I still found it to be a relatively entertaining read at times.

2.5 TARDISes

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Review: Doctor Who: Death Riders by Justin Richards

doctorwhodeathridersDoctor Who: Death Riders by Justin Richards

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 19th, 2015

Publisher: Penguin Random House UK

Pages: 160 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The Galactic Fair has arrived on the mining asteroid of Stanalan and anticipation is building around the construction of the fair’s most popular attraction – the Death Ride! But there is something sinister going on behind all the fun of the fair; people are mysteriously dying in the Off-Limits tunnels. Join the Doctor, Amy and Rory as they investigate…

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

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This is a spoiler-free review.

The Doctor, Amy, and Rory land on Stanalan—an asteroid used for mining—which, as they soon find out, contains an entire civilization. The caretaker, Perpetual Pete, who has been there far longer than anyone living on Stanalan can even remember, has marked some of the old mining tunnels as Off-Limits. He claims that they require maintenance, says they are liable to collapse, and forbids anyone from traveling down them. With the arrival of the Galactic Fair and the construction of an attraction called the Death Ride, Pete has his hands full attempting to keep the workers from building parts of the ride’s track in those tunnels. However, people begin to turn up dead in those Off-Limits areas, appearing to have died from something far worse than collapsing walls.

I found the plot to be fairly predictable, but that did not take away from my enjoyment of it. Richards did a wonderful job of building intrigue and tension in the opening chapters of the novel. He unveiled the important details at the right pace to create the tense and mysterious atmosphere that the story required. I do wish there had been a bit more use of the Doctor, but given the length of the story, I thought there was a decent balance in the attention given to each character; each member of the trio contributed an equal amount to the progression of the plot. There were times that the story felt a bit choppy or like it was jumping a bit too quickly over certain aspects, but those sacrifices are to be expected in a shorter novel, and I felt that Richards handled it well.

I definitely felt that the first half of the story was a lot stronger than the second half. The ending was quite clunky and had me shaking my head on numerous occasions. It seemed like it was trying to be fairly typical of a conclusion to an episode of the show. However, they had gotten into such a predicament that there was very little that could be done to avoid a “deus ex machina” sort of situation. Though my suspension of disbelief is pretty good for Doctor Who in general, this ending was maybe just a tiny bit too farfetched even for that.

I enjoyed the author’s writing style quite a bit; it was easy to follow and flowed very nicely. His descriptions were very detailed and clear, and I was easily able to picture all of the settings and characters in my mind. Richards did a great job of building up an image of a bleak world slightly brightened by the presence of this fair. Yet behind that, he creates an underlying sense of tension and mystery, even before the unexplained deaths actually begin to occur.

The only complaint I had in terms of the writing might simply be caused by differences in location and subsequently dialect for me. Throughout the entire story, every single time the word “around” was used, Richards exchanged that with “round”. This is something that I am accustomed to hearing used in speech, so its use in lines of dialogue felt appropriate. Until this novel, however, I have not seen it employed in regular lines of text, such as in descriptions, and it felt quite out of place in those instances. Frankly, the constant substitution began to feel rather repetitive and awkward. As I said though, this may just be a question of dialect and writing style that I am not entirely familiar with given my location compared to the author.

Richards did a solid job of accurately capturing the personalities of the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory. Their deliveries of dialogue as well as their interactions with each other were spot on. This was a short novel, so there was not nearly as much time available for the author to flush out the supporting characters. Richards still managed to do a good job of vividly portraying them and their interactions with the main trio. The fact that he worked everything together so well so quickly served to make the novel feel even more reminiscent of an episode of the show.

The main complaint I had in terms of the characters was that I occasionally felt that Amy was acting out of character, and I found that to be a bit frustrating. There were times when she sounded like herself but felt like a different person. A number of times, I questioned why she was acting in certain ways because those actions did not match the true intelligence of her character. Despite that, the characterization in this novel was truly a high point for me.

Overall, this was a very fun and quick read that definitely did the characters and the television series justice. Like the show itself, there is limited time to develop plot and characters in a story of this length, and I liked how much that made it feel like watching an episode. Despite being out of the target age range and not entirely loving the ending, this was still very satisfying and enjoyable to read. This is a story that Whovians of any age will enjoy.

3.5 TARDISes

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Review: Doctor Who: The Way Through the Woods by Una McCormack

thewaythroughthewoodsDoctor Who: The Way Through the Woods by Una McCormack

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Doctor Who: New Series Adventures #45

Date Published: April 28th, 2011

Publisher: BBC Books

Pages: 241 pages

Source: Library

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: ‘As long as people have lived here, they’ve gone out of their way to avoid the woods…’

 Two teenage girls disappear into an ancient wood, a foreboding and malevolent presence both now and in the past. The modern motorway bends to avoid it, as did the old Roman road. In 1917 the Doctor and Amy are desperate to find out what’s happened to Rory, who’s vanished too. 

But something is waiting for them in the woods. Something that’s been there for thousands of years. Something that is now waking up.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I have been a Doctor Who fan for a long time now, but I have only discovered this series of novels that connect to the show within the last year or two. Suffice it to say, finding them made me quite excited, particularly because it was during a hiatus between seasons. A few of these stories come out along with each new season and star the current Doctor and companion at that time. Now that I have read through quite a few of these novels, I will say that they definitely tend to be quite hit or miss, most likely due to the multiplicity of authors writing them. However, I am very pleased to say that this one fell into the “hit” category.

Though the Tenth Doctor is my favorite from the television series itself, the Eleventh Doctor novels tend to be my favorites, and this one was no exception. The Way Through the Woods was an incredibly fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I sped right through it; it is definitely one of my favorite Doctor Who books I have read so far. This is one of the few instances where, as a reader, you truly want a novel to be reminiscent of another work. Since it is based off an already established collection of characters and stories, you do not want it straying too far from what you know and love. I felt that the plot itself was very characteristic of Doctor Who with just enough of the author’s personal touch to make it very satisfying.

I am always a bit wary when the authors of these stories split up the Doctor and his companion(s); this is something that is extremely easy to execute poorly. Not having a good balance between each character’s storyline and the contribution they make to the overall plot can completely ruin a novel. For the most part, I felt that McCormack did a fairly decent job of balancing each character’s time in the limelight, though I do wish that the Doctor himself had played a slightly bigger role.

I liked the intrigue of the plot; it kept me guessing and wanting to know more. There was a very mysterious and sometimes eerie tone and atmosphere in the story that I found to be quite good. The fact that this took place in multiple time periods while retaining a closely connected set of characters was another interesting aspect of this story and added to the overall mystery. I also really enjoyed McCormack’s writing style and the imagery that she produced. I had a very clear picture of all the locations visited by the Doctor, Amy, and Rory, particularly the woods and the location that Amy ends up in near the end.

The author did an excellent job of capturing the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory individually as well as the interplay between the threesome. McCormack also created a great supporting cast of characters to complement them, and her portrayals of their interactions with the main three were done very well. Of course, one of the most important parts of any Doctor Who story is the alien or aliens causing havoc, and in this novel, I personally thought that the alien was fantastic.

This book was very well crafted, with solid writing and a concept that was very imaginative and creative. Apart from a few instances of awkward dialogue and interaction and an ending that didn’t particularly blow me away, it had a very strong plot. I would have absolutely loved to see this as an actual episode of the show.

I must say, I do tend to rate and review the books in this series on a much different scale than I would with other books, primarily because I do not expect quite as much from them. While these novels are not the greatest works of literature, they are extraordinarily fun to read, and I would highly recommend giving them a try if you are a Doctor Who fan.

4.0 TARDISes

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