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The Scarlet Empress

By Paul Magrs

Book review by Brad Schmidt

Like any heady wine consumed so voraciously, I emerged from The Scarlet Empress intoxicated and later pained to recall exactly everything that occurred. A grand tale of adventure and enchantment, Paul Magrs takes the impassioned Eighth Doctor into his element in a tale that quite easily conquers any previous contribution to the range.

Magrs returns to us the eccentric and loveable character of Iris Wildthyme from his Short Trips contribution, in her battered TARDIS which, like the Doctor's TARDIS, is in the form of a familiar British icon. The Doctor and Sam meet up with Iris on the world of Hyspero, a planet so remarkably presented I could almost inhale the incense. Together with Gila the alligator man, they undertake a quest to reunite a team of aged adventurers and return something stolen long ago to the Scarlet Empress, the ruler of Hyspero. Very little else happens, apart from Iris' personal reasons for completing the quest - but in this case the simplistic plot is in its favour. The flamboyant and wildly differing, characters are all so enticing that one feels genuinely concerned for their plight in moments of peril, particularly Iris.

It's a novel that will succeed in Who literary fandom, but its heavy continuity may distance casual readers. However, there are nods to other fictional sources just as much as there are to Doctor Who (in all its mediums) - one that struck me as particularly bizarre is a bus travelling through the desert with ABBA playing; The Scarlet Empress is bizarre, and that incident is only the beginning. Suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself in what is the best BBC novel thus far. Iris would be proud. [5/5]

This item appeared in TSV 55 (October 1998).

Index nodes: The Scarlet Empress