After an absence of over a year, the Doctor Who BBC book range comes back with a bang this month for some fiftieth anniversary fun and it’s bought with it an entirely new and entirely fantastic author in the shape of Tommy Donbavand.
Some of you may know Donbavand’s work from the popular Scream Street series, others of you may have seen some of his contributions to Doctor Who Magazine but there is one thing and one thing only that you really need to know about this man, he can write one hell of a Doctor Who novel.
Shroud of Sorrow nestles between two other releases that feature returning foes for the Eleventh Doctor to face. Whilst some may be drawn to the eye-catching covers featuring Daleks and Cybermen, this reviewer urges you to stop, take a breath and begin the real anniversary celebration with Donbavand’s offering.
Rarely does a first time Doctor Who author get the balance of humour, drama, horror and science fiction quite so…right. The Doctor and Clara arrive in Dallas, America and it’s the day after the Kennedy assassination. But national grief is the least of their problems as the TARDIS crew discover that people are encountering their long dead loved ones, worse still – so are the TARDIS crew.
What follows is a rather epic romp through time and space that manages to inject some marvellous fan-pleasing references for those with eagle eyes and long checklists, whilst maintaining a momentum that is true to the forty-five minute episode pacing that we’re used to from the television adventures of the Eleventh Doctor.
Characters have complex and interesting backgrounds that are explored richly to enable you to feel their pain as the Shroud, the eponymous villain of the story, tries to feed on them. But again, the pace never slows because of this side-stepping into character exploration. Many of you reading this might think that to be an obvious staple for any author to include but it needs to be given credit here as there have been many Doctor Who novels where the balance hasn’t been quite right between character building information and forward momentum in the plot. The two entwine here wonderfully.
What also springs to mind is how Donbavand manages to capture the spirit, dialogue and mannerisms of the Eleventh Doctor so well; every social tick, nuance and posture is encapsulated here for posterity, helping to reinforce the relationship that the Doctor has in the book with TARDIS newcomer Clara.
This brings this reviewer to his next point, which, funnily enough, is Clara.
Whereas the other two BBC Doctor Who releases this month have the luxury of writing for a solo Eleventh Doctor, Shroud of Sorrow brings Clara into the mix as a fully up and running companion. Taking it from dialogue in the book, events here take place after at least The Rings of Akhaten and before Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, so she’s already had some time with the Doctor and got to know a bit more about this intriguing madman. Donbavand cleverly manages to imbue the chemistry that we’ve started to see on-screen between the Eleventh Doctor and Clara within the pages of his book. It’s difficult to imagine all of her expressions and vocal exchanges with the Doctor just yet as we’ve seen so little of her but Donbavand manages to get the chemistry flowing nicely and, dare we say it, gets the flirting between the pair a little more fluid than we’ve seen so far.
With a creepy villain, some hilarious one liners (just wait until you read the Doctor’s comments to Clara about the size of the TARDIS), an effective supporting cast, a solid amount of references to the show’s past whilst keeping the story moving towards the future and an ending that will have fans punching the air in delight and crying a lot, this is hopefully the start of many more Doctor Who novels from Tommy Donbavand.
Shroud of Sorrow is a truly worthy celebratory book for Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary.
You can purchase Shroud of Sorrow now from from Amazon for just £4.96, a discount of 29% on the RRP of £6.99.