The third book and final BBC Books released the Thirteenth Doctor Series.  We have one more novel to review and we are sure that you’ll find something you want for your last minute gift-giving.

Merry Christmas!

Doctor Who – Combat Magicks!

The first few questions that occur when reading a Doctor Who novel featuring a new Doctor is how well that Doctor’s personality and voice are captured on the page. This time around there is also a comparison to be made with the tone of the new series that has been set by new showrunner Chris Chibnall.

Combat Magicks by Steve Cole looks like it’d fit into the Series 11 template from the off, being a historical story of which there have been more than their fair share of this series. Combat Magicks also functions as a celebrity historical featuring Atilla the Hun. We are introduced very quickly to this character even though he is in disguise for a quite a while. This doesn’t impinge upon the story through which gets off to a rollicking good start.

A lot of the episodes of Series 11 have been a slow build pace wise and have held back on threat and monsters, whereas in Combat Magicks we’re thrust into an attack by Zombie blackbirds very early on in the story.

The attack leads to the companions are split up into different factions of the story. In many Doctor Who stories,  this works as a great way of exploring the world that the TARDIS has landed our heroes in. On this occasion, it slows down the plot, as time is taken to introduce each plot strand, at the detriment of introducing the main threat who were behind the zombie blackbird attack.

These are the Tenctrama, a harem of witches or rather aliens, that harvest the dead and are reliant on setting up epic battles between the Romans and the Huns. It takes some time to fully introduces these key protagonists, but once introduced there are some great, bursts of action involving them. There is an especially creepy interaction with Graham, as one of the Tenctrama appears out of the bath.

Some of the best moments in the book are where it aims at an older audience than the current series, with really creepy moments and expertly written graphic battle scenes. There are some truly gruesome moments which really stand out in Combat Magicks and make it feel in places like some of the more adult New Adventures.

Although there is a dip in the middle, Steve Cole leaves plenty of room for the epic climatic act. Taking in a huge battle between the Romans and the Huns, which is then infiltrated by the alien threat of the novel, the Tenctrama. This spans the final 100 pages of the novel and uses every word of that to build the epic scale and threat towards a very tense finale. Even though as a reader we know that the principal cast are safe, as if they’d be killed off in a tie-in novel to the series, a great feat achieved here is making it feel like no one is safe and anyone could be killed. It made me pine for a threat as evil, violent and sadistic as the Tenctrama within the TV series.

I’d recommend Combat Magicks as a fun, quick read. A historical which has some big action sequences and doesn’t labour on the history lesson, and a story which does what all good Doctor Who novels should do and tells a story so epic that it couldn’t be achieved on a TV budget. Cole’s great writing will take you right to the heart of these epic battles with the same ease that a trip in the TARDIS would.

Combat Magicks is out now and available from all good book stockists.

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