The Shadows of Avalon
BBC 8th Doctor Novel
From the start we know we're in a Paul Cornell novel: the Brigadier is back: angst-ridden and torn over the death of his wife Doris; and Compassion has been left on Earth by the Doctor in order to "experience humanity". We first meet her in a house she shares with five or six blokes--one of them is in love with her and she didn't help matters by snogging him extensively. She also has a cat - which she has somewhat bizarrely named Cheese. All these things are typical Cornell and, unfortunately, given the lack of character development of Compassion in previous books, do not ring true at all. If Compassion had a cat, she'd call it "Cat". No way would she snog a human, and given that she has agonised over the lack of 'input' when away from the TARDIS, it's hard to see her willingly agreeing to an enforced stay, on her own, on Earth.
We then launch into an uneasy plot in which a vortex opens up between Earth and Avalon (the land of Faeries) and the Doctor, Fitz, Compassion and the Brigadier find themselves involved in a war between Humans and those in Avalon (which number include Silurians as regular Doctor Who readers will realise). There's also a sleeping King (whose dream has created Avalon), brutal Gallifreyan Interventionists sent by President Romana to ensure a certain outcome and lots of tactical battles, explosions, and death.
Overall it's a bit of a mess, although it is quite an easy read. Cornell drags the reader along with him through a multitude of confusion until we reach the revelations at the end.
And it's the end which really makes this book. Over the last few titles, those in the know realised that there was a kind of story arc going on but it was hard to detect its presence. With this book it all comes to a head, and results in one of the greatest innovations that the Doctor Who novels have yet delivered which readers will just have to find out for themselves.
What this outcome really proved, however, was how Compassion really needs to be more defined and likeable to the readers beforehand. As it is, some of the power of what happens is muted as you never really knew or liked her in the first place. Peter Angelides--the only author in recent time to have really understood the characters--should have written this book.
All credit to author Lawrence Miles, apparently, for this outcome, which has been in the offing since Compassion joined in Interference. Maybe now knowing what the outcome is, re-reading those books might shed more clues but, ultimately, it really doesn't matter because a series of stand-alone books which are connected by near-invisible threads would work better than a series which you have to read and remember all for any to make sense. --David Howe
A tale in which magic faces down science and dragons duel with jet fighters. But is there some greater power manipulating this war in the other-dimensional world of Avalon?
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