Doctor Who: Dark Horizons

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we're pleased to present a review for Dark Horizons, a new Doctor Who YA novel by Jenny Colgan. Make sure to check out the rest of the tour stops to see other reviews!

By Jenny Colgan
Published on July 4th 2013
Published by BBC Books
Source: Finished copy from publisher for blog tour
On a windswept northern shore, at the very tip of what will one day become Scotland, the islanders believe the worst they have to fear is a Viking attack. Then the burning comes. They cannot run from it. Water will not stop it. It consumes everything in its path - yet the burned still speak.

The Doctor is just looking for a game on the famous Lewis chess set. Instead he encounters a people under attack from a power they cannot possibly understand. They have no weapons, no strategy and no protection against a fire sent to engulf them all.

Add in some marauding Vikings with very bad timing, a kidnapped princess with a secret of her own and a TARDIS that seems to have developed an inexplicable fear of water, and they all have a battle on their hands. The islanders must take on a ruthless alien force in a world without technology; without communications; without tea that isn't made out of bark. Still at least they have the Doctor on their side... Don't they?
Dark Horizons is an Eleventh Doctor story where the Doctor is traveling on his own, and winds up in Viking times, where I'm sure he didn't mean to wind up but did anyway.  That's how every good Doctor Who story starts out, isn't it?  Once there, he realizes there's a bigger problem than just the fact that he's in the wrong time and place and, as always, has to put his plans aside to help out the residents of the island of Lowith against a very powerful, deadly alien life force.

It was entertaining to see the Doctor struggle to effectively communicate with the islanders and the Vikings -- here's a man who's been to countless time periods and galaxies and planets and who interacts with all types of alien life forms, but give him a people who have no word to describe the color of the TARDIS, and he's honestly a bit lost.  I really enjoyed the supporting cast in this book, especially since we didn't have a familiar companion to accompany the Doctor on this journey.  The characters, especially the displaced princess Freydis and her reluctant guard Henrik, all have developed personalities and experience growth over the course of the book.  Freydis and Henrik made excellent stand-in companions, and something tells me they'd get along well enough with Amy and Rory, were their paths to ever cross.

Some of my favorite moments in the book were when the Doctor was talking with Luag, a small, seven-year old boy.  The Doctor has empathy for all people and all situations but he is often at his best with children, and that really showed through here.  His scenes with Luag were often very poignant, this 900+ year old man patiently sharing knowledge and frolicking on a beach with a small child.  They made me smile, which was nice levity from some of the surprisingly sad scenes that take place later in the book.

I don't think you need to be a Who fan to enjoy or understand this book -- all you need to know is that he's a time-traveling 900+ year old alien, really -- but as always, I think it's a story that is most appreciated by fans.  As an aside, it's a little vague as to where this story fits in to the timeline, but I assume it's some time after season 6, due to one passing reference to an astronaut suit that would make more sense had that season already happened.  Ultimately it doesn't matter much where the story fits in the timeline, it's just that this Doctor seems almost melancholy at times and not quite as all-out wacky as Eleven at his most carefree heights can be.

There is some Viking and alien-related violence, but nothing worse than you'd see on the TV show, so I'd say that this is a fine book for teens and up.

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