THE SHADOWS OF AVALON by Paul Cornell

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A popular book, but not with us.

Cornell has an excellent reputation in Who fiction, so we were looking forward to Shadows Of Avalon, especially as we knew it was a critical book in terms of developments for the Doctor. But dear oh dear, what a drag. Let's start with the good bits, which won't take long. The author's evocation of the Brigadier as grieving widower is fantastic - it's genuinely heartwrenching stuff. Cornell captures the Brigadier's personality perfectly and everything he does here is utterly believable. Queen Mab is also a nice character, if underdeveloped. And... umm... no, that's it.

As for the bad bits, where do we start? Well, what about with Avalon, which in the author's hands is a monumentally dull concept. There is absolutely nothing here that we haven't seen a squillion times before; seasoned, moreover, with unpalatable dollops of fanwank.

And what goes on in Avalon is even more of a snoozer. They fight here, they fight there, bombs, planes, yawn, yawn, yawn. Perhaps because we had difficulty concentrating, it didn't seem to us that anything actually ever happened except a lot of rushing around.

Compassion's transformation is mildly interesting but too little, too late in terms of characterisation, and Fitz is a complete third wheel. The two Gallifreyan agents seem to have been cut and pasted in from another book, possibly one by Paul Magrs. Other characters that are potentially interesting, such as the Earth version of Constantine, never get a chance to unfold. The Doctor is okay, but we could hardly bring ourselves to care. And adding insult to injury, the Doctor's Type 40 TARDIS gets astonishingly short shrift. She deserves a hell of a lot better, and so do we.

A tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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