The Scarlet Empress,
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Scarlet Empress (Mass Market Paperback)
The Scarlet Empress is an 8th Doctor adventure featuring Iris Wildthyme by Paul Magrs. It is more a fantasy/adventure novel than it is science fiction which sets it apart from the previous novels in the range.
The Doctor and Sam arrive on Hyspero to discover the Doctor's old associate Iris Wildthyme embroiled in quest to reform a band of four mutants for the Scarlet Empress. Iris' motives are questionable, and she isn't giving much away to the Doctor. As the story progresses the band get back together and join forces to thwart the Scarlet Empress. It's a good premise, but it's the little side-stories which really let the novel down as they draw from fantasy rather than science fiction. It seems Magrs has tried to shoehorn in as many fantasy ideas as possible and it comes across a little fragmented at times.
I also have a couple of quibbles with Magrs writing style namely his use of long words and his insertion of "videotape" footage from the future. Whilst I don't like my novels to be dumbed down it's annoying when you have to stop mid-sentence to look a word up in a dictionary. The videotape footage just serves to confuse, and stops the flow of what is otherwise an entertaining passage.
Magrs does the 8th Doctor brilliantly, harking back to his portrayal in Vampire Science, and Sam is also a joy to read now she's matured. Both characters really shine with their interactions with Iris, Sam in particular taking to the "cool mum" image Iris has.
Iris Wildthyme is one of Paul Magrs original characters and I won't lie, she's pretty cool and it's nice to see an author change our established views of the Doctors past, and try to push the series forward. A Time Lady who has met the Doctor before on numerous occasions she adds dimensions to the Doctor which we wouldn't see without her. Also the similarities between her character and River Song from Nu-Who are pretty clear, including the use of the word "sweetie" Magrs might want a quiet word with Moffat. Anyway Iris is a joy to read, her illness and obvious pre-regeneration gives Magrs a chance to get into the minds of a dying Time Lord, something never really touched upon on TV (until Tennant/Smith of course). The other characters are all a bit flat, mainly due to the author concentrating more on the fantasy ideas than characterization.
Paul Magrs took some risks in writing The Scarlett Empress and for the most part they paid off. The fantasy setting is a nice change although it feels a little mish-mashed at times but the inclusion of Iris Wildthyme made the novel by adding to the dynamic of the TARDIS crew. A little bit too long, and a little bit too sesquipedalian (using long words for the sake of it) for me, but enjoyable nonetheless. Only really one for hardcore Doctor Who fans though.