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Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark

By Andrew Hunt

Book review by Adam Moffitt

Generally Witch Mark is okay; it has certain limitations but these are overcome by colourful realistic characters and a feasible plot.

Ace is back to her normal self (her Warhead 'understudy' was obviously fired for shoddy characterisation). The Doctor comes across as more talkative, humane, and definitely less manipulative. Together, the twosome tries to unravel the mysteries of travelling between the two worlds without the aid of the now 'out-of-order' TARDIS. Eventually they get separated and find themselves in sticky situations (of course), but the story never makes dull reading and before long you find yourself caught up in a book which is easy to pick up but hard to put down.

However the first eighty pages are just a wee bit slow and make confusing reading; there are a lot of characters and it is difficult to keep track of them all. But upon hitting page ninety or so, the story picks up with such speed that before you can say 'Daleks don't like finger biscuits', the adventure's over and you're left breathless and gasping for more!

If anything, the book needs to be at least a hundred pages longer - it would have been nice to delve into Tir na N-Og history or extend the Doctor's travels so as to give the adventure an 'epic' feeling. But perhaps I'm expecting too much from a relatively new writer. I'm sure that given time, Andrew Hunt will be up among the best Who writers. Out of ten I would give Witch Mark six and a half for a good competent piece of literature.

Book review by Fleur Hardman

'Good and enjoyable without being a classic' is probably the best way to describe the final in the Cat's Cradle series. While there is little you can really fault with Witch Mark, it just lacks that certain something required to bring it up to the level of Exodus, Revelation and Time's Crucible.

The story itself is partly set in modern day Wales and partly in the alien land of Tir na N-Og. I personally found the Earth scenes tended to drag a little, especially with the two rather annoying Americans, Jack and David, who had the irritating habit of tagging every comment to each other with 'Jack' or 'David' as if they had to keep reminding each other what their names were!

Initially I found the characterisation of Ace to be a little out of place, as it appeared as if the story was set straight after Dragonfire and almost ignored any character development that had occurred since then. Andrew Hunt's version of Ace is a 16-year-old rebel, not the 20-year-old the New Adventures have been trying to portray. That said, her character does improve through the book and doesn't really detract from the success of the story.

The Doctor is also different from what we've become used to of late. He isn't the 'all-knowing' character seen in stories such as Remembrance of the Daleks, Silver Nemesis and The Curse of Fenric and taken to extremes in Warhead. Whether you agree with this or not depends on how you believe the Doctor should be seen. Is he the caring clown or an enigmatic meddler? The main problem with keeping away from the mystery introduced into the Doctor's character in recent years is that I felt that some of his lines in Witch Mark could have been said by one of his predecessors.

That aside, Witch Mark is great, well written and enjoyable. It's like the proverbial good wine in that it improves with age. Once it moves to Tir na N-Og the story starts to really get going with the Doctor's quest to bring peace to the land.

I found Tir na N-Og to be one of the most vividly-described lands in written Doctor Who. Its inhabitants are also fascinating; especially the Ceffyl whose conversations with Ace and Bats prove you really can have a credible talking horse.

Unfortunately Witch Mark also suffered from the common complaint of a rushed ending. We never did find out what happened to Hugh and Janet, or to the 'Ace' and 'Doctor' that attacked them. I also found myself waiting for the revelation of David the American's true relationship to Bathsheba which never came. Was it merely coincidence that two David's appeared in the story?

These points aside, Witch Mark is still one of the better New Adventures books. It is an original - and after a rather slow start - gripping novel, and is a successful conclusion to what will apparently be the last linked set of The New Adventures.

This item appeared in TSV 30 (September 1992).

Index nodes: Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark