Tales of Trenzalore does what it says on the tin. It's four stories that are set during the centuries that the Eleventh Doctor defended the town of Christmas, featuring an insight into the brief sieges that we witnessed in the terrific 2013 Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor.
Each story has the same premise; an enemy of the Doctor seeks to bypass the Papal Mainframe's technology detectors, therefore allowing them to land on Trenzalore to kill the Doctor, thus preventing him revealing his name. The Doctor revealing his true name would then alert the Time Lords and they will know they are in the right place and come through the crack, and all the alien species above will descend on the planet and begin the Time War anew. The Doctor refuses to allow his enemies to destroy Trenzalore, so stays there, in the town of Christmas, and so begins his last stand...
Let it Snow - by Justin Richards - This story features the Ice Warriors and uses some clever techniques, particularly in regards to bypassing the Truth Field that is put in place on Trenzalore. However, the Ice Warriors plan is a little unimaginative and the climax of the story underwhelming. 7/10.
An Apple a Day - by George Mann - A highlight of the book. This story features my personal favourite monster, the Krynoid. Now, the Krynoid aren't an enemy of the Doctor, so they're not out to kill him specifically, but are wanting to inhabit Trenzalore and consume all life on the planet. This means the story offers something different to the others and it's very well done. George Mann manages to capture the Krynoid very well and the portrayal is faithful to their appearance in 1976's The Seeds of Doom. The Doctors companion in this story is a young lad called Theol and it works well, reminiscent of the Eleventh Doctor and Amelia in The Eleventh Hour, which further brings this incarnations era full circle. The conclusion isn't the best, but it's a great story nonetheless. 9/10.
Strangers in the Outland - by Paul Finch - My favourite story of the four included in this book. Strangers in the Outland features the Autons and it's a very clever and a rather chilling story. Paul Finch offers a new take on the Autons and it works brilliantly, something that could only really be done in prose and not on screen. Finch's prose is really good and his descriptions really paint a full picture in this readers head, making for a very enjoyable read. I'd love for him to do some more Doctor Who. 10/10.
The Dreaming - by Mark Morris - This story isn't bad as such, but it's rather lacking, I feel. First of all, I was reading this and it just seemed blindingly obvious that the story was originally meant to feature the Fendahl and not the Mara, so the latter monster was added in as a last minute substitute and it doesn't really work as a result. I think had it been the Fendahl then the story would have been a lot better, but it doesn't quite work as it is. I'm not sure why the sudden change, but perhaps it was to have monsters represented from the various decades of the show? The Ice Warriors from the 60's, Krynoid from the 70's, Mara from the 80's and the Autons from the 00's & 10's. Alas, I didn't enjoy the story a great deal. 6/10.
It's interesting to note that the Doctor loses his leg throughout his life on Trenzalore [which is cleverly used in one of the stories] and we never do hear the story behind it. The Doctor does tell the story to the children of Christmas, but we don't actually get to read about it. I believe that the reason behind loss of the Doctors leg was in the script for The Time of the Doctor, but it was ultimately cut from the final edit, so I suppose that is why we aren't told in one of the four stories comprising Tales of Trenzalore. In reality, Matt Smith badly injured his leg and had to see a physical therapist as a result, so I imagine the cane [which it emerges is carved from a Krynoid tentacle!] and the Doctors increasing lack of mobility as he ages were worked into the storyline accordingly. The leg loss sounds like a reason behind the cane and lack of mobility, but obviously didn't make it on screen in the end, so it'd be nice to read the story behind the Doctors leg loss.
I think there's definitely enough potential for more tales from Trenzalore and I'll certainly be purchasing if so. The book brought us new stories from the more obscure monsters like the Krynoid and Mara, so I'd be interested to see some more obscure inventions tackled. I think there's also scope for a Tales from the Time War book featuring John Hurt's excellent War Doctor. I don't see a problem with the concept or having it limited to the Time War; all of the four Tales of Trenzalore stories have the same premise and each does something interesting with it, so I'd like to see that extended to another undocumented and long period of the Doctors life.
Tales of Trenzalore is a great read all in all and for £2, you can't really go wrong. It's essentially four of the 50th Anniversary Eleven Doctors, Eleven Months and Time Trips series in length for the exact same price as one story from the two series mentioned. I believe there's a paperback version of the book due out sometime later this year too, which is nice.