Doctor Who
The Stone Rose

Author: Jacqueline Rayner
BBC Books
RRP: 6.99
ISBN 0 563 48643 0
Available 13 April 2006

Mickey is startled to find a statue of Rose in a museum - a statue that is 2,000 years old. The Doctor realises that this means a trip to ancient Rome, but when they get there, he and Rose have more on their minds than sculpture. While the Doctor searches for a missing boy, Rose befriends a girl who claims to know the future and learns that you have to be careful what you wish for...

Curiously, while the second series of the revamped Doctor Who begins transmission a month later than the first one did the previous year, the latest trio of hardback novels for young adult readers (the first to feature David Tennant's Doctor) is being published a month earlier in the year than the initial batch was. This means that the books will be in shops two days before the launch of the new television series, thus offering Who-hungry fans a chance for a real Tenth Doctor binge over the Easter weekend.

This time last year, the initial trio of hardbacks were penned by Justin Richards, Stephen Cole and Jacqueline Rayner. The same three writers who launched the Ninth Doctor into print are now doing the same for the Tenth, though this time around the order has been reversed so that Rayner's novel comes first (according to the Gallifreyan number on the spine of the book).

Talking of the running order, it remains to be seen how this book will fit in between the Tenth Doctor's television adventures. However, the fact that Rose has a dream about talking cats suggests that it might be set after her encounter with the Sisters of Plenitude in New Earth.

The author gets across the fact that the Tenth Doctor is more of a man of action than his predecessor. Following his sword fight with the Sycorax leader in The Christmas Invasion, here he battles with gladiators and ferocious animals in a Roman arena. Unfortunately, there isn't much opportunity to explore the new Doctor's relationship with his companion, because Rose vanishes from the plot for 80 pages and then, as soon as she has been brought back into the narrative, the Doctor himself disappears for almost 40 pages.

In fact, the story is a distinctly run-around (or should that be roam-around?) affair, more like a series of incidents than a proper plot. It begins in present-day London, then moves to Roman times. Then the Doctor makes a brief return visit to the present day before heading back to ancient Rome. The narrative is reliant on circular logic and a few minor time paradoxes, while the presence of a reptilian wish-granting creature, reminiscent of E Nesbit's Psammead, means that the end result is somewhat on the silly side.

And shame on Jacqueline Rayner for using the word "dice" when she means the singular term "die". Kids will be reading this!

This is an enjoyable book, but it's not as good as Rayner's previous Who novels.

Richard McGinlay

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