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26 September 2013

Review: 'Dark Horizons' by Jenny T. Colgan (2012)

"We need to reach out. We need to continue the line..."

On a windswept northern shore, the islanders believe the worst they have to fear is a Viking attack. Then the burning comes. Water will not stop it. It consumes everything in its path - yet the burned still speak.

The Doctor encounters a people under attack from a power they cannot possibly understand. They have no weapons, no strategy and no protection against a fire sent to engulf them all. The islanders must take on a ruthless alien force in a world without technology; but at least they have the Doctor on their side... Don't they?

My blog kind of gives away what kind of genre I enjoy reading the most: chick lit, anything romantic, women’s fiction. I definitely like to change it up a bit sometimes, with a bit of fantasy or crime. However, if I'm being honest, there’s one particular genre that has never really attracted my attention, and that’s science fiction. I don’t have a secret obsession with Star Wars, there's no Star Trek uniform hidden in my closet, and I never understood why people think The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy is so funny. So, when I was contacted by Random House in order to review a Doctor Who novel, I was already on the verge of saying ‘No, thank you.’ However, as a big chick lit fan, I constantly find myself trying to convince other people to set aside their prejudices and give a chick lit novel a chance. This means I also have to set an example and step away from my own thoughts on science fiction and actually pick up a novel and discover the genre myself. As a result, I found myself sitting in the train a few weeks later, with a Doctor Who novel in my hands, ready to step into the world of the Doctor and time travelling for the first time (okay, I admit, I was a bit excited about the time travel part)...

In ‘Dark Horizons’ the Doctor finds himself in the Dark Ages, stranded on a northern shore without a companion, looking for someone to play a game of chess with. Yet, this idea is quickly set aside when a fire that cannot be stopped by water destroys everything in its path, including a Viking ship with a princess on board who is on her way to an arranged marriage. Soon, the initially rather quiet shore is filled with scared local villagers and angry Vikings, and the Doctor has to not only find out how to stop this fire generated by an alien force, but also how to stop these two groups from not killing each other on the spot.

‘Dark Horizons’ is the 26th Doctor Who book in this series, so initially I was a bit afraid I would not be able to keep track of everything going on in the novel, since I had never read or seen anything Doctor Who related before. Yet, thankfully, no background knowledge is needed to understand the storyline and you could easily read ‘Dark Horizons’ as a stand-alone. I felt myself getting quite excited about the book after only a few pages, because I wanted to know what would happen (and what was up with this crazy fire!). I’m not particularly a big fan of Vikings, but the mix of characters next to the Doctor grabbed my attention, and I especially enjoyed reading about the rather feisty Princess Freydis and Viking Henrik, who both also become kind of the Doctor’s companions in the book. 

As I already said, before reading this novel I was not familiar with Doctor Who, so I had no idea what kind of character to expect. In ‘Dark Horizons’ the 11th Doctor (played by Matt Smith in the TV series) is portrayed, and I thought he was an easily likeable, slightly strange (but in a good way), funny character. I’m familiar with Jenny Colgan’s writing from her fabulous chick lit novels, and in this book it isn’t any different: a well-written and captivating story that flows easily. I can’t say that reading ‘Dark Horizons’ has turned me into a big science fiction fan, but I did really enjoy reading this novel, and it has opened my eyes to the fact that even though a particular genre might not be your favourite cup of tea, you should still give it a shot because it might turn out to be a nice surprise!


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